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The 9 Best Pillows for Side Sleepers and a Healthier Spine

The pillows we use while we sleep should support us according to our individual sleeping patterns and needs. So if you sleep on your side, you need a pillow designed just for you that helps ensure proper spine alignment, pressure relief and maximum comfort throughout the night. Here are our top picks for the best pillow for side sleepers.

Best Pillow for Side Sleepers 2022 iStock

While side sleeping is the go-to sleeping position for most of us, without proper neck or spine support, sleeping on our sides can lead to aches and pains that make falling asleep or waking up a nightmare. Therefore, choosing a pillow that helps deliver sleep-friendly comfort while supporting the healthy alignment of your spine is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

A supportive pillow not only helps end the day with some cozy comfort to relieve stress, but it can also be a tool for experiencing the type of quality and restorative sleep essential to a healthy lifestyle in the long term. In this article, we want to share our research on the best pillow for side sleepers to help you make the best choice for your neck, rest, and overall well-being.

The 9 Best Pillows for Side Sleepers - Our Top Picks

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Best Overall Pillow for Side Sleepers - Layla Kapok

Layla Kapok Pillow Courtesy of brand

Pros and Cons of the Layla Kapok

Pros Cons
Pros Cons
Exceptional pressure relief Only available in two sizes
Adjustable loft It may be pricey for consumers on a budget
Suitable for every type of sleeper
  • Customer Rating: 4.5/5
  • Firmness: Medium
  • Fill Material: Shredded foam, Kapok
  • Case Material: Polyester, viscose
  • Washability: Removable and machine-wash-friendly pillow cover
  • Sleep Trial Period: 120 nights

A pillow that can offer a fusion of stable support and fluff-like comfort is perfect for side sleepers to experience the relief and rest they need. Using a blend of supportive shredded memory foam and plant-based super-soft Kapok fiber as its fill, the Layla Kapok is a hybrid pillow designed to help side sleepers meet their needs. This combination allows you to experience a firm foundation of posture support from the memory foam while experiencing the snug feel of Kapok. The fill’s unique blend comes extra stuffed and is designed to be adjustable to ensure you find the perfect loft that matches your sleeping needs.

Surrounding the fill and greeting your head is an ultra-soft and machine-washable polyester pillow cover that helps further generate a sleep-friendly temperature from the pillow’s core to the surface. Our testers loved the Kapok for side sleepers, giving the pillow a 9 out of 10 for its support. In addition, testers also gave the pillow a near-perfect 9.5 out of 10 for its unique hybrid and versatile construction. For comfort, optimal support, and a multi-faceted construction that allows you to customize the pillow to your preference, the Layla Kapok is our favorite pillow for side sleepers!

Best Pillow for Neck Pain - Eli & Elm Cotton Side Sleeper Pillow

Eli & Elm Organic Cotton Side Sleeper Pillow Courtesy of brand

Pros and Cons of the Eli & Elm Cotton Side Sleeper Pillow

Pros Cons
Pros Cons
Hypoallergenic and mildew resistant Available in one size only
Eco-friendly foam and pillow cover The unique shape of the pillow may complicate finding a suitable pillowcase
Great for those who sleep warm
  • Customer Rating: 4/5
  • Firmness: Plush
  • Fill Material: Latex, polyester
  • Case Material: Organic cotton, polyester
  • Washability: Removable and machine-wash-friendly pillow cover
  • Sleep Trial Period: 45 nights

A pillow’s loft should help to retain a sleeper’s cervical alignment as they rest to help prevent inflammation from developing in their necks. The Eli and Elm Side Sleeper pillow is an adjustable pillow designed and manufactured specifically with the support, comfort and relief of side sleepers in mind. The pillow offers an adjustable loft, allowing the sleeper to customize the pillow to best experience optimal spinal support. Additionally, unique U-shape design of the pillow was explicitly constructed to help side sleepers to experience relief in their neck and shoulders as they rest. In addition, the pillow uses natural latex in its fill to cradle your neck with pressure-relieving support.

Beyond its strategic design and neck relief, the pillow is filled with a blend of cooling gel-infused natural latex and soft, comforting fiber. Surrounding its core is an organic cotton and polyester pillow cover that can be machine washed and helps promote a cool sleep-friendly surface temperature. The Side Sleeper is also hypoallergenic and free from harmful chemicals in its production process. The Side Sleeper is designed not only for side sleepers to experience comfort and support according to their unique sleeping position, but it is also a pillow that can very much prevent and heal neck pain for side sleepers!

