Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

Written by

Garen Glazier , Staff Writer, Product Testing Team

Reviewed by

Dr. Michael Breus, PhD, DABSM, FAASM , Clinical Psychologist, Sleep Medicine Expert
Expert tested
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The majority of adults prefer sleeping on their side. In addition to promoting spinal alignment, side sleeping can help reduce symptoms for those who experience sleep apnea, acid reflux, or back pain.

While a supportive mattress plays a crucial role in sleeping comfortably, it’s equally important that your pillow provides adequate support. A supportive pillow offers the right loft and firmness to keep your spine in alignment. Many types of pillows offer this support, though the best option is different for each individual sleeper.

We’ll cover the best pillows for side sleepers and take a closer look at the roles loft, firmness, and body type play in sleep comfort so you can determine the best pillow for your needs.

Best Overall

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Highlights

  • Designed specifically for side sleepers
  • Adjustable firmness
  • Breathable and removable cover makes it easy to clean

Ideal For

  • Side sleepers across weight ranges
  • Those who tend to sleep hot
  • Sleepers who enjoy the responsive support of latex

The U-shaped design of the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow cushions the shoulder and lifts the head, encouraging proper spinal alignment for side sleepers. An interior fill consisting of 75% latex noodles and 25% polyester fibers provides responsive support. A zippered cover made from cotton, polyester, and spandex allows sleepers to add or remove fill to adjust the medium firmness level.

Side sleepers on our testing team found that the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow responded well to gentle shaping while maintaining support. With a mix of temperature neutral latex and breathable down alternative polyester, the pillow also earned high marks from our testers who sleep hot.

The Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow is available in one size, though shoppers can purchase additional fill. Eli & Elm offers free shipping to the contiguous U.S., a 45-day return policy, and a five-year limited warranty.

With a distinctive shape and adjustable firmness, the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow caters specifically to side sleepers. The soft and supportive combination of latex noodles and polyester fibers makes the pillow especially moldable, making it a good option for side sleepers across all weight categories.

Best Value

Marlow Pillow

Highlights

  • Double zipper allows for adjustable firmness level
  • Memory foam and polyester fill create soft yet supportive feel
  • 365-day return policy

Ideal For

  • Side sleepers seeking a moldable and conforming pillow
  • Those who sleep hot
  • Value seekers

The Marlow Pillow’s fill consists of 80% shredded gel-infused memory foam and 20% polyester fibers, which conform to the head and neck while offering support. A double zipper reveals a ventilated gusset and allows sleepers to easily adjust the firmness level between soft, medium, or firm. The cotton sateen shell has a smooth feel and is designed to ward off bacteria and dust mites.

Our testers noted that the shredded memory foam was softer than solid memory foam but still provided a supportive feel. We found the Marlow Pillow to be a good option for side sleepers who are unsure of the best firmness or loft for their needs. Air moves freely through the pillow thanks to a breathable cover and mesh gusset, helping to keep sleepers cool throughout the night.

The Marlow Pillow comes in both standard and king sizes. Shoppers receive free shipping within the contiguous U.S., a 365-day return policy, and a two-year limited warranty.

With an adjustable firmness level and breathable fabric, the Marlow Pillow offers an effective combination of softness and support for side sleepers on a budget.

Most Comfortable

Casper Hybrid Pillow

Highlights

  • Blend of materials combines support and softness
  • Three-layer design provides a plush feel
  • Removable and washable cover

Ideal For

  • Side sleepers under 230 pounds
  • Sleepers prioritizing moldability
  • Those seeking a medium soft feel

The Casper Hybrid Pillow features a three-layer design that combines multiple materials for a plush feel. Soft and pliable polyfoam and airy polyester fibers make up the interior fill, giving the pillow a soft yet supportive core. An outer layer of foam helps the pillow keep its shape without the need for fluffing. A zippered polyester-spandex knit cover includes a 2-inch gusset that also helps the pillow maintain its structure.

Our testers found the Casper Hybrid Pillow’s medium soft feel worked best for sleepers under 230 pounds. The pillow’s moldability and conforming capability particularly stood out in our testing thanks to its combination of polyfoam and polyester fibers.

Available in standard and king sizes, the Casper Hybrid Pillow ships free to the contiguous U.S and Canadian provinces. Casper offers a 30-night sleep trial and a one-year limited warranty.

