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Last updated: August 28, 2021
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If you’re tossing and turning at night rather than sleeping soundly, your pillow might be to blame. While few people want to admit they need a new pillow, upgrading to one of the best pillows for side sleepers can help you sleep better. In fact, switching pillows is one of the most cost-effective changes you can make to improve your sleep.
To help you find the best pillow for side sleepers, we considered key features like pillow shape, filling material, and cover material. All of these work together to determine how your pillow will feel when you lie down on it and whether it will provide the comfort and support you need. We also considered pillow firmness, which can make a big difference in whether you’re comfortable on your pillow. With all that in mind, let’s dive into our reviews of the 10 best pillows for side sleepers.
This pillow from PlushBeds took our Editor’s Choice award thanks to its unique design and attention to detail. You’ll notice right away that this pillow doesn’t stick to the standard rectangular shape you’re probably used to. The semi-circular cutout in the front of the pillow is ideal for side sleepers because it gives you more ways to rest your head. You can cradle it in the center of the cutout, push the pillow up around your shoulder, or sleep on the edge all along the cut.
The pillow itself is made from CertiPur-US-certified memory foam that is density zoned across the pillow to give you varying levels of firmness. The foam is relatively plush, which is helpful for eliminating pressure points. However, beware that it also sinks in quite a bit, so this pillow may allow your head to droop too much if you have especially broad shoulders or a medium firm mattress.
The memory foam is infused with lavender, which some users found helped them sleep. Others noted that the scent is somewhat strong. The cover is made from Tencel, which is a major plus, since it dramatically increases the breathability of this pillow.
Why did it make our list? Our favorite thing about this pillow is the cutout, which was specifically designed for side sleepers. It gives you a lot of flexibility to decide what position is most comfortable for you.
What is not ideal about it? Unfortunately, PlushBeds didn’t infuse the memory foam with gel or another cooling agent. It’s relatively plush, too, so the foam can trap heat around your head as you sink into it.
This premium pillow from Layla Sleep is made with a fill material that’s pretty uncommon: kapok fibers. These fibers come from the kapok tree, found throughout Africa and Asia. They’re incredibly springy compared to traditional types of pillow materials as well as breathable and cooling. Layla Sleep combined these fibers with reactive memory foam to provide a sleep experience with plenty of loft and responsiveness to your movements.
Another neat thing about this pillow is that it’s adjustable in height. The pillow comes overstuffed, and you’re free to unzip the cover and remove filling as needed until it sits at the height you need. The pillow is slightly less than medium firm, so keep in mind that it will compress a bit after you lie down on it.
The kapok fibers that this pillow is stuffed with provide a cooling experience. Layla added to that by covering the pillow with a CuTec copper-infused polyester blend, which does an excellent job of dissipating heat. If you’re worried about sleeping warm, this is one of the best cooling pillows for side sleepers.
What do we love it for? The fact that this pillow is adjustable in height is terrific for side sleepers. Thanks to that design feature, you can dial in the loft until your neck is perfectly aligned with your spine.
What were we disappointed with? This pillow is slightly more plush than many side sleepers would prefer. A little bit more kapok fiber and a little bit less memory foam in the filling would be ideal.
The Dual Comfort pillow from Amerisleep is our top pick for side sleepers with neck and back pain. This pillow is extremely customizable so you can get the perfect firmness and loft to eliminate pain while you sleep.
To start, this pillow is designed with different foam layers inside to give it two different firmness levels. One side of the pillow uses more dense foam to give it a firm feeling, which many side sleepers love. It doesn’t compress much during the night, so your head doesn’t droop and injure your neck.
The soft side is much more plush, which can be nice to sleep on. But many side sleepers liked having the soft side on the bottom because it makes it easier to run an arm underneath the pillow.
Importantly, this pillow is also available in two different lofts. You can choose the five-inch thick low loft option or a six-inch thick mid loft option. This combined with the adjustable firmness makes the pillow very adaptable to a wide range of side sleepers.