Best Latex Pillow - Saatva Latex Pillow

Saatva Latex Pillow Courtesy of brand

Pros and Cons of the Saatva Latex Pillow

Pros Cons
Pros Cons
Great for hot sleepers that enjoy memory foam It may be a bit pricey for consumers on a budget
Adjustable firmness Available in only two sizes
Eco-friendly sourced materials
  • Customer Rating: 4.8/5
  • Firmness: Adjustable
  • Fill Material: Talalay latex, microdenier fiber
  • Case Material: Organic cotton
  • Washability: Pillow cover and outer pillow are machine-wash-friendly
  • Sleep Trial Period: 1-year limited

A pillow with a latex fill offers a sleeper an eco-friendly, breathable and sturdy source of support while they rest. The Saatva latex pillow is a luxury-grade pillow that provides optimal support and responsiveness using high-end latex. The Saatva uses a dual pillow design, meaning it has a removable inner latex-based pillow core with a super plush and breathable down-alternative outer pillow. Surrounding its entirety is a highly breathable 100 percent organic cotton pillow cover. In addition, the Saatva uses American-made Talalay latex, which is treated to make it more breathable than memory foam while offering the same exceptional neck support and pressure relief associated with all-foam pillows.

The Saatva can be easily machine-washed by removing the inner latex pillow, which also allows you to adjust the pillow’s firmness level. While perfect for side sleepers, its adjustable firmness makes it compatible with all sleeper types. Our testers gave the Saatva a 9 out of 10 for its construction and 8.5 out of 10 for its durability. Furthermore, using the more breathable Talalay latex, our testers gave the Saatva an impressive 9 out of 10 for its temperature regulation, having it stand out from other pillows with a foam core. Finally, and most importantly, the Saatva scored a 9 out of 10 in support and responsiveness. Expect a luxury level of support and comfort when you sleep with the Saatva Latex Pillow!

Best Down Alternative Pillow - Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow

Pros and Cons of the Tuft & Needle Down Alternative Pillow

Pros Cons
Pros Cons
Vegan-friendly Non-adjustable firmness or loft
Machine-wash-friendly It may not be for fans of memory foam
Hypoallergenic
  • Customer Rating: Coming soon!
  • Firmness: Soft
  • Fill Material: Polyester
  • Case Material: Cotton
  • Washability: Entire pillow can be machine-washed
  • Sleep Trial Period: 100 nights

Down-alternative bed pillows deliver the plush cloud-like comfort of down without the allergen or ethical concerns regarding products using animal-based materials. The Tuft and Needle down alternative pillow uses a 100 percent polyester fill with a breathable cotton cover to replicate the ultra-plush airy comfort of down without using a single feather. Despite resembling down, the pillow’s down-alternative build makes it easily and entirely machine-wash-friendly and incredibly hypoallergenic. Also notable, despite being ultra-soft, the Tuft and Needle’s polyester fill still offers adequate support for side sleepers due to its ideal pre-sized medium loft.

Unlike many down or feather pillows, the Tuft and Needle is exceptionally breathable, with its airflow-promoting materials dispersing heat rather than trapping it. Plus, the lack of zippers or feathers can ensure you won’t be poked in the night by your pillow. So whether you’re seeking a down-alternative pillow for vegan or allergen reasons, the Tuft and Needle is an excellent opportunity to experience the benefits of down without actually using down!

Best Firm Pillow - Pillow Cube Classic

Pros and Cons of the Pillow Cube Classic

Pros Cons
Pros Cons
Multiple loft options It may run too firm for some
Hot sleepers who want a memory foam feel It may be a bit pricey for consumers on a budget
Specifically designed to alleviate neck and shoulder pain for side sleepers
  • Customer Rating: 4.2/5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Fill Material: Memory foam
  • Case Material: Polyester
  • Washability: Entire pillow can be machine washed
  • Sleep Trial Period: 100 nights

The firmness you want in a pillow should reflect your sleeping position and needs. However, if you need a firmer pillow, you want one that offers soothing and cool comfort alongside its support. The Cube is a solid block of high-quality breathable memory foam with a polyester cover, shaped and designed to offer sturdy and firm support for side sleepers. In addition, the Cube helps to alleviate the lack of support that often happens to the neck and shoulders when sleeping on your side by filling the gap between them with the Cube’s memory foam build and strategic shape.

The Cube offers three loft levels that help give you more options when choosing which version of the Cube is precisely suitable for your individual sleeping needs. Finally, despite being memory foam, the Cube uses temperature-regulating features to prevent heat from getting trapped and deliver a crisp and cool feel throughout the pillow as you sleep.

The Cube is a simple yet efficient foam-based pillow that allows you to choose the perfect loft and firmness for your sleeping needs while ensuring you are supported just right through the night!

