There is often a lot of disagreement about what people consider to be the best mattress. Two people may try out the same exact mattress and have a very different reaction in terms of how comfortable the mattress is or how well it supports their spinal alignment.
One explanation for these discrepancies is that not everyone sleeps in the same position. Your sleeping position has a huge effect on how your weight is distributed on the mattress, so it’s natural that people who sleep in different configurations would have diverging experiences on the same mattress.
In this guide, we focus on side sleepers. We’ll offer some context around this sleeping position, describe the key shopping considerations for side sleepers, review mattress features to look for, and more. Keep reading to learn more about this topic or click here to jump straight to our recommendations for the best mattresses for side sleepers.
About Side Sleeping
Side sleeping is the most common sleeping position. Though these numbers can be hard to pin down, it is estimated that between one-third and one-half of people are side sleepers.
There are both benefits and downsides to sleeping on your side. The main benefits are that it supports a neutral spinal position (although this is largely dependent on choosing a proper mattress). It also helps to prevent obstruction of the airway, which helps decrease snoring and issues related to sleep apnea, a condition that involves disrupted breathing during the night.
The downside to side sleeping is that it can put excessive pressure on certain points of the body, specifically the neck, shoulders, and hips. Some sleepers may struggle to find comfortable arm positions or may angle the arm in a way that reduces circulation. And if the body isn’t properly supported, the pelvis and back can become torqued while in the side-sleeping position.
Overall, most experts consider sleeping on your side to be the best position; however, to capture the benefits, it is critical to have a mattress that offers the right kind of support.
What Are the Most Important Mattress Considerations For Side Sleepers?
To find the right mattress, a person who is a side sleeper should look carefully at the expected performance of a mattress to determine whether it is likely to meet their needs. In particular, side sleepers should be actively thinking about the following elements of the mattress design and performance:
Support is a way of describing how well the mattress encourages proper spinal alignment. It is important that a mattress cushions the body in a way that prevents an exaggerated curvature of the spine in any direction. Side sleepers generally need more support at the shoulders and hips. If there isn’t enough support, then the hips will sink too deeply into the mattress. On the flip side, if there’s not enough responsiveness, then the hips and shoulders will be uneven. In either case, the spine becomes misaligned, which can cause back pain. As a result, side sleepers need a mattress that has a responsive comfort layer that accommodates the hips and shoulders but without too much sink.
Firmness is commonly confused with support, and while the two can be related, it is important to consider firmness independently. Firmness is about how soft the mattress feels and is not about how well it relieves pressure points. Typically, though, medium to medium-firm mattresses, ranging from 4-7 on the typical firmness scale, provide the most comfortable feel for side sleepers. Sleepers who weigh 250 pounds or more may benefit from a slightly firmer mattress to reduce the amount that they sink into the mattress. Remember, though, that firmness is subjective, and it’s important to consider your own comfort preferences when choosing the firmness level for a new mattress.
A mattress responds to the body to provide support, but when the body moves and pressure is removed, the mattress then retakes its original shape. Resilience is a way of describing how quickly the mattress does that. It is easier to adjust your sleeping position on a bed with more resilience, and this can be a benefit to side sleepers who switch from one side to another in the night.
No one wants a mattress that will wear out quickly, but given the support needs for side sleepers, it’s important that a mattress maintain a high level of performance over time. You can evaluate the likely durability of a mattress based on the quality of its materials and based on reports from other customers.
A demonstrated history of excellent verified reviews from other customers is one of the best indicators that a mattress is likely to deliver on a great night’s sleep. In particular, look for reviews from other side sleepers whose perspective will be most relevant for you.
It may not be part of the mattress, but your pillow is still an important consideration. If the rest of your body is aligned but your neck isn’t, then you’re still likely to suffer from pain and stiffness in the morning. Choose a pillow that conforms with the same spinal alignment supported by the mattress.
What Mattress Features Should You Look For?
Deciding between different mattresses can be daunting, but often it can help to know what you should be looking for. This section reviews the key features for side sleepers to analyze when mattress shopping.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the ways that mattress makers try to differentiate their products such as fancy bed names or descriptions. But the actual mattress specifications are where the rubber hits the road. A detailed listing of the mattress layers and composition should be easily found on the company’s website, and this should include information about things like foam density and thickness. A rigorous review of mattress materials can help prevent you from buying a mattress that overpromises but underdelivers.
Thick Comfort Layer
We advise looking for a comfort layer (or combination of comfort layers) that is at least 3” thick. This helps to make sure that the weight applied at your key pressure points does not overstress the supporting mattress layers.
Good Price and Value
As a savvy shopper, you want to make sure that you’re getting a great value for your mattress dollar. Comparison shopping can help immensely in making sure that you’re not overpaying for any specific mattress type. It is also helpful to do a thorough search for promotions, discounts, or coupons before making your purchase.
Mattresses, even when compressed into a smaller box, can be heavy and bulky to ship. If you are responsible for shipping costs, it can add a hefty charge to your bottom line. Most online mattresses come with shipping included, and we encourage you to look for free shipping whenever possible.