What do we love it for? The Amerisleep pillow isn’t cheap, but the company stands behind its product. You can try out the pillow for up to 100 nights risk-free. If you commit to it, Amerisleep backs your pillow with a 10-year warranty.
What were we disappointed with? Amerisleep’s Bio-Pur foam is open-cell to enhance breathability. But without a gel infusion or a Tencel cover, the pillow can still sleep hot on warmer nights.
The Brooklyn Bedding Luxury pillow is one of the best firm pillows available for side sleepers. This pillow is constructed with a dense, solid layer of memory foam that cradles you head and conforms to your body without allowing you to sink. Side sleepers loved that the pillow keeps your neck and back in alignment throughout the night without leaving you slowly compressing into the bed.
Another plus is that Brooklyn Bedding offers this pillow in two different loft profiles. The high-profile design is generally best for side sleepers, since it elevates your head off the bed and prevents your neck from resting on your shoulder.
Brooklyn Bedding put serious thought into making sure this pillow sleeps cool. It has a dual-action cooling system that combines pin core ventilation and gel infusion in the cover. Together, these construction features allow the pillow to pull heat away from your body and ventilate it out of the pillow during the night.
What do we love it for? There aren’t many memory foam pillows that sleep as cool as this model. The dual-action cooling design makes a huge difference if you tend to sleep hot.
What were we disappointed with? Unfortunately, Brooklyn Bedding doesn’t offer a sleep trial for this pillow. While side sleepers generally loved it, that makes the high price tag a bit more daunting.
The Latex for Less pillow is a surprisingly affordable and highly comfortable pillow. As the name suggests, this pillow is filled with natural, sustainably sourced latex.
You have two options for the filling of this pillow, however. The latex inside can be shredded, which allows the pillow to be molded and fluffed much like a traditional feather pillow. Or the latex inside can be a solid block, which acts much more like memory foam. Both styles can work well for side sleepers, but we recommend the solid latex pillow. It compresses somewhat less than the shredded latex pillow, which helps to ensure that you won’t suffer from neck or back pain.
Since this pillow is filled with latex and finished with an organic cotton cover, it’s very cool and breathable. Latex is naturally cooling, so you don’t have to worry about overheating as your head sinks into the filling. Latex is also naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to mildew, which is good for your breathing over years of use.
What do we love it for? This pillow is significantly cheaper than many of the other top options we reviewed. But you won’t notice any difference in quality. The materials are sustainably sourced, and the construction is very durable. Plus, it comes with a five-year warranty.
What were we disappointed with? Having a third filling option that uses a blend of shredded and solid latex would be ideal. Many side sleepers find that the shredded pillow is too soft, while the solid pillow isn’t moldable enough.
If you’re in the market for a body pillow to eliminate pressure points, we recommend the Puffy body pillow. This pillow is filled with a mix of shredded memory foam and solid layers of gel-infused memory foam that combine to give the sensation of sleeping on a cloud. The whole pillow conforms to your body when you lie down on it, and you don’t have to worry about pressure points causing pain in the night.
The pillow is relatively thick and medium firm. Users noted that it feels very substantive, but the foam compresses enough that you can rest your head on this pillow without adding a head pillow.
The only downside to this pillow is that the memory foam can be somewhat warm, especially since it’s capturing heat from your whole body. The gel infusion helps dissipate heat, and Puffy added a cooling bamboo fiber cover to help make the pillow more breathable.
Puffy offers a 101-night sleep trial with free shipping and returns, plus a lifetime warranty. So, you can expect to use this pillow for years to come without problems.
What are its best features? The bamboo fiber cover is easily removed with a zipper, making it simple to clean in the washing machine. That’s a nice touch since this body pillow can pick up more oil and dirt from your whole body than a standard pillow would from just your head.
What could be improved? The bamboo fiber cover does a nice job of whisking away heat, but a material like Tencel would be better. This body pillow for side sleepers can be very warm on summer nights.
