The Results Are In: These Are the 8 Best Pillows for Side Sleepers, According to Our Tests
If you find yourself sleeping in the same position most nights, it's probably a good idea to find a pillow that provides enough support to keep you comfortable and pain-free as you snooze. And if you're a side sleeper, it's especially important to find a pillow that relieves pressure and keeps you from waking up feeling achy.
"Pain is a big concern for many side sleepers," says Dr. Lulu Guo, sleep medicine specialist with Valley Sleep Center. "You are placing increased pressure on [your] hips and shoulders overnight."
The best pillows for side sleepers will relieve pressure on these common pain points, allowing you to fall asleep comfortably without tossing and turning or waking up feeling achy. You're also going to want a pillow with the right thickness (otherwise known as the pillow's loft) to keep your head, neck, and spine in a neutral position.
However, the pillow's fill material and texture are up to personal preference. During our tests, we used down pillows, memory foam pillows, shredded memory foam, and more to find the most comfortable options.
Marlow The Pillow is our top choice for the best overall pillow for side sleepers because of its adjustable firmness, chopped memory foam interior, and plush design that cradled our testers' heads.
Here are the best pillows for side sleepers.
- Best Overall: Marlow The Pillow
- Best Budget: Rest Haven Shredded Memory Foam Bed Pillow (Pack of Two)
- Best Splurge: Saatva Latex Pillow
- Best Memory Foam: Casper Foam Pillow with Snow Technology
- Best Down: Boll & Branch Down Pillow
- Best Down Alternative: Slumber Cloud Core Down Alternative Pillow
- Best Organic: Avocado Green Pillow
- Best Cooling: Snuggle-Pedic Original Memory Foam Pillow
What We Recommend
The Bottom Line
After testing dozens of the best pillows for side sleepers, we selected Marlow The Pillow as our top pick. This breathable pillow holds its shape, doesn't get overly warm, and is a great value for the price.
Our Testing Process
Over the course of two days, our testers poked, prodded, and reclined on 31 pillows to see which would be the best pillows for side sleepers. We tested each for quality, looking at the construction, texture, and softness of the pillow. We also examined how well they fit into standard pillowcases, added and removed stuffing from pillows with adjustable fill, and considered how comfortable each was in different sleeping positions.
We also tested for cooling capabilities, taking each pillow's temperature before and after testers rested their heads on it for 15 minutes.
Our testing team took a hard look at durability as well, taking measurements before and after washing pillows that were labeled as washable by the manufacturer. The team examined the washed pillows to see if they held their shape, maintained softness, and stayed the same size or shrank.
Lastly, we factored the overall value of each pillow based on the individual insights gathered and the price before creating our overall list of the best pillows for side sleepers.
What to Know About Pillows for Side Sleepers Before Shopping
When considering the best pillows for side sleepers, you'll want to figure out what type of filling contains the right combination of structure and plushness for a restful night of sleep.
Typically, memory foam and shredded memory foam pillows provide the most support for side sleepers. However, pillows with alternative fill types—like the Boll & Branch Down Pillow we tested—are dense enough that they provide excellent cushioning for people who tend to sleep on their side.
"Firm fill material can be anything from foam to a heavy-duty down alternative," says Melissa Danielson, a product developer for Casper. "This material will give you the support that you need to get a good night's sleep."
Side sleepers will want to shop for a medium-firm to firm pillow in order to relieve pressure and avoid waking up feeling achy.
"The most important thing to look for in a mattress fill for side sleepers is support," Danielson says. "Side sleepers should avoid a pillow with soft fill, since it will make your head sink in and put pressure on your shoulder, resulting in a stiff neck when you wake up."
Other Pillows for Side Sleepers We Tested
Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling Pillow
When testing the Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Cloud Cooling Pillow, we found that while it had the supportiveness that many side sleepers need, it wasn't very comfortable to sleep on. Our testers reported that it was quite difficult to turn their head from side to side when lying on this pillow, and they felt the need to constantly readjust it underneath their heads. However, someone who prefers a particularly firm pillow may appreciate this one.
Parachute Down Pillow
The Parachute Down Pillow was another popular model that we expected to perform really well in our tests, yet it fell flat compared to other pillows we tested. While we liked the loft of this pillow, its cover was extremely thin, allowing you to see the down filling inside. During our temperature tests, our experts reported that it was quite hot to sleep on, and they found the fill to be too firm for comfort. Given the price, we didn't feel that this down pillow was the best choice for side sleepers.
UTTU Sandwich Adjustable Memory Foam Pillow
The UTTU Sandwich Adjustable Memory Foam Pillow is designed to provide neck support, especially for people who sleep on their sides, but during testing, our experts weren't particularly blown away by it. While it was reasonably comfortable and contoured to our heads when we laid on it, other memory foam pillows proved to be more comfortable and supportive than this one. We also found the foam material to be a little cheap, which is why it didn't make our list.
Your Questions, Answered
What kind of pillow is best for side sleeping?
When shopping for the best pillows for side sleepers, you'll want to find a pillow that balances support with cushioning, especially across your upper body, to avoid neck or back discomfort.
"If you sleep on your side, your shoulder bears much of the support, so a firmer pillow is usually most comfortable and supportive to sleep well," Danielson says.
How thick should a pillow be for side sleepers?
A key rule for avoiding neck pain in the morning is to make sure the full spine is aligned in a neutral position.
"Side sleepers should look for a pillow loft that will align your head, neck, and spine, and take some pressure off the shoulder," Danielson says. "Any range of pillow loft can be a good fit, depending on the width of your shoulders and how heavy you are. The wider your shoulders, the taller your pillow should be. Likewise, the heavier you weigh, the lower the pillow should be."
How many pillows should a side sleeper have?
Be careful with stacking pillows for sleep, our experts caution. While it's important to get enough support, you don't want your head to be so high that it causes neck pain.
"Side sleepers may sleep best when using a firmer pillow for their head and one between their knees," Guo says. "This provides enough support to align the head, neck, and spine."
Who We Are
Tanya Edwards is an award-winning writer and editor with bylines at Better Homes & Gardens and other publications. She was the editorial director of Aol Health and has been writing about health and wellness, with a focus on sleep, for over a decade.
For this story, Tanya researched the most important features in the best pillow for side sleepers, spoke with industry experts, and used insights from our expert testers from our lab in Des Moines, Iowa. She talked with Melissa Danielson, a product developer for Casper, and Dr. Lulu Guo, sleep medicine specialist with Valley Sleep Center. Tanya has been covering sleep and sleep products for CNN.com for several years and has never met a set of cooling sheets she didn't want to test.