Designed for sleepers who enjoy a plush feel, our testing team found that the moldable design of the Casper Hybrid Pillow cushioned the neck and head while still maintaining spinal alignment for side sleepers weighing less than 230 pounds. 

Best Luxury

PlushBeds Wool & Latex Side Sleeper Pillow

Highlights

  • Shropshire wool and natural latex fill
  • U-shaped design specifically benefits side sleepers
  • Adjustable loft

Ideal For

  • Sleepers prone to allergies
  • Those who sleep hot
  • Shoppers looking for a natural alternative to memory foam

Ergonomically shaped and specifically designed with side sleepers in mind, the PlushBeds Wool & Latex Side Sleeper Pillow is filled with a combination of latex and wool for a responsive and plush feel.

The combination of Shropshire wool and noodle-shaped latex pieces gives the pillow a moldable and highly responsive design. The cotton sateen cover features a 300 thread count and a zipper that allows sleepers to easily add or remove fill for customized loft. 

Side sleepers on our testing team found the pillow’s unique shape easily accommodated their shoulders, helping to relieve pressure points. The adjustable fill allowed a range of body types to feel properly supported, and the natural breathability of the materials kept our testers from overheating.

The Wool & Latex Side Sleeper Pillow is available in queen size. PlushBeds offers a five-year limited warranty. All materials are hypoallergenic and designed to resist dust mites.

With high-quality materials and a unique shape, the PlushBeds Wool & Latex Side Sleeper Pillow suits hot sleepers who value a luxe feel. The pillow’s natural materials also make it a good option for those who are prone to allergies.

Best for Neck Pain

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow

Highlights

  • TEMPUR memory foam conforms to the neck and head
  • Choice of three lofts
  • Five-year limited warranty

Ideal For

  • Side sleepers weighing between 130 and 230 pounds
  • Those seeking relief from nighttime discomfort
  • Shoppers who prefer extra firm support

The contoured shape of the Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow is designed to help side sleepers relieve pressure points and maintain spinal alignment. Made from a solid piece of TEMPUR memory foam, the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow has a built-in cervical roll for the neck and a concave sleeping plane to support the head. 

The pillow’s shape and material provide responsive contouring and deep pressure relief, which helps ease aches and pains. A choice of three lofts accommodates a wide range of body types.

With an extra firm feel, the pillow best suited our team’s side sleepers who weigh between 130 and 230 pounds. The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow’s noteworthy conforming capability provided tension relief in the neck and shoulders. Our testers noticed that it also exhibited excellent shape retention, meaning they didn’t need to fluff their pillow. A removable polyester knit cover is hypoallergenic and easy to wash. 

Tempur-Pedic offers free shipping to the contiguous U.S. and a five-year limited warranty that covers defects in craftsmanship or materials.

Our testing team found the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow’s extra firm memory foam delivered exceptional support. Side sleepers who experience neck pain should find the pillow relieves pressure points and helps prevent aches and pains. 

Best Cooling

Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow

Highlights

  • Cooling cover and gel-infused memory foam designed to promote airflow
  • Three adjustable inserts allow for customizable loft and firmness
  • OEKO-TEX and CertiPUR-US certifications indicate the pillow is free of harmful substances

Ideal For

  • All side sleepers
  • People seeking customization
  • Those who tend to sleep hot

The Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow allows sleepers to choose from a selection of adjustable inserts to create the loft, firmness, and performance that works best for them.

Each LAYR Customizable Pillow comes with soft, medium, and firm inserts. The soft insert consists of down alternative fibers, while the medium insert contains a blend of shredded gel-infused memory foam and down alternative fibers. The firm inserts include 1- and 2-inch layers of gel-infused memory foam, though sleepers can opt to only use one of the firm inserts.

Sleepers can combine the inserts to find the best combination for their needs. A bamboo-derived viscose cover provides a soft and breathable sleep surface. 

The gel-infused memory foam is engineered to wick away heat. Each insert is covered in breathable cotton, and the viscose cover is designed to promote airflow and help keep sleepers cool.

Our testers enjoyed the LAYR Customizable Pillow’s multiple customization options. We found the pillow kept sleepers cool while still offering support and preventing pressure points. Testers also noted the pillow’s above-average conforming capabilities and moldability, though it varied depending on the combination of inserts used.

