Updated: August 9, 2020
Your Sleep is Critical
Finding the perfect mattress can make a dramatic difference, not only in your sleep but all aspects of your daily life. Getting quality sleep can improve your productivity, prevent muscle and joint pain as well as ultimately leading to improved happiness as many studies show a direct correlation between hours slept and your happiness. Due to the importance of getting a good night's rest, we recommend making your sleep a real priority in your life and ensuring you have the right tools and knowledge to take control of your sleep. Finding the right mattress for side sleeping comes down to mattress firmness, types of materials, your own weight, budget and personal preference.
Ideal Side Sleeping
Before we dive into mattress recommendations it's important to talk through what goes into ideal side sleeping and what your main goals should be with your posture. Side sleeping is very popular but it's a position that can require a lot of fine-tuning to get right.
- Keep your spine straight and level with the mattress surface - this ensures your spine is in a natural and neutral position free of twisting or flexing that cause stress muscles and joints over extended periods of time.
- Pay attention to your pillow height - Commonly side sleepers are using a pillow that is too thin, causing a bend in their neck, and sometimes a pulling effect on your spine and cause back and shoulder problems
- Make sure your lower back is supported - A common complaint of light-weight side sleepers or people sleeping on a firm mattress where you're not getting support due to poor contouring ability of the mattress.
- Keep your hips vertical and free of twisting or rocking - keeping your hips vertical with the high side directly above the lower side ensures as minimal stress on your lower back.
Mattress Firmness For Side Sleeping
Side sleeping is a very common sleeping position and one, that when done correctly can yield quality sleep with the right pillow, mattress, and sleep posture. Here's what to look for in a mattress as a side sleeper. Firmness is the biggest factor the finding the right mattress for side sleeping. Firmness needs are dependent on your weight, shape and personal preference. Typically side sleeping requires a medium to medium-soft mattress to properly support your body, especially your midsection and lower back. If you are heavier than average you're likely to need a firmer mattress and if you're lighter than average you may want to go softer than average. This balance can be hard to get right. The image below shows how a mattress that is too soft can allow your spine to curve downward. While increasing the firmness too much can also create issues as it doesn't give enough on your shoulders and hips and prevents you from finding that ideal neutral position.
Mattress Material for Side Sleeping
The next biggest decision is choosing the material or construction of your mattress. There are more options now than ever before so this can be somewhat daunting. Traditional mattresses sold by mattress retail stores are typically innerspring/coil mattresses. Memory foam has become very popular in the last decade, as well as Latex. Traditional innerspring mattresses are also still popular and there are a number of hybrid mattresses that combine the benefits of different materials. Generally, most affordable mattresses fall into these categories:
|Construction||Pros||Cons||Ideal Sleep Postion|
|Memory Foam||Cost, Noise, Minimal motion transfer, good support for a
variety of people and positions, excellent contouring
|Can sleep hot, Off-gasing/VOCs, Initial Smell||Side Sleeping|
|Latex||Natural material, sleeps cool||Cost, Motion transfer not as good as memory foam, Not as supportive/on the firm side||Back/stomach sleeping|
|Innerspring||Sleep cooler depending on the type of outer layer||Firmer/contours less to your body than memory foam, often requires a box spring, expensive to ship, motion transfer, noise||Back/stomach sleeping|
We've found that memory foam mattresses tend to be better for side sleepers due to the unmatched contouring ability of the material.
Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers
As mentioned above when it comes to sleeping on your side it's very important to have conforming support. Generally, the most conforming mattress type is memory foam based. However, no two people sleep the same and while a memory foam mattress may be best for most, we'll recommend a few different options. We also understand that budgets vary and sleeping cool may be the most important factor for you as a side sleeper.
- The Nectar Mattress is a great balance of quality and price making it our top pick and best value mattress for side sleeping
- Medium to Medium Firm is ideal for average weight side sleepers and will contour well to your body.
- Impressive 5 layer structure using three different types of memory foam with two breathable outer layers designed to wick moisture and allow you to sleep cool helps avoid the usual drawbacks of memory foam
- 1 Year Trial, lifetime warranty and free returns make it fairly risk-free to try.
- Price includes two pillows and Financing available
Best Value Runner Up
- A very close second to the Nectar Mattress, the Layla Mattress is another great value for money option for side sleepers that don't have the typical drawbacks of most memory foam mattresses.
- The Mattress is double-sided with two different firmness options, giving you the ability to fine-tune your sleep.
- Innovative use of Copper in the Gel Memory Foam of the Layla mattress helps reduce your sleep temperature
- Their convoluted middle layer of foam maintains air pockets within the mattress that aids in air circulation.
