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Best Pillows for Side Sleepers:
Our Top Picks for Loft and Cushioning

UPDATED

Written by Garen Glazier

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Breus

Expert Tested

Table of Contents
line-star And the Award for Best Pillow for Side Sleepers Goes to…

Sleep Is the Foundation’s Shredded Memory Foam Pillow

Sleep Is the Foundation’s Shredded Memory Foam Pillow features adaptive shredded memory foam and an adjustable level of fill, providing personalized comfort with a breathable bamboo cover for a cooler sleep experience.

Given the popularity of side sleeping, you might think that it’s easy to find a pillow that’s well suited for this sleep position. As it turns out, many of the pillows we’ve tested aren’t designed for the unique needs of side sleepers.
 
This guide is specifically crafted for side sleepers in search of the perfect pillow. If you’re a side sleeper dealing with shoulder pain, check out our guide to the best pillows for shoulder pain. To see the best pillows for other sleep positions, take a look at our list of the best pillows of 2024.

Sleep Doctor’s Picks

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Best Overall

Sleep Is the Foundation Shredded Memory Foam Pillow

Buy From Sleep Doctor
Fill Material:

Shredded Memory Foam

Firmness:

Adjustable (Soft to Medium)

Price:

$96

Loft:

Adjustable (8″ Standard)

Pros

  • Shredded memory foam makes the pillow adaptive to side sleepers of any body weight
  • Adjustable design lets you add or remove fill to customize the loft
  • Cover made from polyester and bamboo-derived viscose is breathable and moisture-wicking

Cons

  • Memory foam fill can shift during the night and lose its original shape
  • It can take some trial and error to find the right level of fill

For most side sleepers, the key to a comfortable pillow is ample cushioning to fill the space between the neck and downward-facing shoulder. This promotes proper alignment and reduces the potential for pressure buildup along the spine. With the Shredded Memory Foam Pillow from Sleep Is the Foundation, you can add as much fill as you need to create your ideal loft. Each order includes extra fill if you prefer maximum volume, but you can also remove the foam based on your head size and shoulder width.

Why We Like It

For our side sleepers, being able to customize how thick and firm a pillow feels is an important quality. The inner pouch makes the pillow easy to adjust without making a mess. Unlike solid foam pillows — which can be somewhat dense — this Sleep Is the Foundation model feels squishy and adaptive, forming a gentle contour around the head and neck. Temperature control is another strength. The foam retains a bit of heat, but this is offset by the breathable, moisture-wicking cover.

How Does It Feel?

The pillow’s shredded foam molds to your head and neck for a cradling effect some of our testers described as “cloud-like.” How closely the foam contours will depend on how much fill you use. Most side sleepers on our team preferred the pillow full or nearly full, while back and stomach sleepers didn’t need as much fill. Keep this in mind if you’re a combination sleeper — we recommend keeping the fill close by whenever you change positions and need to adjust the loft.

The cover is composed of viscose derived from bamboo, a breathable fabric with moisture-wicking properties to keep you cool and dry. Viscose is also exceptionally soft. An inner pouch holds the foam. You can separate the outer cover from the pouch and machine-wash the former in any household machine, but the foam should never be exposed to moisture.

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Most Comfortable

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Buy From Eli & Elm
Fill Material:

75% Latex and 25% Polyester Fiber

Firmness:

Medium, Adjustable

Price:

$131

Loft:

Adjustable

Pros

  • Breathable latex and polyester fill stays cool through the night
  • Contoured design is specifically tailored for side sleeping
  • Adjustable fill lets sleepers fine-tune their perfect loft

Cons

  • Only available in one standard size
  • Shorter-than-average 45-day return window

The U-shaped design of the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow cushions the shoulder and lifts the head, encouraging proper spinal alignment for side sleepers. An interior fill consisting of 75% latex noodles and 25% polyester fibers provides responsive support.

Why We Like It

Side sleepers on our testing team found that the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow responded well to gentle shaping while maintaining support. Some back sleepers may also enjoy the contouring for the neck and support for the head. The shredded fill makes the pillow quite moldable, so sleepers can readjust fill to get support where they need. But it also retains its shape quite well, preventing you from having to fluff it as often. With a mix of temperature neutral latex and breathable down alternative polyester, the pillow also earned high marks from our testers who sleep hot.