The LAYR Customizable Pillow is available in standard and king sizes. Luxome offers free shipping within the contiguous U.S., and shoppers can return their pillow within 30 days of delivery.

We found that the LAYR Customizable Pillow’s exceptional customization allowed side sleepers to find the right combination to support their needs. Hot sleepers should also appreciate the pillow’s cooling materials.

Why You Should Trust Us

Our team consists of sleep product experts with different sleep positions, body weights, and preferences. Testers personally assess hundreds of pillows based on the criteria that matter most to sleepers, such as temperature control, moldability, and conforming. Our stomach sleepers were particularly interested in finding models that provide support and cushioning without excessive loft.

What Type of Pillow Is Best for Side Sleeping?

Side sleepers need a pillow that is supportive enough to lift the neck away from the shoulders to maintain spinal alignment. Several pillow types achieve this, though the ideal option varies between individuals.

Solid memory foam tends to be the firmest option and provides a responsive, contouring foundation for side sleepers. Shredded latex or memory foam mixed with down or down alternative fibers are typically softer options that combine loftiness and support. These pillow types are sometimes adjustable, which allows sleepers to customize the fit and feel.

Shoppers should note, however, that there is no single pillow that works for everyone. When shopping for a pillow, side sleepers should consider their unique needs and preferences to find the best pillow for them. 

Are Memory Foam Pillows a Good Option if You’re a Side Sleeper?

In general, memory foam pillows are a good option for most side sleepers. Memory foam pillows generally offer the responsive pressure relief that side sleepers need to maintain spinal alignment. Side sleepers typically need a higher loft than other sleep positions to account for the space between the mattress and the base of the neck and shoulders.

Finding the Proper Pillow Height and Firmness as a Side Sleeper

Side sleepers generally need firmer, more supportive pillows than people who prefer other sleep positions. They also typically need pillows with a higher loft, which is another term for the height or thickness of a pillow.

The best pillow firmness and loft varies from sleeper to sleeper. We’ll explore how to determine the right loft and firmness for your needs.

What Pillow Loft Do You Need?

Determining what pillow loft you need is based on your preferred sleep position and body weight. A pillow with the right loft prevents the head from resting too flat or too high, since either position can lead to strain on your neck.

The ideal loft allows the pillow to fit snugly between the neck and shoulders, preventing pressure points and aligning the spine for maximum comfort. Most side sleepers enjoy at least a medium-loft pillow, with many preferring high-loft models that measure at least 5 inches thick.

How Firm Should Your Pillow Be?

Firmness describes how much the pillow compresses and conforms under the head and neck. Side sleepers often need firmer pillows that keep their shape under pressure. This, along with a pillow’s loft, helps properly support the head and neck. Generally, sleepers with larger frames and heads need a firmer pillow than lightweight sleepers. 

Support and Keeping Your Spine Aligned While Sleeping on Your Side

A pillow’s support is determined by its loft and firmness. Sleeping with an unsupportive pillow can create pressure points and lead to neck pain. Picking the right loft and firmness for your sleep position and body type can help avoid poor spinal alignment. Side sleepers generally need firmer pillows with a higher loft to ensure they are properly supported throughout the night.

How to Help With Neck Pain When Sleeping on Your Side

Selecting a pillow with the right loft and firmness is a key part of avoiding neck pain, but how you sleep is also important. This is especially true when sleeping on your side. Side sleepers should choose a pillow that helps them maintain spinal alignment.  

Keeping your neck elevated allows it to rest on an even plane with your spine. If you find you need more support than a regular pillow can provide, consider sleeping on a pillow with a cervical roll. Investing in a body pillow can also provide greater stability and alignment.

Supportive Tips for Sleeping on Your Side

Maintaining a neutral spine position plays a key role in helping sleepers prevent aches and pains. Beyond selecting a supportive pillow that raises the neck away from the shoulders, there are several other ways sleepers can promote healthy alignment.

About The Author

Garen Glazier

Staff Writer, Product Testing Team

Garen is a health and lifestyle content creator. She realized the importance of sleep when her children made getting a good night’s rest more challenging. Garen is always learning something new about the wide world of sleep and sleep products. Married with two girls, ages 7 and 11, she is a book nerd and a lover of pop music, travel, and the Pacific Northwest.

  • Position: Side Sleeper
  • Temperature: Neutral Sleeper
  • Chronotype: Wolf

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