The Helix adjustable pillow is designed to fit any side sleeper thanks to a removable support insert. By leaving the insert inside the pillow, you can increase both its loft and firmness to about medium-firm. If you remove the insert, the pillow’s firmness drops to slightly softer than medium.
This insert also makes the Helix pillow one of the best pillows for side sleepers who snore. Often, snoring is caused by the angle of your head during the night. With the adjustable insert, it’s simple to address how high or low your head is supported and make your breathing easier.
The fil of this pillow is made from gel-infused microfiber, which users noted feels a lot like gel-infused memory foam. The material doesn’t conform to your head quite as much as true foam, and it’s not quite as warm either. The pillow’s breathability is also helped by the addition of a cooling cotton cover.
What do we love it for? Helix offers a 100-night sleep trial for this pillow, so you can try it out before committing to it. This also gives you a chance to play around with the adjustable insert to see if it can help eliminate your snore or ease neck pain.
What were we disappointed with? The pillow only comes with a one-year warranty, which is very short given its price. We’d like to see Helix extend the warranty policy by several years or more.
The Nolah pillow takes a different approach to foam fillings. Instead of using shredded foam or standard memory foam, Nolah filled this pillow with its proprietary AirFoam material.
AirFoam acts like memory foam in that it conforms to your head to eliminate pressure points when you lie down on it. But that’s about where the similarities end. AirFoam is much more malleable than traditional memory foam, which is great if you prefer to sleep with your arm underneath the pillow.
It also does a far better job of keeping you cool, since air is free to move through the foam. That makes a huge difference if you’ve experienced problems with overheating when using foam pillows in the past. This pillow is made even more cooling and breathable thanks to the cotton cover, which is infused with Outlast phase-change material to whisk away heat and moisture.
The Nolah pillow isn’t as expensive as many other options we reviewed, yet it still comes with a 120-night sleep trial. Nolah also backs this pillow with a two-year warranty.
Why did it make our list? The Nolah pillow dispels the idea that a foam pillow can’t sleep cool. The proprietary AirFoam filling allows for excellent ventilation, and the Outlast cotton cover helps pull heat away from your body.
What is not ideal about it? This pillow is available with a six-inch loft, but there’s no way to adjust the firmness. Unlike for many other top pillows, you can’t add or remove foam, and the firmness is the same on both sides of the pillow.
The Puffy pillow is a simple, but extremely well-designed pillow that can help side sleepers get a better night’s sleep. The key to this pillow is that it arrives overstuffed with shredded foam filling. There’s a zipper compartment that allows you to remove as much foam as you like, or add more in at any time in the future. That makes it easy to customize the loft and firmness of this pillow to perfectly suit your needs.
We also liked that this pillow is fairly affordable compared to competitors’ pillows. Puffy cuts down on costs by using a mix of bamboo rayon and polyester for the cover rather than using a more expensive all-bamboo cover. The material is still very breathable and cooling, so there’s no loss in comfort from these changes.
Puffy also offers an excellent deal to make sure you’re happy with your pillow. You can try it out for 101 nights with free shipping and free returns. If you keep the pillow, you’re covered by a lifetime warranty policy.
What stands out? The fact that you can add or remove foam from this pillow is a huge plus. You’re not limited to adding the shredded foam that the pillow comes with. You could, for example, add a solid pad of memory foam to give the pillow even more support.
What cons did we manage to find? The shredded foam filling is fairly breathable, but it still traps a lot of heat. There are limits to how much Puffy can do about this, but using gel-infused foam rather than standard foam would make a big difference.
The Bear Cloud pillow is much more similar to a traditional, budget-friendly pillow than most of the other options we’ve reviewed. Instead of being filled with proprietary foams, it’s filled with polyester. The cover is also polyester as opposed to bamboo or organic cotton.
Using polyester makes this pillow somewhat less breathable and less adjustable compared to other pillows for side sleepers. On the other hand, it also allows Bear to sell its pillows at a fraction of the price. The Cloud pillow comes in a two-pack, and that pack costs less than a lot of single pillows we looked at. While there’s no warranty policy, you still get a sleep trial of up to 100 nights.