How Does It Feel?

With a distinctive shape and adjustable firmness, the Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow caters specifically to side sleepers. The soft and supportive combination of latex noodles and polyester fibers makes the pillow especially moldable, making it a good option for side sleepers across all weight categories. A zippered cover made from cotton, polyester, and spandex allows sleepers to add or remove fill to adjust the medium firmness level.

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Best Value

Marlow Pillow

Buy From Marlow
Fill Material:

80% memory foam, 20% polyester fiber

Firmness:

Adjustable

Price:

$65 – Standard, $85 – King

Loft:

Adjustable

Pros

  • Memory foam and polyester fill creates a conforming yet supportive feel
  • Double-zipper design allows for adjustable firmness
  • Lengthy 365-day return policy

Cons

  • Hot sleepers may prefer a more breathable pillow
  • May wear out more quickly than some competing models

The Marlow Pillow’s fill consists of 80% shredded gel-infused memory foam and 20% polyester fibers, which conform to the head and neck while offering support. A double zipper reveals a ventilated gusset and allows sleepers to easily adjust the firmness level between soft, medium, or firm.

Why We Like It

Our testers noted that the shredded memory foam was softer than solid memory foam but still provided a supportive feel. We found the Marlow Pillow to be a good option for side sleepers who are unsure of the best firmness or loft for their needs. Air moves freely through the pillow thanks to a breathable cover and mesh gusset, helping to keep sleepers cool throughout the night.

How Does It Feel?

With an adjustable firmness level and breathable fabric, the Marlow Pillow offers an effective combination of softness and support for side sleepers on a budget. The cotton sateen shell has a smooth feel and is designed to ward off bacteria and dust mites.

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Best Luxury

PlushBeds Wool & Latex Side Sleeper Pillow

Buy From PlushBeds
Fill Materials:

Shropshire wool and shredded natural latex

Firmness:

Medium

Price:

$219

Loft:

Adjustable

Pros

  • Fair Trade and OEKO-TEX certified for safety and sustainability
  • U-shaped design lifts and supports the head while accommodating the shoulders
  • Five-year limited warranty

Cons

  • Only comes in queen size
  • No returns allowed

Ergonomically shaped and specifically designed with side sleepers in mind, the PlushBeds Wool & Latex Side Sleeper Pillow is filled with a combination of latex and wool for a responsive and plush feel. With high-quality materials and a unique shape, the PlushBeds Wool & Latex Side Sleeper Pillow suits hot sleepers who value a luxe feel. The pillow’s natural materials also make it a good option for those who are prone to allergies.

Why We Like It

Side sleepers on our testing team found the pillow’s unique shape easily accommodated their shoulders, helping to relieve pressure points. The adjustable fill allowed a range of body types to feel properly supported, and the natural breathability of the materials kept our testers from overheating.

The Wool & Latex Side Sleeper Pillow is available in queen size. All materials are hypoallergenic and designed to resist dust mites.

How Does It Feel?

The combination of Shropshire wool and noodle-shaped latex pieces gives the pillow a moldable and highly responsive design. The cotton sateen cover features a 300 thread count and a zipper that allows sleepers to easily add or remove fill for customized loft.

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Best for Neck Pain

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow

Buy From Tempur-Pedic
Fill Materials:

Solid Memory Foam

Firmness:

Extra Firm

Price:

$129

Loft:

3″ (Small), 4″ (Medium), 4.5″ (Large)

Pros

  • Solid layer of TEMPUR memory foam hugs the neck and head
  • Choice of three lofts
  • Five-year limited warranty

Cons

  • May be too firm for side sleepers under 130 pounds
  • Less moldable than pillows with shredded fill

The contoured shape of the Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow is designed to help side sleepers relieve pressure points and maintain spinal alignment. Made from a solid piece of TEMPUR memory foam, the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow has a built-in cervical roll for the neck and a concave sleeping plane to support the head. 

Why We Like It

With an extra firm feel, the pillow best suited our team’s side sleepers who weigh between 130 and 230 pounds. The TEMPUR-Neck Pillow’s noteworthy conforming capability provided tension relief in the neck and shoulders. Our testers noticed that it also exhibited excellent shape retention, meaning they didn’t need to fluff their pillow. A removable polyester knit cover is hypoallergenic and easy to wash.

