Best Side-Sleeper Pillow Options, According to a Sleep Expert
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
- Best Cooling: Layla Sleep Kapok Pillow
- Best Memory Foam Alternative: Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow
- Best Value: Casper Sleep Pillow
- Best Machine-Washable: Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow
- Best Firm: Panda Memory Foam Bamboo Pillow
- Best Allergy-Friendly: Purple Cloud Pillow
- Best Customizable: Pluto Customizable Pillow