The fact that the pillow comes in a two-pack also builds in a level of adjustability. Depending on how much loft and firmness you want, you can just use one pillow, stack two pillows directly on top of one another, or wedge one pillow against the other. It won’t be quite as simple to dial in the perfect comfort as with a pillow that allows you to adjust the filling. But for many side sleepers, having two pillows offers the highest degree of adjustability.
What makes it stand out? While this is a budget-friendly pillow, it still comes with a sleep trial. If the Bear Cloud pillow doesn’t work for you, you can return it for free.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind? It would be nice to see Bear offer a cotton cover rather than a polyester cover for this pillow. Polyester isn’t particularly breathable or cooling. Cotton is, and it wouldn’t add much to the cost.
Things to Consider
Now that you’ve learned more about our 10 favorite pillows for side sleepers, how do you decide which one is right for you? Unless you’ve experimented with dozens of pillows, it can be hard to know what combination of construction and features will deliver the best sleeping experience. In our buying guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about choosing the right pillow for you.
Key features side sleepers need to look out for in a pillow
To start, there are two critical features that will determine the overall feel and comfort of your pillow: loft and firmness. Let’s dive into more detail on how these two factors can affect your sleep.
The loft of a pillow describes how thick it is. A pillow with relatively little loft will be flat, while a pillow with a lot of loft will be extremely thick.
The vast majority of side sleepers prefer a pillow with medium to high loft, since this helps keep your neck aligned with your spine. Too little loft and your head will hang down, potentially causing pain over the course of sleeping in that position for many nights. To much loft and your head will be craned upwards, which can cause pains of its own.
Firmness combines with loft to affect your body position. If you have a pillow with a lot of loft but that is extremely plush, your head can just sink down all the way to your mattress. If you have a very firm pillow like the one from Brooklyn Bedding, the loft should very nearly match the height of your neck above your mattress since your head won’t sink at all on your pillow. Some pillows, like the Puffy pillow and Helix pillow, are adjustable so that you can dial in the perfect firmness.
Importantly, firmness can also impact your overall comfort. Some people like the feeling of a plush, soft pillow and find that they get pressure points from a firmer pillow. Others prefer a firm pillow and don’t like the sinking feeling of a plush pillow.
Things to consider before getting a pillow
Loft and firmness are good places to start when deciding what type of pillow you need. But there is a lot more to think about when it comes to choosing a specific pillow. Let’s take a closer look at some of the other factors you need to consider when choosing the best pillow for sleeping on your side.
Most of the pillows we reviewed use a relatively standard rectangular shape. Some are longer or shorter, which can make a difference if prefer to have your arm run underneath your pillow during the night.
But you’re not required to opt for a standard pillow shape. Our Editor’s Choice pillow from PlushBeds, for example, has a semicircular cutout that some sleepers love because it gives them a completely different support zone from standard pillows. If the standard pillow shape isn’t working for you, consider trying something different.
There are dozens of different filling materials used in modern pillows, from synthetic materials like polyester and memory foam to natural materials like cotton and latex. The type of filling inside your pillow will impact not just the firmness and loft of your pillow, but also how breathable it is throughout the night.
Cotton and latex are generally very good at whisking away heat. However, memory foam pillows like PlushBeds and Nolah can sleep warm. The Nolah pillow specifically uses proprietary AirFoam to increase air flow through the pillow.
You’ll also need to consider the natural properties of your pillow filling. Latex and wool fibers are naturally antimicrobial, for example, which means these pillows need less cleaning and won’t develop odors over time.
The cover surrounding your pillow should serve to keep you comfortable and cool throughout the night. The Tencel cover on the PlushBeds pillow does a great job of this since this material is specifically designed to whisk away heat. Polyester and cotton covers are also quite cooling, and they have the advantage of being less expensive than Tencel.