How Does It Feel?

The pillow’s shape and material provide responsive contouring and deep pressure relief, which helps ease aches and pains. A choice of three lofts accommodates a wide range of body types. Regardless of which profile you choose, the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow’s extra firm memory foam delivers exceptional support. Side sleepers who experience neck pain should find the pillow relieves pressure points and helps prevent aches and pains.

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Best Cooling

Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow

Buy From Luxome
Fill Materials:

Down Alternative, Shredded Gel-Infused Memory Foam, Solid Gel-Infused Memory Foam

Firmness:

Adjustable

Price:

$120

Loft:

Adjustable

Pros

  • Cooling cover and gel-infused memory foam are designed for temperature control
  • Adjustable inserts allow for customizable loft and firmness
  • Certified for safety by OEKO-TEX and CertiPUR-US

Cons

  • Finding the right configuration of inserts can take time
  • You’ll need to store the extra inserts when not in use

The Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow allows sleepers to choose from a selection of adjustable inserts to create the loft, firmness, and performance that works best for them. Sleepers can combine the four inserts to find the best combination for their needs. A bamboo-derived viscose cover provides a soft and breathable sleep surface.

Why We Like It

We found that the LAYR Customizable Pillow’s exceptional customization allowed side sleepers to find the right combination to support their needs. Hot sleepers should also appreciate the pillow’s cooling materials. Our testers noted the pillow maintained a comfortable temperature while still offering support and alleviating pressure. Testers also enjoyed the pillow’s above-average conforming capabilities and moldability, though it varied depending on the combination of inserts used.

The LAYR Customizable Pillow is available in standard and king sizes.

How Does It Feel?

Each LAYR Customizable Pillow comes with soft, medium, and firm inserts. The soft insert consists of down alternative fibers, while the medium insert contains a blend of shredded gel-infused memory foam and down alternative fibers. The firm inserts include 1- and 2-inch layers of gel-infused memory foam, though sleepers can opt to only use one of the firm inserts.

The gel-infused memory foam is engineered to wick away heat. Each insert is covered in breathable cotton, and the viscose cover is designed to promote airflow and help keep sleepers cool.

opening quote icon Since I sleep on my side, I tend to go with a high loft pillow that’s on the firmer side so that my head doesn’t sink too far down into the pillow. I need it to keep my head propped up at just the right angle to prevent next-day soreness. opening quote icon
Garen Glazier, Staff Writer, Product Testing Team and Side Sleeper

Why Pillows Are So Important for Side Sleepers

Pillows should be comfortable, but their role in supporting spinal alignment for side sleepers is just as important. If your pillow isn’t supportive enough to keep your head and neck in a neutral position, you may wake up with discomfort or neck pain.

How to Choose a Pillow for Side Sleepers

Side sleepers should choose a pillow that aligns the head and neck with the spine, providing cushioning without allowing the neck to bend unnaturally. This means finding a pillow with enough firmness and loft to lift the head away from the shoulders.

Pillow Type

We’ve found that certain types of pillows work best for side sleepers:

  • Memory Foam: Pillows made from solid or shredded memory foam contour to the head and neck, generally providing excellent support and pressure relief.
  • Latex: Durable and supportive, most latex pillows have plenty of firmness, are temperature neutral, and hold their shape well, offering consistent support over time.
  • Polyfoam: Similar to memory foam but generally less expensive, polyfoam pillows typically offer good support. Depending on the type of foam used, these pillows may be less firm and durable than other types.
  • Buckwheat: Filled with natural buckwheat hulls, these pillows are firm and breathable. The amount of fill can be adjusted, making these pillows an adaptable option for side sleepers.

Loft

The loft, or thickness, of a pillow should be at least 4 inches for most side sleepers. Those with broader shoulders may need over 6 inches for proper alignment, while people with a softer mattress may fare better with a slightly lower loft.

Firmness and Shape Retention

Firmness affects how deeply a pillow compresses under pressure, while shape retention describes how well it maintains its shape after prolonged use. Side sleepers typically benefit from medium to high firmness for adequate support, coupled with sufficient shape retention to keep the spine aligned throughout the night.