Best Memory Foam Pillow - Coop Home Goods The Original Pillow

Pros and Cons of the Coop Home Goods Original Pillow

Pros Cons
Pros Cons
Eco-friendly bamboo-sourced pillow cover Not ideal for stomach sleepers
Great for hot sleepers who love memory foam It may feel too firm for fans of down
Hypoallergenic
  • Customer Rating: 4.7/5
  • Firmness: Medium
  • Fill Material: Memory foam, microfiber
  • Case Material: Polyester, viscose rayon
  • Washability: Entire pillow can be machine-washed
  • Sleep Trial Period: 100 nights

Memory foam can offer a foundation of both snug comfort and exceptional support for your neck and shoulders as your rest. However, finding a pillow that uses foam that doesn’t trap heat and is free of hazardous chemicals can be challenging. Fortunately, the Original Pillow from Coop Home Goods uses a strategic blend of shredded memory foam and fiber as its fill to maximize comfort while delivering healthy support. The foam is shredded to help airflow and prevent heat from getting trapped at the pillow’s core. In addition, Coop only uses Certipur-US, and GREENGUARD Gold certified foam in its Original pillow, meaning the foam is produced free of toxic chemicals. Beyond creating a foam-based pillow accessible to hot sleepers and eco-friendly consumers, this pillow is adjustable, allowing you to take out or add fill to customize the pillow’s loft according to your precise sleeping needs.

While foam typically gets a bad rap for trapping heat, the Original Pillow’s design allows for great temperature regulation (9/10), leading our testers to give the pillow a perfect 10 out of 10 for its construction. In addition, our testers gave the pillow a 9 out of 10 for responsiveness and a 9.5 out of 10 for its support. The Original Pillow from Coop is a perfect choice for all fans of memory foam!

Best Down Pillow - Brooklinen Down Pillow

Pros and Cons of the Brooklinen Down Pillow

Pros Cons
Pros Cons
Ethically sourced down clusters and feathers It may lack the level of support needed for people with chronic neck pain
Customizable firmness and loft It may be pricey for consumers on a budget
Treated to be more hypoallergenic
  • Customer Rating: Coming soon!
  • Firmness: Plush, mid-plush, firm
  • Fill Material: Down clusters, feathers
  • Case Material: Sateen cotton
  • Washability: Spot-cleaning only
  • Sleep Trial Period: 365 nights

Down pillows offer exceptional comfort, which is hard to replicate. And for fans of authentic down, the Brooklinen Down Pillow should catch the eye. The Brooklinen offers a down pillow that ethically sources its feathers from regulated farms in Canada. Furthermore, Brooklinen offers its down pillow with a customizable firmness. By offering the pillow to you with a calculated ratio of feathers to down clusters, you can choose a firmness of plush, mid-plush or even firm for your down pillow’s construction, making it uniquely suitable for all types of sleepers. The pillow is also treated with ultra-fresh antimicrobials to make it more hypoallergenic and mildew resistant. Surrounding the down fill is a 100 percent cotton sateen cover that is super soft and ultra-breathable, helping to stimulate airflow from the pillow’s core to its surface.

With the firm version being the ideal choice for side sleepers seeking down, Brooklinen has created a pillow that answers the concerns of many sleepers regarding how down is sourced and the level of support it can provide. Offering a versatile pillow that doesn’t compromise the authentic comfort unique to down have us granting the Brooklinen the best down pillow choice for side sleepers!

Best Hypoallergenic Pillow - Avocado Green Pillow

Avocado Green Pillow Courtesy of brand

Pros and Cons of the Avocado Green Pillow

Pros Cons
Pros Cons
All organic It may require daily fluffing
Great for hot sleepers A pillowcase is not included
Easily washed
  • Customer Rating: Coming soon!
  • Firmness: Adjustable
  • Fill Material: Organic latex, Kapok fiber
  • Case Material: Organic cotton
  • Washability: Entire pillow can be machine-washed
  • Sleep Trial Period: 100 nights

While some cheap pillows cut corners, compromise quality and use toxic materials in their construction, the Avocado Green Pillow is an exception. The Avocado Green is an entirely organic hybrid pillow. All materials are eco-friendly, sustainable and organic, creating a safer pillow for our skin, breathing and the planet. The pillow has an adjustable fill of organic Kapok fiber and naturally hypoallergenic organic latex. Surrounding the fill is a 100 percent organic pillow cover that is super soft, breathable and cool to the touch. In addition, the vegan, non-toxic and eco-friendly Avocado has a variety of certifications to ensure consumers of its claims and construction. The pillow is Greenguard Gold Certified, Global Organic Textile certified, Global Organic Latex certified, Eco-INSTITUT certified, Made Safe certified and OEKO-TEX Standard 100, to name a few.

