What is the best pillow for side sleepers?

January 29, 2021 7 mins read
What is the best pillow for side sleepers?

If your sleep is disrupted because you’re tossing from one side to the other, we’re here to help you find the best pillow for side sleepers.

You spend a third of your life asleep, so the right pillow can influence whether you get a quality night’s rest or not. For side sleepers, it’s even more essential to choose a pillow which aligns your head and neck to your body and supports you so that you don’t interrupt your sleep by trying to find a comfortable position.

Pillows to suit your sleep position

Depending on your sleep position, a pillow can either help to improve or impair your sleep quality. Fortunately for side sleepers, your position is one of the best, although it does require support.

The health benefits of sleeping on your side include improved blood circulation, spine alignment and help to filter the brain’s waste process. It also prevents acid reflux and heartburn.

5 Best pillows for side sleepers

As a rule of thumb, side sleepers should use a firm, high pillow to keep your spine and neck aligned. A firm pillow will prevent back pain and allow the back to rest during sleep.

When you begin shopping around for your pillow, ask yourself a few questions to help you figure out which pillow would be the right one for you. Do you want a pillow which cools you down and improves airflow? Do you snore? The answers to these questions will help you choose the best pillow for side sleepers.

1. Memory foam pillows

These pillows are renowned for their ability to “remember” the shape of your head and neck as you sleep. Memory foam pillows are made from viscose and polyurethane foam, combined with elastic. This makes them pliable and able to support the shape of your neck and head when pressure is applied. Memory pillows can then bounce back into their original shape.

While these medium-soft pillows are not recommended for those who toss and turn (as they won’t be able to absorb your shape accurately), they rate highly for side sleeping. This is because memory foam pillows come in a high or low style. When you’re a side sleeper, you’ll appreciate how they support the angle of your head, neck and shoulders so that you don’t wake up with a sore upper body. There is also an advanced cooling option with a gel layer to keep you cool as you nestle comfortably in your bed.

2. Latex pillows

The plant-based and natural texture of latex pillows makes them a favourite for those who prioritise bio-degradable goods and the environment. Latex pillows relieve the head’s pressure, making it one of the best pillows to reduce tension in the upper body. When you sleep on your side, there tends to be a space between the mattress and your neck, making for a stiff neck in the morning. A latex pillow will adequately fill up that space, aligning your body so you can sleep comfortably.

3. Feather pillows

The combination of softness and medium firmness of feather pillows make these great for side sleepers. As the name suggests, feather pillows are filled with feathers, usually down feathers to provide the ultimate snuggly experience when sleeping. The feather pillow is soft, but firm so you experience fewer aches and pains. This pillow improves air circulation, so you don’t struggle with muffled breathing. Some variations come with Egyptian cotton and 3 chambers. The outer chambers are stuffed with down and the centre with feathers for a strong, supportive and longlasting. If you sleep hot, this is the pillow for you as it doesn’t retain much body heat. It’s also fantastic for cuddling.

4. Shredded memory foam pillows

Like memory foam pillows, the shredded memory foam pillow will elevate your head enough so that you can get a blissful night’s rest. It does this by occupying the space between your mattress and neck while providing enough airflow and coolness. You can add or remove shredded foam as you want to increase or reduce the softness and firmness of your pillow.

5. Microbead pillows

Although it’s ideal for all types of sleeping positions, the microbead pillow has proven to be a favourite with side sleepers. The pillow is packed with polymer particles that resemble tiny white beads. It’s suitable for side sleeping because it is squishy and moldable to your head and neck. Microbead pillows are soft enough without compromising on the firmness needed to support your neck. If you have upper body stiffness or pain, then the microbead pillow can help alleviate it to sleep better. However, if you are allergic to synthetic polymer materials, then it may not be the right option for you.

Things to consider before buying a pillow

To get the most out of your time asleep, choosing the right mattress, pillow, and bedding should be top of the list. Your body’s alignment and the position of your neck and head are essential to you sleeping well. How you sleep, the size of your pillow and the filling are some of the requirements to bear in mind when picking your pillow.

Sleeping position

How you choose to angle your head when you sleep will determine which pillow is right for you. Back sleepers and stomach sleepers, for instance, will require different support than that of side sleepers. Side sleepers need to keep their head and neck supported to align with their body. If you’re expecting, then a pregnancy pillow can support your growing baby bump.

Pillow sizes

The aim of choosing the right pillow size is to be able to move around comfortably while you sleep. The size of the pillow should also complement your bed. The best way to make sure you’ve got this right is by picking a pillow according to your bed size. This typically comes in King, Queen, Double and Single.

Pillow filling

Pillow filling makes a difference in how long your pillow lasts, how comfortable it is and how it supports your neck, shoulders and head. Some pillow fillings include down, feather, memory foam, polyester and synthetic cotton. Certain materials are also classified as dust resistant, environmentally friendly and durable. All these factors can help you pick a pillow which is suitable for your sleep needs.

Pillow firmness

The firmness of your pillow will lessen or add pressure to your upper body, affecting your sleep quality. The 4 levels of firmness are soft, medium soft, firm and very firm. Soft pillows are fluffy, and your head can sink in while medium-soft has mid-range support. Firm pillows are usually made from polyester or memory foam and are easy to arrange. Very firm pillows can absorb the shape of your upper body and don’t sink in. They are typically made from memory foam.

Pressure relief

Some side sleepers can wake up feeling strain in their shoulders and hips because of a mattress that doesn’t support them properly. Pressure can also build up in the neck and shoulders if there isn’t alignment. A pillow that contours to the body will help.


Some pillows, like feather pillows, can compress over time and feel flat. Fluffing these types of pillows will get them back into shape, but if you’re not keen to do so every other morning, then a pillow with solid materials like foam and latex will keep their shape.


Generally, the type of material in the pillow will determine the cost. The most cost-effective pillows are feather and polyfoam alternatives. Latex, down, microbead and memory foam pillows tend to be the most expensive.

Why is the right pillow important?

Have you ever woken up with a strained neck? Or maybe you started the day with a pounding headache. Did you know that your pillow can affect the way you go about your day as it plays a starring role in your sleep?

  • The right pillow should align with the shape of your spine, so your body posture is supported.
  • Your neck and head should get proper support so that you don’t wake up with sore shoulders and neck.

Sleeping on your stomach requires a different type of pillow as does sleeping on your back. For side sleepers, a contoured pillow that is firm will do the trick. Sometimes, side sleepers can put a pillow between their legs, so they feel less strain from their sleeping position.

Remember that getting the most out of your bedtime requires investing in the right mattress, bed, blankets, sheets and pillow. Your environment should also be conducive to a peaceful night’s rest, so lighting, ventilation and good sleep hygiene practises will support your sleep efforts.