Breathability

Breathable materials like latex and buckwheat hulls allow air to flow through the pillow’s fill and prevent heat buildup. A breathable pillow can reduce overheating and sweating, making it an important feature for those who sleep warm or live in hotter climates.

Neck, Back, or Shoulder Pain

Many side sleepers experience back, shoulder, or neck pain. The right pillow can alleviate these issues by providing adequate firmness, contouring, and pressure relief for the head and neck. Side sleepers should look for pillows that provide adequate support and contouring to reduce strain on the neck and upper body.

Video: How to Pick a Pillow for Side Sleepers

Our sleep experts offer advice on how to pick a perfect pillow for side sleepers. We’ll discuss pillow designs that are best suited for this sleep position, from the type of fill to the pillow’s thickness.

How to Keep Your Spine Aligned When Sleeping On Your Side

For side sleepers, keeping the spine in a neutral position while sleeping may involve more than just the right pillow.

  • Use a Pillow Between Your Knees: Placing a pillow between your knees helps maintain alignment in the hips, reducing strain on your lower back and promoting a neutral spine.
  • Try a Body Pillow: A body pillow provides full-length support, aligning the hips and shoulders. It’s especially helpful for those who are pregnant or enjoy cuddling.
  • Sleep on the Right Mattress: Choosing a mattress that complements your sleeping style is essential. To find the best mattress for side sleepers, look for a model that’s tailored to your body weight and comfortably contours to your shoulders and hips without letting you sink too deeply.
  • Add a Mattress Topper: If a new mattress isn’t in your budget, a mattress topper can change the firmness of your sleep surface, offering additional support or cushioning based on your individual needs.

Discover More Pillow Solutions

If you’d like to expand your pillow search, we’ve broken down the best pillows on the market into a series of handy guides.

How We Test

At Sleep Doctor, our testing is grounded in extensive experience in the sleep product industry. For this guide, our team personally tested each pillow. We focused on how well each pillow supports side sleepers, assessing characteristics like firmness, loft, and overall comfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are memory foam pillows good for side sleepers?

Memory foam pillows can be an excellent choice for side sleepers due to their supportive contouring. The best memory foam pillows provide elevation and pressure relief for the head and neck, aiding in proper spinal alignment. Shredded memory foam has the added advantage of adjustability, allowing you to tailor the pillow’s loft and firmness to your specific needs.

Is a firm or soft pillow better for side sleepers?

A medium to firm pillow is typically best for side sleepers. It provides the necessary support to keep the head and neck aligned without being overly rigid. A pillow that’s too soft may cause the head to sink too much, shifting the spine out of neutral alignment and straining the neck.

What is the right pillow loft for side sleepers?

For many side sleepers, a pillow height of 4 to 6 inches ensures that the head and neck are adequately supported and aligned with the rest of the spine. The ideal loft also depends on your body type and the firmness of your mattress.

What is the best pillow for side sleepers with neck pain?

The best pillow for side sleepers with neck pain should offer enough support and contouring to prevent strain and promote proper sleep posture. Pillows with memory foam fill or a contoured design may reduce neck pain by providing necessary support and promoting healthy alignment.

Should your shoulders be on the pillow when sleeping?

A pillow should primarily support your head and neck, keeping them aligned with your spine. For side sleepers, the pillow should comfortably fill the space between your head and shoulders. Your shoulders need to sink into the mattress enough to keep your spine straight, so resting them on the pillow may lift your shoulders out of alignment.

Can side sleepers use multiple pillows?

While some side sleepers like to stack pillows, we don’t recommend using two pillows under the head, as one can easily slip out during the night. It’s better to find one pillow with the appropriate loft for your body type and sleeping style. However, side sleepers can use multiple pillows to support the body. A pillow between the knees can help maintain alignment in the hips, while hugging a body pillow can provide extra comfort and stability.

About The Author

Garen Glazier

Staff Writer, Product Testing Team


Garen is a health and lifestyle content creator. She realized the importance of sleep when her children made getting a good night’s rest more challenging. Garen is always learning something new about the wide world of sleep and sleep products. Married with two girls, ages 7 and 11, she is a book nerd and a lover of pop music, travel, and the Pacific Northwest.

  • POSITION: Side Sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Neutral Sleeper
  • CHRONOTYPE: Wolf

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