- 120-night trial and a lifetime warranty
- Price Includes two pillows and financing available
- The original Purple mattress was one of the most innovate sleep products of the decade when it came out and the New Purple mattress improves on its original design using a Hyper-Elastic Polymer called "Smart Grid" to offer a truly unique sleeping experience.
- While the purple mattress isn't cheap it does offer the best when it comes to cooling. It's one of the very few mattresses that don't rely on a memory foam outer layer that are notorious for collecting heat. The Smart Grid technology allows for open air flow at the surface of the mattress.
- 100-night trial, 10-year warranty and free returns
- Unique In-home setup service and old mattress removal
- USA Made
Best for Heavy Sleepers
- While not designed specifically for heavy sleepers the Avacado Green Mattress without it's optional pillow-top is a great option for heavy side sleepers due to it's above average firmness, a must for heavy sleepers.
- Nearly 1,000 small coils reduce pressure points typically associated with innerspring mattresses.
- One of the most natural and organic mattress options available using organic latex, cotton, and wool.
- 25 Year warranty
- While there are less expensive memory foam mattresses available, Tuft and Needle's memory foam mattress is worth the price, even if you're on a budget.
- The T&N Original mattress design is more simple than others but claims the same benefits with its dual-layer T&N Adaptive foam with infused gel and graphite.
- 100-night trial and 10-year warranty
- USA Made
Best Budget Runner Up
- When it comes to price nothing really beats the Zinus Green Tea. It's a great mattress if you're looking to improve your sleep with as little investment as you can.
- Leverages natural materials such as green tea extract and plant oil.
- The mattress is available in a variety of thicknesses for varying firmness each with 4 unique layers of memory foam designed to deliver support, contouring, cooling and reduce motion transfer and noise.
- 120-night trial and 10-year warranty
Soft Memory Foam
Best for Light Sleepers
- Most mattresses are medium to medium firm but Amazon basics offer a soft memory foam mattress that is truly soft and ideal for lightweight sleepers. lightweight side sleepers especially need a softer mattress that will still contour around your body for adequate support.
- 3" thick outer layer of memory foam contributes to the softer than average firmness of this mattress
- Extremely affordable considering its softness specialty
- Backed by Amazons support, customer service, warranty and return process.
|Nectar||Memory Foam||Medium Firm|
|Purple||Elastic Polymer||Medium Firm|
|Layla||Memory Foam||Medium,Medium Firm|
|Avocado Green||Innerspring Hybrid||Firm|
|T&N||Memory Foam||Medium Firm|
|Amazon Basics||Memory Foam||Soft|
Side Sleeping Tips
While your mattress is critical to getting good sleep there are other aspects to your sleep that you should be conscious of as a side sleeper
- Make sure you're practicing ideal side sleeping - Ideal side sleeping is all about keeping your spine in a straight line parallel with your bed and making sure it is fully supported, especially in your midsection and lower back.
- Avoid twisting or rotating your hips - This adds extra tension to your spine and can cause back pain fairly quickly. Adding a pillow between your knees can help significantly with this.
- If you're petite or skinny pay careful attention to midsection just above your hip - It's common for this area to lack support as a side sleeper. If you're experiencing pain in this area try rolling a small towel to create a cervical roll and place it in this area.
- Make sure your pillow is the right thickness - Pillow thickness is very important to side sleeping because it determines how your spine in your neck is aligned with the rest of your body(more so than other positions). Generally you want a thicker pillow as a side sleeper. If you like your pillow but concerned about it's thickness you can fold a towel to raise it up.
What's the sleep best position for digestion?
Many resources online claim stomach sleeping has digestive benefits but there are limited studies on the topic. There is however fairly extensive research on the relationship between sleep health and gastrointestinal health like this study published in the BMC Gastrointestinal. There is also data emerging on the digestive benefits associated with side sleeping on your left side. The best advice is to make sure you're getting great quality, recuperative sleep and worry less about what type of position you sleep in.
What are healthy sleep positions?
While it is possible to get a good night's rest in any sleeping position, side and especially back sleeping offer many benefits compared to stomach sleeping. When you sleep on your side and back, it is much easier to maintain a neutral spinal alignment where your spine, muscles, and joints are relatively stress-free.
How do I reduce shoulder pain with side sleeping?
Side sleeping does tend to compress your shoulder and amplify pain in the area. One of the best ways to reduce this is to sleep on the opposite side. You may also want to make sure your pillow isn't too thin. A thin pillow can increase the pressure on your shoulder. A properly sized pillow will distribute your weight more evenly between your head, neck, and shoulders.