Breathability and cooling
It’s hard to overstate the importance of choosing a breathable pillow. Overheating during the night is one of the most common causes of sleeping problems. This is especially true if you live in an area where summer nights are particularly warm.
As we noted, the fill and cover of your pillow play a big role in determining whether you’ll stay cool throughout the night. Materials like cotton and latex generally sleep the coolest, while foam materials generally sleep the warmest. If you do opt for a memory foam pillow, look for gel infusions like in the Puffy body pillow that increase the foam’s ability to dissipate heat throughout the night.
Sleep trial and warranty
Sleep trials may be standard when you’re buying a new mattress, but they’re not always available when you’re purchasing a new pillow. Some companies, like Helix, Amerisleep, Nolah, and Puffy, offer 100-plus-night sleep trials so that you can try out a pillow before committing to it. These sleep trials typically come with free shipping and returns, but make sure to check the fine print – some manufacturers might make you pay for shipping.
When sleeping on a new pillow, be sure to give your body at least 30 nights to adjust to the new pillow before deciding whether it’s right for you.
It’s also worth checking the manufacturer’s warranty when you’re buying a new pillow. Some pillows like the Bear Cloud pillow don’t come with a warranty at all, while others like the Amerisleep pillow come with a 10-year warranty. Be sure to check whether your warranty offers a full refund or only a prorated refund based on how long you’ve had the pillow.
Generally speaking, you should expect to spend around $100 or more for a high-quality pillow. That’s quite an investment, but your pillow should be able to provide you with sound sleep for several years or more. If you’re on a tight budget, more affordable pillows like the Latex for Less pillow are available for under $60.
What you should know about side sleeping
Side sleepers have a particular challenge when choosing a pillow. Ideally, your head must be suspended above the bed throughout the night to keep your neck in perfect alignment with your shoulders. That can make choosing the right pillow tough, since it can be hard to tell whether the loft and firmness will leave your head at the proper height.
If you’re not sure what loft and firmness you need, consider choosing a pillow with a sleep trial or with adjustable firmness. That way, if your spine is out of alignment because of your pillow, you can always make changes.
Side sleepers generally want to look for pillows with medium to high loft and medium to high firmness. This combination of attributes ensures that your pillow will keep your head suspended and in line with your spine. In addition, a more firm pillow won’t slowly compress throughout the night and leave your head hanging.
The ideal pillow thickness will be such that your head is in perfect alignment with your spine. You can try to estimate this thickness by measuring how far your spine is above the surface of your mattress when you lie down.
Side sleepers will usually want to choose a medium-firm to firm pillow. That’s because you don’t want your pillow to slowly compress and allow your head to droop over the course of the night. That said, many sleepers prefer a medium-firm pillow because it feels more comfortable against your head and doesn’t cause pressure points.
If you need a pillow for neck pain, it’s worth consider whether a non-standard pillow shape can help. Pillows that have a cutout in the middle can offer more places to rest your head while still ensuring that your neck remains aligned with your spine. It’s also a good idea to choose a more firm pillow, since compression during the night can exacerbate neck pain.
Whether you can wash a pillow depends on the fill material inside your pillow. Some polyester and cotton pillows can be washed without problems. However, if you have a foam or latex pillow, it should not be put in the washing machine. These pillows must be spot cleaned if they get dirty.
Our three overall favorite pillows for side sleepers on the market today are the PlushBeds Shoulder Zoned Lavender Pillow, the Layla Kapok Pillow, and the Amerisleep Dual Comfort Pillow.
The Amerisleep pillow offers exceptional customizability thanks to it dual-sided firmness and the availability of two models with different thicknesses. This adjustability makes it perfect for alleviating neck pain for many side sleepers.
The Layla Kapok pillow uses a unique filling material – kapok fiber – that allows it to be more ventilating and cooling than almost any other pillow on the market.
We think the PlushBeds pillow is the overall best pillow for side sleepers today thanks to its unusual shape and zoned foam construction. Together, this design helps eliminate pressure points and allows you to place your shoulder closer to the pillow so that you can prevent neck and back pain.