10 Best Pillows for Side Sleepers That Eliminate Neck Pain

Each one is backed by expert testing.
By Jennifer Walker-Journey
December 03, 2020
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
  • Best Overall: Saatva
    $145
    SHOP IT
    Saatva
  • Best Customizable: Layla Kapok
    $99
    SHOP IT
    Layla
  • Best Cooling: Bear
    $125
  • Best Foam: Casper
    $89
    SHOP IT
    Casper
  • Best Luxury: Tempur-Cloud
    $79
    SHOP IT
    Tempur-Pedic
  • Best Latex: Purple Harmony
    $159
    SHOP IT
    Purple
  • Best Neck Support: Nolah AirFoam
    $99
    SHOP IT
    Nolah
  • Best Gel-Infused: Tuft and Needle
    $75
    SHOP IT
    Tuft and Needle
  • Best Eco-Friendly: Birch
    $99
    SHOP IT
    Birch
  • Best Value: Coop Home Goods
    $61
    SHOP IT
    Amazon

Sleeping on your side has been shown to help prevent snoring and, according to a 2015 study, can actually clear brain waste, which might help you concentrate better. But in order to reap the benefits of side-sleeping, it’s crucial that you identify the best pillow for your needs. 

Without the right pillow, side sleepers can wake up with neck or shoulder pain, and even an achy jaw. A pillow with plenty of support and a high loft that keeps your head and neck in healthy alignment is essential. Pillows come in an assortment of shapes, sizes, and lofts, so to help narrow down your search, the experts at Mattress Advisor used their testing methodology to find the 10 best pillows for side sleepers. With something for every preference, you’re sure to discover a pillow that works for you.

10 Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

How to Choose the Best Pillow for Side Sleepers

Pillow Loft

Loft is a term used to describe a pillow’s fluffiness or thickness. This is an important factor when it comes to comfort and support. A pillow that’s too thick or too thin will move your spine out of alignment, causing you to wake up with neck or shoulder pain.

Side sleepers need a loftier pillow that raises their head in order to maintain a neutral neck and spine position. This promotes a healthier posture and allows you to wake up feeling rested without any nagging pain or tension.

Pillow Support

A supportive pillow should be able to withstand enough compression to keep your spine aligned. For example, a feather pillow can be fluffed up to a higher loft but once you put pressure on it, your head sinks right in. That’s because even the best down pillows have only modest support. Polyfill, memory foam, and latex pillows, on the other hand, offer the extra support side sleepers need for a good night’s rest.

Pillow Firmness

Side sleepers need a pillow that has firm support to keep the neck and spine in alignment. But a firmer feel doesn’t necessarily equate to less comfort. There are plenty of side-sleeper pillows that have a firm core with cushioning on the outside that strike the right balance.

Pillow Materials

Feather, down, and down alternative pillows are plush and cozy, but they don’t provide enough support for side sleepers, who are better off with latex and memory foam pillows, which offer some of the best support and contouring. The only downside to latex pillows is most can’t be adjusted to different heights if you tend to toss and turn at night. However, they are typically some of the best cooling pillows you can buy.

Polyfill, microfiber, or fill made from shredded foam all provide support with added softness. These types work well for side sleepers as long as they keep the head and neck raised for neutral spine alignment.

Credit: Courtesy of Saatva

The Saatva pillow’s triple-layer design and luxe materials make it a standout option for every sleep position, but it’s best known for its performance as a side-sleeper pillow. The design features a unique pillow-on-pillow construction that consists of an outer pillow, latex core, and organic cotton cover. The outer pillow is made with feather-like microfibers to create a plushness that’s both cushioning and hypoallergenic, while the latex layer provides responsiveness and breathability. The entire pillow is encased in a 300-thread count cotton cover with a sateen finish and gussets on the side, giving it a sophisticated hotel look.

Side sleepers will especially appreciate this pillow’s loftiness, which ensures your head and neck stay raised to keep your spine aligned and help reduce back pain. If you decide it’s too lofty for your liking, the latex core can be removed through a zipper on the side of the cover. 

Buy It: Saatva Pillow, ($145 for a queen, Saatva)

Credit: Courtesy of Layla

If you prefer to customize your pillow, look no further than Layla’s Kapok. This adjustable-loft pillow is made with fibers from Kapok trees that the brand harvests in Indonesia. They’re finely shredded to create an incredibly soft and lightweight down alternative.

The material's extra fluff provides phenomenal support for side sleepers, as well as back sleepers, by keeping your head and neck in healthy alignment. Plus, it’s wrapped in a polyester and viscose blend cover that allows enough stretch for the pillow to adapt to your unique dimensions. 