The in-home sleep trial is one of the most customer-friendly innovations in the mattress industry in recent years, and it has taken hold largely thanks to the growth of online mattress shopping. The in-home trial gives you a chance to keep the mattress in your own home and try it out for a predefined period, often around 100 days. If you’re not satisfied with the mattress for any reason, you can return it and get your full purchase price refunded. We strongly recommend looking for a mattress with this type of no-risk trial. We also encourage you to read the fine print on any sleep trial as some companies may have specific terms relating to return shipping or a minimum number of nights that you must keep the mattress (a break-in period).
What Types of Mattresses Are Available?
Virtually all of the mattresses you’ll find in-store or online can be categorized into 5 types.
- Foam: these use layers of foam to try to provide a highly-supportive mattress at an affordable price point. Two of the most common types of foam that are used are polyfoam and memory foam. Memory foam, in particular, is well-regarded for its supportiveness. Within the foam mattress category, there is a wide range of designs that include varied foam types, thicknesses, densities, and firmness levels.
- Latex: latex is a type of rubber that is used in many consumer products, and mattresses made entirely of latex are known as true latex, all-latex, or more simply, latex mattresses. Latex mattresses tend to be heavier than similarly-sized mattresses of other types. This material offers a blend of responsiveness and resiliency as latex is quick to bounce back to its original shape when weight is lifted off of it.
- Innerspring: a very common mattress type, innersprings use an array of metal coils that compress when weight is applied to the bed. Numerous types of innerspring coil designs exist, but the best performance usually comes from pocketed coils, which are able to respond to the body in a more targeted way. Innerspring mattresses usually have a softer comfort layer on top of the coil layer.
- Hybrid: a hybrid, like an innerspring, uses a support core with metal coils. But a hybrid has thicker layers of other materials like foam or latex. If the comfort layer is 3” or thicker, we classify the mattress as a hybrid rather than an innerspring.
- Airbed: the main support system in an airbed is a chamber of air that can be inflated or deflated using a smartphone app or an attached remote. The amount of air in the chamber determines how firm the mattress feels, and this can be rapidly adjusted to suit the sleeper. Many airbeds also layer foam or another softer material above the air chamber to provide more comfort and contouring support.
Which Mattress Types Are Best For Side Sleepers?
While it’s not possible to say that one type of mattress is always better or worse for side sleepers, as a general guide, certain types tend to be a better fit than others.
Best: Foam (including memory foam)
Contouring and responsiveness are important characteristics in a mattress for side sleepers because they help provide the necessary support to help with spinal alignment. Memory foam is extremely effective at this type of pressure point relief. This makes foam mattresses a top choice for side sleepers.
Honorable Mention: Latex, Hybrid, Innerspring
Each of these mattress types can also provide a high level of responsiveness. Latex balances this responsiveness with resilience, which is especially important for customers who worry about feeling stuck in their mattress.
Hybrid and innerspring mattresses often have memory foam in their comfort layer and may be able to also provide a considerable amount of pressure point relief while maintaining a solid support core of pocketed coils.
What Are the Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers?
You may not have the time or inclination to research and seek out the best mattress models, and if that’s the case, you can confidently shop from among our curated list of the best mattresses for side sleepers organized by mattress type.
The Novosbed is our top choice for an all-foam mattress for side sleepers.
- High-density memory foams in the comfort layer provide excellent support and are more durable.
- Multiple firmness options are available to suit customer preferences.
- The Novosbed price point is somewhat higher than other all-foam mattresses on the market.
- The sleep trial has terms and conditions that can be limiting and confusing.
The Leesa mattress is another excellent all-foam option for side sleepers.
- The comfort layer includes 2” of memory foam along with 2” of Avena foam, which has more responsiveness and bounce.
- This mattress has a consistent track record of a high level of customer satisfaction.
- Memory foam is not the topmost comfort layer, so it may not offer as much contouring support as some foam mattress options.
- There are some reports of issues with sagging or bottoming out with customers who weigh over 250 pounds.
For more detailed information, check out our review of the Leesa mattress.
For innerspring mattresses, our top choice for side sleepers is the Saatva mattress.
- The coil-on-coil design offers solid contouring support, especially through the use of pocketed micro-coils above the main set of steel coils.
- In business since 2010, Saatva has many consecutive years worth of positive customer reviews.
- Customers have the option of choosing between three different firmness options, including a medium-firm option that is usually best for side sleepers.
- Unlike most online mattress options, the Saatva does not have a completely risk-free sleep trial. If you decide to return the mattress, you have to pay a $99 return shipping fee, which is deducted from your refund.
For a deeper look, make sure to check out our review of the Saatva mattress.
The Sleep on Latex Pure Green Mattress is our choice for the best latex option for side sleepers.
- Thick latex layers offer a solid amount of support while also providing the bounce and resilience that latex is known for.
- The company has received excellent reviews for its customer support, and the mattresses are well-regarded by the vast majority of customers.
- These mattresses are heavy and unwieldy and usually require at least two people to move.
- Sleep on Latex does not post detailed information about the density or ILD of the latex used in the mattress.