Best Pillow for Side Sleepers

When you snuggle into bed every night, the position you assume and maintain has a major impact on the quality of your sleep and health overall.

If you tend to sleep on your side (as opposed to your back or stomach), you’re in luck -- doctors and sleep experts agree this is one of the healthiest sleep styles. When you sleep on your side, you’re in a better position to keep your spine elongated and your oropharynx open. Side sleeping -- in particular, sleeping on your left side -- is also associated with a host of other help benefits, including the prevention of acid reflux. Sleeping on your left side can be a good choice for pregnant women, as it allows for improved blood flow. Side sleeping can help with snoring, but may contribute to wrinkles where the side of your face is squished against the pillow.

Want to maximize the benefits of side sleeping while avoiding the drawbacks? The type of pillow you choose is surprisingly crucial. As a side sleeper, your challenge is to find a pillow that is sufficiently thick to keep your head, neck, and spine in a healthy alignment.  

But even among side sleepers, there is no “one pillow fits all”. Determine the best pillow for your preferences, body type, and more with our guide to the best pillows for side sleepers.

What Are The Best Memory Foam Pillows of 2018?

BrandBrand/ModelType of PillowLoft LevelPrice
Nest Bedding Easy BreatherShredded Memory FoamAdjustable$99
Coop Home Goods Eden Shredded gel memory foam and combed microfibersAdjustable$70
Brooklyn Bedding Shredded Foam Pillow Shredded gel memory foam and latexAdjustable$40
Layla Pillow Shredded kapok fiber and memory foam4"$99
TEMPUR-Adapt Pro Pillow Memory foam6”-6.5"$129

Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow

Why we like it:

  • Adjustable and highly moldable
  • Gel memory foam and cooling bamboo-polyester cover sleep cool
  • Hypoallergenic, machine-washable case
  • Free shipping with 100-night sleep trial

Crafted in the U.S., the Nest Bedding Easy Breather is an adjustable pillow made from shredded memory foam that comes in three different sizes. The pillow is designed so you unzip the cover to remove memory foam and adjust its loft. When it is completely full, the Easy Breather stands at 8 inches tall.

With its shredded memory foam construction, Easy Breather pillow is highly conforming and moldable. The shredded material also allows for better breathability than a conventional memory foam pillow. The pillow features a tencel cover, a soft fabric than naturally regulates temperature, helping contribute to the cool sleep experience.

Thanks to its adjustability and moldability, the Easy Breather is suited for all sleep positions, including side sleeping. However, some sleepers complain of the pillow’s initial off-gassing odor, and note the pillow is not machine washable.

Coop Home Goods Eden Pillow

Why we like it:

  • Adjustable and highly moldable
  • Gel memory foam and cooling bamboo-polyester cover sleep cool
  • Hypoallergenic, machine-washable case
  • Three sizes available
  • Free shipping with 100-night sleep trial

 

The latest pillow design from Coop Home Goods, the Coop Eden Pillow is filled with a shredded gel-infused memory foam and microfiber. An adjustable pillow with a six-inch original loft, its firmness and height can be altered as you remove the foam filling.

The gel-infused memory foam and combed microfibers found inside the Eden helps the pillow retain its shape while still being highly moldable. The cover is an ultra-soft blend of bamboo and polyester with a cross-cut design that helps prevent sinkage. The Eden also features an inner liner that works with the cover to promote breathability and support.

Like the Easy Breather, the Coop Eden’s adjustable and moldable construction makes its suitable for sleepers of all styles. Some customers find the pillow sleeps hot, however, and mention an initial off-gassing odor.

Brooklyn Bedding Shredded Foam Pillow

Why we like it:

  • Adjustable and highly moldable
  • Gel-infused memory foam and latex filling sleeps cool
  • Bamboo-blend cover is moisture-wicking, anti-microbial, and removable
  • Low price point
  • Free shipping with 120-night sleep trial

With its blend of shredded gel memory foam and latex, the Brooklyn Bedding Shredded Foam Pillow is able to deliver a unique combination of responsiveness and contouring. The pillow comes “overstuffed” at seven inches tall, so you can remove the filling to adjust its height and firmness. The Brooklyn Bedding Shredded Foam pillow is available in three sizes. 

The cooling materials and shredded construction work with the cover to help keep the sleeper cool. The removable cover is made from charcoal bamboo, a hygienic material that wicks away moisture naturally.

The adjustable pillow is suitable for sleepers of all styles, and its comparatively low price point makes it a good choice for budget shoppers. Some reviewers complain of an initial off-gassing odor that dissipates within a day or so.

Layla Pillow

Why we like it:

  • Natural, hypoallergenic kapok and reactive memory foam filling provides contouring and support
  • Copper-infused cover is naturally hypoallergenic and cooling
  • Free shipping with 120-night sleep trial

 

 

Unlike our previous picks, the Layla pillow is not designed to be adjustable. Despite this, the pillow boasts a number of elements that set it apart from competitors.

The pillow is stuffed with a blend of shredded memory foam and kapok, a light, airy, all-natural material made from the seed pods of kapok trees. The two materials are able to deliver contouring and support, while working with the cover to keep you from overheating. Infused with copper, the cover is naturally cooling, antibacterial, and antiviral.