Buy It: Layla Kapok Pillow, ($99 for a queen, Layla)

Credit: Courtesy of Bear

The polyfoam Bear pillow is designed to comfortably contour to your head and neck like memory foam, but also provide the same resilience and airiness as latex. For side-sleeping specifically, this model helps keep your spine in neutral alignment. And when it comes to cooling, the Bear pillow excels. It’s covered in a smooth, moisture-wicking fabric with mesh panels at both ends to help promote airflow and keep you sweat-free. The pillow is even cool to the touch and stays that way throughout the night—no matter which side you snooze on.

Buy It: Bear Pillow, ($125 for standard, Bear)

Credit: Courtesy of Casper

You'll want to wrap your arms around Casper’s three-layer foam pillow. It’s made with low- and high-density foams that work together to create huggable squishiness with plenty of support for side sleepers. The inner foam layer contours to your head and neck while soft outer layers provide cushioning and comfort to maintain spine alignment. The pillow is enclosed in a soft jersey knit cover for extra breathability. 

Buy It: Casper Pillow, ($89 for standard, Casper)

Credit: Courtesy of Tempur-Pedic

Tempur-Pedic is known for its high-quality mattresses, but it also has a dreamy line of luxurious pillows. Side sleepers—especially those who tend to toss and turn—will enjoy the Tempur-Cloud, the company's most popular pillow. Made with proprietary foam, this pillow comes wrapped in a 100% premium polyester knit cover with a silky, lightweight feel. The Tempur-foam is a step above standard memory foam: It intuitively responds to your movements while also providing the head and neck support side sleepers need for proper spine alignment. The pillow comes in just one size, but it can be rolled up for easy storage.

Buy It: Tempur-Cloud Pillow, ($79, Tempur-Pedic)

Credit: Courtesy of Purple

The outer layer of this side-sleeper pillow is made with Purple’s proprietary hyper-elastic polymer, a super stretchy grid-patterned material that provides pressure relief and neck support. This layer is wrapped around a latex core to help prevent too much sinking, which can cause lower back pain. The core is also hypoallergenic and naturally cooling, making it a good choice for hot sleepers and those with allergies or sensitivities to harsh chemicals. 

Buy It: Purple Harmony Pillow, ($159 for standard, Purple)

Credit: Courtesy of Nolah

The Nolah AirFoam pillow creates the perfect platform for any side-sleeper’s head. Filled with a polyfiber down alternative that's soft and malleable, the pillow is made of the same breathable material found in Nolah’s mattresses, making it more supportive and pressure relieving than your average pillow. It’s ideally suited for side sleepers who regularly wake up with aches or a pinching sensation in their neck and shoulders.

Buy It: Nolah AirFoam Pillow, ($99 for a queen, Nolah)

Credit: Courtesy of Tuft & Needle

Tuft & Needle's pillow uses a single foam structure that gently molds to and cradles the head, keeping it in place. This helps side-sleepers maintain proper spine alignment, but it also relieves pressure along the head and neck. What makes this pillow stand out is its gel infusion: a combination of heat-wicking graphite and cooling gel beads. It’s also covered in a removable polyblend pillowcase that’s hypoallergenic.

Buy It: Tuft & Needle Pillow ($75 for standard, Tuft & Needle)

Credit: Courtesy of Birch by Helix

Birch’s all-natural, organic pillow is a purchase you can feel good about as it’s sustainably made with materials gathered from around the world. The 100% organic cotton cover is filled with a cozy blend of shredded and natural Birch wool from New Zealand and latex from southeast Asia. The pillow provides just the right amount of responsiveness and support for side sleepers to rest comfortably. Another feel-good bonus: Birch donates 1% of its sales to the National Forest Foundation to help restore and protect trails and habitats. 

Buy It: Birch Pillow, ($99 for standard, Birch)

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

The modest price range of the Coop Home Goods pillow makes it a great choice for budget shoppers. It’s constructed with memory foam that’s been cross-cut into fine pieces then blended with microfiber to create a medium-firm feel and cloud-like plushness. The fill is wrapped in a thin, stretchy inner liner that adapts to your head’s every movement and provides phenomenal support for side sleepers. The pillow is covered in a smooth, breathable polyester-bamboo blend that's hypoallergenic and dust mite-resistant. Plus, the entire thing is machine washable. 

Buy It: Coop Home Goods Pillow, ($61 for a queen, Amazon)

Jennifer Walker-Journey’s writing career has sent her to the vast cornfields of Indiana and the trout-rich streams of North Georgia; deep diving into research about pharmaceutical drugs; and into intimate conversations with the terminally ill and the miraculously healed. Lately, she finds herself immersed in the intricate details of comfy mattresses in search of a good night’s sleep.