Beyond its naturally hypoallergenic construction, the pillow is quite versatile as well. It can be machine-washed easily, has an adjustable fill and its naturally temperature-regulating build make it great for hot sleepers. Furthermore, the blend of supportive latex and soft Kapok fiber delivers a fantastic combination of sturdy support and plush comfort. Considering all its qualifications and luxury-grade build, you can expect to breathe safely and get a good night’s rest on the Avocado Green pillow!

Best Cooling Pillow - Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Cloud Breeze

Pros and Cons of the Tempur-Pedic Tempur -Cloud Breeze

Pros Cons
Pros Cons
Great hot sleepers seeking a memory foam pillow No sleep trial period
Free shipping It may feel firm for fans of softer pillows
Generous warranty
  • Customer Rating: 4.3/5
  • Firmness: Medium
  • Fill Material: Memory foam
  • Case Material: Cotton
  • Washability: The pillowcase can be removed and washed
  • Sleep Trial Period: N/A

Falling asleep feeling clammy or uncomfortably warm can lead to nights of restlessness, followed by grumpy mornings. The Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Cloud Breeze is a memory foam pillow designed for hot sleepers. While memory foam offers exceptional support and cozy comfort, it’s not always known for maintaining a sleep-friendly temperature, as some foam-based pillows tend to trap heat. Fortunately, Tempur-Pedic has designed the Breeze for hot sleepers to embrace the benefits of memory foam while still getting a crisp and breathable cradling base for their neck and heads while they rest.

Surrounding the Breeze’s memory foam core are two additional layers of cooling-gel memory foam that help to prevent heat from getting trapped in the pillow’s core while stimulating airflow throughout the pillow’s entirety. In addition, the Breeze includes a 100-percent quilted cotton cover that works alongside the pillow’s cooling layers to ensure a stable sleep-friendly temperature for the sleeper on the surface. The Tempur-Pedic pillow is a famous brand for offering exceptional cervical support and comfort for healthy and restorative sleep. However, as some hot sleepers found the memory foam leaving them hot, the company responded with the Breeze, offering a memory foam pillow that won’t leave you sleeping in sweat!

What Makes a Good Pillow for Side Sleepers?

Side sleepers need a quality medium-firm pillow that can help to relieve pressure while offering support. When you sleep on your side, you exert extra pressure onto one side of your body, leading to potential inflammation in your neck, shoulders and knees. Regarding pillow support, you want a pillow that can accommodate your neck to retain proper alignment with the rest of your spine while you rest. Additionally, a pillow that can help to relieve pressure in your shoulder that is experiencing more weight while you sleep is also helpful in preventing inflammation.

Pillows with adjustable loft and fill can also benefit side sleepers, allowing them to customize their pillow to a precise loft and firmness that reflects their sleeping and body’s needs. While you may prefer down pillows over memory foam, or vice versa, beyond materials and preference, broadly speaking, the best pillows for side sleepers help prevent inflammation from building up while they rest by providing optimal support and relief without compromising comfort.

What You Need to Know About Side Sleeping

Side sleeping is reportedly the most common sleeping position. Sleeping on your side has some benefits, most notably regarding your breathing. For example, sleeping on your side helps keep your airways more open than when in other sleeping positions. As a result, this can benefit those struggling with sleep apnea or why sleeping on your side typically dampers or even stops snoring. However, due to the exertion of extra weight for an extended time on one side of your body, you want to ensure you have a mattress and pillow that can keep your body and neck level and supported.

A mattress that can deter sinkage that disrupts your spine’s alignment or a pillow that retains your cervical alignment are both essential for side sleepers to get the support they need while they rest. Furthermore, an additional pillow between the knees can help prevent inflammation in the lower body when sleeping on your side. Overall, side sleepers should prioritize having the right pillow to ensure their sleep helps maintain a healthy body rather than create new aches and pains in the neck, shoulders and back.

Things to Consider When Buying a Pillow for Side Sleepers

Type of Pillow

Understanding the materials used in your pillow can help you to choose the right one for you!

Memory foam: Memory foam pillows offer a firmer and sturdier foundation of pressure-relieving support for your neck and shoulders than more plush pillows such as down pillows. Due to this, the cradle of memory foam provides a more reliably stable base of cervical support for your spine while you sleep if you struggle with neck or back pain. Shredded memory foam pillows also help to prevent heat from getting trapped in the pillow’s core and, in many cases, offer loft and firmness adjustability.