With a loft of four inches, the Layla pillow is a good choice for side and back sleepers. However, stomach sleepers might require a less lofty pillow to avoid straining their neck and spine. The pillow also may come with a slight off-gassing odor and is not machine washable.

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Soft and Lofty Pillow

 

Why we like it:

  • Above-average shape retention
  • Micro-cushions adapt to cradle your head, neck, and shoulders
  • Soft, breathable machine-washable cover  

The TEMPUR-Adapt Pro Pillow gets its name from its memory foam micro-cushion construction, which is designed to adapt to your body but regain its “lofty” shape once pressure is removed. The pillow is filled with thousands of tiny memory foam cushions, promoting moldability, breathability, and pressure relief.

This pillow features a breathable, quilted cotton-polyester cover that can be removed and washed. The pillow offers suitable loft and support for side and back sleepers, but may be too tall for stomach sleepers. Some reviewers find the pillow to be overly firm, and report an initial off-gassing odor that dissipates within a few days. The TEMPUR-Adapt Pro comes with free shipping but no sleep trial. 

Pillow considerations for side sleepers

While some consumers are willing to shell out hundreds or thousands on a quality mattress, the pillow is often overlooked. But as sleep specialists, we can’t overemphasize the importance of a good pillow in terms of quality, height, shape, and suitability for your sleep style.

For side sleepers, there are a few crucial factors to consider when pillow shopping:

Height or “loft”

Perhaps the single most important factor when shopping for a side sleeping pillow is an appropriate height or “loft”. Side sleepers typically require a thicker pillow than those who sleep on their back or stomach. Specifically, as a side sleeper, you’ll want to find a pillow that is thick enough to support your head and neck in a way that keeps your spine in its natural alignment.

A good rule of thumb is to look for a pillow with a height equal to the distance between your ear and shoulder.To determine whether your pillow is the correct loft for you, have someone take a photo or assess the straightness of your spine when you are lying down with the pillow. A properly aligned spine will appear as a straight, horizontal line.

Multiple pillows

Sleeping on your side puts you in a unique position where your upper leg may be inclined to twist downward. This can strain the pelvis and warp your natural spinal alignment. To prevent this common complication among side sleepers, consider placing an additional pillow between your knees when you sleep. By holding a firmer pillow between your knees, you can help prevent your pelvis from rotating downward.

Firmness

For the primary pillow you use beneath your head, you’ll want a pillow that is able to provide pressure relief without allowing your head to sink too deeply into the surface. If you are shopping for a pillow to tuck between your knees, firmer models tend to be better at preventing the upper leg from twisting downward.

Shape

Most of us think a rectangular, 20" x 26" when we imagine a pillow. In fact, pillows come in many shapes and sizes, from smaller, butterfly-shaped pillows to large, u-shaped pillows to flexible noodle shapes. Your ideal pillow shape may come to personal needs and preferences. Curved-surface pillows are recommended with those with chronic neck or shoulder pain while body pillows are often preferred by pregnant women.   

Material

Finally, there is a diverse variety of pillow materials on today’s market. We’ve broken the most common down below:

  • Down. Down pillows are made with soft, naturally insulating plumage from the belly of geese and ducks. In addition to being moldable and light, down pillows typically have a higher loft, making them suitable for many side sleepers. However, this type of pillow is often expensive and may cause allergic reactions in some sleepers.
  • Feather. While down pillows are made primarily with ultra-soft belly plumage, feather pillows use a denser, firmer type of feather from ducks and geese. As with down pillows, feather pillows have a high loft, making them a fair choice for many side sleepers. Compared to down, feather pillows are generally firmer and slightly less expensive. Similar to down pillows, feather pillows come with an allergy risk for some sleepers.
  • Synthetic down. Synthetic down or down alternative pillows deliver virtually the same benefits as down and feather pillows. These types of pillows come with two advantages, however: they are much more affordable and do not carry the same allergy risk.
  • Memory foam. Crafted from a dense, polyurethane foam, memory foam pillows are designed to conform to your unique support and pressure needs. These relatively affordable pillows are a good choice for side sleepers who do not have a problem with “sleeping  hot”, as they tend to retain heat.
  • Shredded memory foam. Shredded memory foam pillows offer many of the same advantages of traditional memory foam. However, because of their shredded construction, they can offer more breathability and a cooler sleep experience than conventional memory foam.
  • Latex. Latex, either natural or synthetic, is a durable and supportive material that has become increasingly popular in mattresses in pillows. These pillows tend to be bouncier than memory foam and retain less heat.
  • Adjustable pillows. “Adjustable pillows” refers to a type of pillow that can be altered by adding or removing filling. Adjustable pillows can be filled with a variety of materials, such as shredded latex and memory foam.
  • Buckwheat. Buckwheat pillows, a common type of adjustable pillow, are filled with dense husks that can be repositioned, molded, and removed. These pillows are supportive and breathable, but can be quite loud.

As with shape and firmness, the best pillow material for side sleepers is largely a matter of personal preference. We suggest looking for a pillow material that is comfortable, but firm enough to keep your head propped up without forcing you to bunch it up or use your arm for additional support.

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