Best Side-Sleeper Pillow Options, According to a Sleep Expert

Finding the perfect pillow can be a game-changer. Here are the best side-sleeper pillow options for your most comfortable snooze yet.

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Woman Sleeping on Her Side on Pillow
Photo: Getty Images

It's no secret that sleeping on the wrong pillow can have a very real (and very bad) effect on your comfort. And choosing the wrong pillow may have impacts that linger long after your morning coffee (think: tight neck, achy upper back), according to experts.

If you're a side sleeper and aren't keeping that in mind when pillow shopping, you should be. But your preferred sleeping position is only the start: There are a few more things you'll want to look for when selecting your cushion.

"An ideal pillow for side sleepers should have a firm material and a mid to low height to provide spinal support, alignment, and stability for the area between the ear and shoulder," says sleep expert Carleara Weiss, Ph.D., medical advisor for Aeroflow Sleep. In other words, the best side-sleeper pillows aren't lofty or excessively soft and squishy.

"A pillow with adequate spinal support means that spinal areas [for side sleepers, the cervical spine, which is in the neck] will maintain a stable alignment with the natural body curvature during sleep," says Weiss. "For example, your neck curvature is slightly forward while you're awake. Thus, a good pillow should align the neck and head in a neutral position to avoid pressure because the pressure will lead to neck/shoulder pain and headaches."

Choosing the wrong pillow can affect side sleepers in other nasty ways. "Along with overall pain and headache, some people report stiff neck, soreness, difficulty moving the neck, and neck strain after sleeping without the proper spinal support," says Weiss.

It's important to take the movements you make overnight into consideration, too. "It's also essential to choose a stable but flexible pillow [that's] able to adjust to your body as you switch sides during sleep," says Weiss. And sleeping position aside, it's wise to choose a machine-washable pillow for hygienic reasons, she adds. (Cleaning your pillow regularly prevents build-up of bacteria, dead skin cells, mites, mold, and fungus, and down-filled pillows need to be taken to a dry cleaner.)

That being said, picking the best side-sleeper pillow can be tricky since there are so many options on the market. Sure, simply going to a store and giving a bunch of pillows the old squish test (you know — where you simply give a pillow a squeeze to see if it offers your preferred level of softness) may have worked in the past. But the sheer number of options today can feel overwhelming. Some good news? Seeking out a side-sleeper pillow specifically can narrow your search and allow you to score sounder sleep in no time.

Based on these expert guidelines — and endorsements from real customers — here are eight of the best side-sleeper pillow choices.

The Best Side-Sleeper Pillows:

Best Overall: Honeydew Scrumptious Side Sleeper Pillow

Honeydew Scrumptious Side Sleeper Pillow

A non-traditional curved shape isn't the only thing that sets this side-sleeper pillow apart. This option is also customizable — you can remove filling achieve the height that feels most comfortable for you. That means you can find the right alignment for your body type, reducing pain, improving sleep quality, and alleviating snoring in the process, according to the brand.

Customers say: Self-identified side sleepers have been loving this pick. "The one complaint I have about this pillow is that I DO NOT want to get out of bed anymore!" wrote one fan, adding that they "have been sleeping great and not waking up in pain," ever since switching to the pillow.

Best Cooling: Layla Sleep Kapok Pillow

Layla Sleep Kapok Pillows

If you're someone who prefers the feel of a soft pillow but would like the support of something firmer, this option — which can mold to your head and neck thanks to memory foam — might be the ticket. It also features a washable, breathable covering designed to keep you cool while you snooze.

Customers say: Fans of this side-sleeper pillow claim it's helped with their neck pain and led to better sleep. "I love this pillow," wrote one person. "I literally want to buy enough to make my own birds nest out of them so I can just lay in this super soft, but comfortingly firm pillowy embrace all the time. It's like your head is being held securely, but so gently that your just floating in soft fluffy sleep clouds."

Best Memory Foam Alternative: Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow

Talalay Latex Pillow
Brooklyn Bedding

Not a fan of memory foam? No problem. "Instead, [this side-sleeper pillow has] hyper-responsive latex foam that works similarly as far as cervical support and flexibility," says Weiss. In other words, you can sleep soundly knowing that your neck and head are aligned to avoid unnecessary pressure and are supported no matter how many times you toss and turn — all without feeling like you're resting your head on a dense brick.

Customers say: Customers praise the neck support, softness, and "bounce" of this pillow. Many also say that it helped ease their neck pain, and it also gets high marks for staying cool through the night.

Best Value: Casper Sleep Pillow

Casper Sleep Pillow for Sleeping, Standard, White

This side-sleeper pillow has a "pillow in pillow" design, with a more supportive core and a fluffier outer layer. It features a 2-inch gusset (an extra piece of material in the center), which is meant to provide optimal neck support and spine alignment.

Customers say: This choice gets a thumbs up from sleepers who tend to run hot, who say this pillow stays cool overnight. "These pillows are amazing, [my husband and I] both sleep so much better," wrote one reviewer. "I cannot believe how it has relieved me from waking up with a crick in my neck. I sleep deeper and I love the way this cradles my head but supports my neck. We didn't buy sooner because of the cost, but it is worth every penney!"

Best Machine-Washable: Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow

Easy Breather Pillow | Premium Shredded Foam
Nest Bedding

While this side-sleeper pillow is comes packed with plenty of memory foam fill, you can remove some to achieve the height and feel of your liking. That being said, the brand suggests leaving all the fill in place if you're a side sleeper for the most comfortable experience.And since an update in July 2021, the latest version of this pick is fully machine-washable.

Customers say: Reviewers praise this pillow's balance of softness and support, and claim it has helped them nix neck pain.

Best Firm: Panda Memory Foam Bamboo Pillow

Panda Luxury Memory Foam Bamboo Pillow

This side-sleeper pillow's covering is made of breathable bamboo, but it still has that molded feel thanks to memory foam. This choice also boasts a built-in pillow protector to keep dust and dirt at bay.

Customers say: This item gets high marks for its ability to hold its shape — but one thing to note is that there may be a breaking-in period of sorts. Multiple reviewers claim this one feels hard at first, but softens over time...and has gradually cleared up neck pain for several people.

Best Allergy-Friendly: Purple Cloud Pillow

Purple Cloud Pillow (Standard)

Packed with hypoallergenic gel fibers, this pick from Purple will mold to your head and neck to provide superior support, according to the brand's website. Weiss gives the cervical support and shoulder protection on this pillow two thumbs up, too.

Customers say: Users love the cloud-like feel of this option and its ability to retain its shape all night. "This is by far the best pillow I've ever slept on," wrote one person. "As soon as I laid my head on it I, was in heaven."

Best Customizable: Pluto Customizable Pillow

Pluto Pillow
Pluto Brand Inc.

Few things are as personal as a pillow and if anyone knows that, it's the folks at Pluto. The brand gathers your personal stats (e.g. age, height, and weight), some insight into your preferences (by asking about your current pillow's softness and height and overall feelings about it), and your sleep position (both as you fall asleep and wake up). Answer each question on Pluto's website, and the brand will hook you up with the best side-sleeper pillow for your needs. (Related: Can Bad Posture Take a Toll On Your Sleep?)

Customers say: Many claim their Pluto pillow is the best they've tried — and one user even went as far as to say that Pluto has "nailed it" when it comes to identifying the right pillow for their specific needs.

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