Down/Down Alternative: Both down and down-alternative pillows offer a super soft, fluffy cloud-like comfort. Down itself uses the inner feather clusters of ducks or geese, while down-alternative pillows use polyester or other soft fabrics to replicate the authentic feeling of down. Down and down-alternative pillows, with few exceptions, tend to offer more comfort than they do orthopedic support. However, some down or down-alternative pillows have been designed to offer more firmness or cervical supporting features.

Latex: Latex pillows offer most of the features associated with memory foam pillows. However, latex pillows are more natural while typically offering superior bounce and breathability than non-latex foam-based pillows.

Hybrid: Hybrid pillows blend materials and fabrics to create more versatile pillows that can accommodate more sleeper types. For example, a hybrid pillow may offer a fill that uses both down-alternative fabrics and memory foam to help deliver both the supportive features of foam and the plush comforts of polyester. As a result, hybrid pillows offer more versatility and are an excellent choice for combination sleepers or indecisive consumers.

Performance Factors

Your pillow’s features should reflect your individual sleeping needs!

Allergen-resistance: Allergen resistance determines how hypoallergenic a pillow is. Allergen-resistant pillows tend to be mildew-resistant and have quality airflow.

Loft: A pillow’s loft reflects the height of a pillow under your neck and head. Your desired pillow loft is one that best aligns your neck with your broader spine. Standard pillow lofts are low (4.5″), medium (6″) and high (7″). However, some luxury-grade pillows offer adjustable loft, allowing you to customize the pillow’s fill.

Size: With few exceptions, there are five standard pillow sizes:

  • Standard Size (20” x 26”)
  • Super Standard (20” x 28”)
  • Queen (20” x 30”)
  • King (20” x 36”)
  • Body Pillow (20” x 54”)

Firmness: Pillow firmness reflects how sturdy a pillow is when supporting your neck and head as you rest on it. Pillow firmness usually runs from soft or plush to medium-firm, firm, and extra-firm. With stomach sleepers preferring more soft pillows and side or back sleepers preferring medium-firm to firm pillows.

Washability: A pillow’s washability reflects the ease of washing your pillow. For example, some pillows can easily be thrown in the machine and washed without concern, while others require spot cleaning or dry cleaning. Fortunately, pillow washability and cleaning instructions are made available to consumers in advance, with most pillows offering a washable cover that can be removed and machine-washed despite the pillow’s fill.

Durability: A pillow’s durability reflects the likely lifespan of a pillow. Durability is typically judged by the quality of the materials used in the pillow’s construction.

Price: Pillows can range from a few bucks to a few hundred dollars. So when looking for the best pillow at the best price, it’s better to focus on its materials and performance features rather than its logo or hype.

FAQ About the Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

If I’m a side sleeper, where do I put my arms?

When sleeping on your side, it’s best to keep your arms resting away from your chest and not underneath the weight of your head or body. Exerting your weight on your arms while you rest can lead to disrupted blood flow, pins and needles or carpal tunnel syndrome in some cases over time. Some side sleepers use pillows to help prompt their arms up to prevent sleeping on them during the night. Generally, it is a good practice to try and fall asleep with your arms resting parallel to your body rather than underneath it.

How firm should my pillow be as a side sleeper?

Medium firmness is considered the ideal pillow firmness level for side sleepers. Medium-firm pillows offer sturdy support for a side sleeper’s head and neck during the night without compromising comfort. Furthermore, medium-firm pillows help keep a side sleeper’s head and neck in healthy alignment with their broader spine as they rest. Conversely, side sleepers who use a less firm pillow may experience inflammation and strains from developing due to problematic sinkage or prolonged uneven cervical alignment that comes with a pillow that lacks firm support.

I’m a side sleeper. How thick should my pillow be?

Medium to high loft pillows, with five inches or more of thickness, are considered the best choice for side sleepers. Pillows with adjustable loft are also great for side sleepers. Your preferred pillow loft should reflect a height that best supports the healthy alignment of your neck with your broader spine while you rest.

What sleeping position is best for your health?

This question is up for debate. However, concerning spinal alignment and joint health, sleeping on your back may be the most healthy due to how your weight is distributed as you rest. Yet, on the other hand, when it comes to breathing, side sleeping may be more beneficial if you suffer from sleep apnea.

What is certain, though, is that whether you are a back, side or combination sleeper, it is always most important to experience quality support from a pillow or mattress to ensure you experience the healthiest sleep you can according to your sleeping needs.

Summary of Our Top Picks for the Best Pillows for Side Sleepers