If you’re like many people, you sleep on your right or left side. To help you get the most out of bedtime, the best mattress for side sleepers is what you need.
Your sleeping position plays a big part in determining the mattress you buy. Back sleepers are better off with a different kind of mattress from stomach sleepers. The same is true if you sleep on your side.
In this article, we explain all there is to know about sleeping on your side, including what mattress to get. This way, you can avoid sleep difficulties or waking up with aches and pains.
Our Top Choices: Quick Look at Side Sleeper Mattresses
For side sleepers, we recommend going with plush/soft or medium firm memory foam mattresses. Both work well. But, the final decision will ultimately depend on your preference. Here are our picks for plus/soft and medium firm memory foam mattresses.
Plush/Soft Memory Foam Mattresses
- Classic Brands 10.5 Inch Cool Gel Memory Foam Mattress – Top Pick for Soft
- Classic Brands 12 Inch Cool Gel Memory Foam Mattress
- LUCID 14 Inch Plush Memory Foam Mattress
Medium Firmness Memory Foam Mattresses
- LUCID 12 Inch Gel Memory Foam Mattress – Top Pick for Medium Firm
- LUCID 10 Inch Plush Memory Foam Mattress
- Sleep Innovations Shiloh 12-inch Memory Foam Mattress
Sleeping on Your Side
According to WebMD, 63% of us sleep on our sides. This makes it the most popular sleeping position, probably because of comfort. Next are the stomach sleepers at 16%. Surprisingly, only 14% sleep on their backs.
While our choice of sleeping position may be based on what feels right, science tells us that some positions are healthier than others.
If you sleep on your side, you’ll be glad to know that researchers and doctors consider this the best sleep position. It relieves pressures on our necks and backs. Plus, it allows us to keep our spine in a neutral position.
Studies have also shown that side sleepers experience less snoring. And depending on which side you sleep on, it can help with heartburn, blood circulation and give your heart more room.
These are some of the popular side sleeping positions.
This position mimics a fetus. You sleep curled up with legs tucked in close to your body. It is the most common sleep position. Around 47% of Americans sleep this way.
Here, you sleep on your side. But, with arms and legs straights down your sides. This is probably one of the better side sleeping positions because your spine is relaxed and in a neutral position.
This position is similar to the log. But, you have your arms out in front of you. This is the 3rd most popular sleeping position. About 13% of all Americans sleep this way.
images from: The Better Sleep Council
Caution for Side Sleepers
Sleeping on your side does offer a number of health benefits. Plus, it’s comfortable. It does make you susceptible to poor posture. The reason is it’s difficult to maintain symmetry on both sides of the body in this position.
When lying on one side, we tend to rotate our hips or back as the night goes on. Our arms and shoulders often fall forward to the bed. Together, this takes away any support. It also causes the spine to curve in different directions.
If you tuck your chin close to your body, you’re promoting a forward head posture. This is similar to what texting and looking at your computer screen does.
The asymmetry of this position is what makes side sleepers prone to shoulder and hip pain. At times, you’ll wake up with a numb arm as well. The good news is that you can easily balance these issues with the right mattress and pillows. We discuss how below.
Pros and Cons of Sleeping on Your Side
In this section, we talk about the advantages and disadvantages of side sleeping.
- It minimizes back and neck pain as it elongates the spine.
- It’s comfortable.
- It promotes heart health.
- It may relieve heartburn and acid reflux symptoms.
- Reduces snoring.
- Improves your digestion.
- You’ll experience better lymphatic system function.
- Better blood circulation
- For pregnant women, there’s better blood flow to fetus.
- Reduces sleep apnea.
- Can cause shoulder and hip pain.
- Sleeping on one side can cause unwanted skin aging. Having a side of your face on the pillow for long periods of time can lead to wrinkles. It can also cause breasts to sag.
- Can numb your arm if it is positioned under your body or behind your head for a long time.
- This can negatives affect your nerves and muscles.
- Sleeping on your side can put pressure on your lungs and stomach.
- Neck pain can be an issue if your head is propped too high or too low.
Sleeping on Your Right Side vs. Left Side: Which is Better?
The pros and cons we’ve listed above are general for side sleepers. Science does tell us that one side is better than the other. In general, they seem to agree that sleeping on your left side is better than the right.
This is not to say that sleeping on your right side is bad. It’s still good or okay, depending on your preference and if you have any conditions. It’s just that research has shown more benefits when sleeping on your left side.
The reason one side may be better than the other is because our body’s internal structure isn’t symmetrical. This includes the placement of our organs.
Ultimately, whether sleeping on your right or left side is more beneficial depends on you and what you’re trying to achieve. Each has their benefits and negatives.
Sleeping on Your Left Side
- Reduces heartburn and GERD symptoms.
- Promotes good digestion
- Better blood flow to the heart
- Better lymphatic system functioning and drainage.
- Ideal for pregnant women. It relieves pressure on your back, prevents uterus from squeezing organs and improves blood circulation.
Sleeping on Your Right Side
- Better for patients with heart disease and those who’ve had heart attack. It lowers your blood pressure and heart rate.
- Reduces sympathetic nervous system activity.
- Worsens heartburn.
Both right and left sides do relieve pressure on the back. This makes them ideal for back pain sufferers. They also reduce snoring.
Choosing the Best Mattress for Side Sleepers
Here’s a list of features to consider when you’re buying a mattress for side sleepers.
1. Pick the Right Firmness and Thickness
Mattress firmness is often subjective. For side sleepers, you’ll want a mattress that’s at most medium firm. Getting one that’s too soft or too firm isn’t good. The former will cause your hips to sag down. The latter on the other hand doesn’t give way. Either way, both result in improper spine alignment.
When sleeping on your side, the main points of contact are your hips and shoulders. A firm mattress will likely leave you with shoulder, back or hip pain. A softer mattress on the other offers the proper support. This lets your shoulder and hip sink just enough.
Ideally, a mattress that’s soft to medium firm with good support works well. This lets you sleep comfortably. And, keeps your spine is in a neutral position. An extra bonus is that it will also relieve pressure from your neck and back.
In addition to firmness, you’ll want to choose a mattress that’s at least 4 inches thick. This gives the mattress enough foam cushioning to provide support. It also prevents your hip from feeling the foundation or the bed.
2. Consider Support and the Type of Mattress
We’ve touched a bit on support above. To clarify, firmness is different from support. Support is how much give it has. Firmness is how hard it feels. As such, you can have a mattress that’s soft but supportive. And, a firm mattress with poor support.
For side sleepers, the ideal mattress is one that’s soft to medium in firmness. But with good support. A supportive mattress prevents you from sinking down as the night moves along. It also helps relieve pressure points so you don’t wake up with hip and shoulder pain.
For this purpose, the ideal mattress types are latex and memory foam. They both adapt to the contours of our body.
- Latex lets your shoulders and hips sink in gently. This allows your spine to stay neutral. It also offers excellent support to our spine’s natural curvature. In addition, latex mattresses relieve pressure points. This makes it ideal for anyone with joint and bone aches. Its advantage over memory foam is it doesn’t get hot.
- Memory foam adjusts to our body’s curves. This allows it to accommodate the shoulders and hips.
- In contrast, innerspring mattresses don’t give way. As a result, you sleep on top of the mattress. This forces your spine to curve, distorting its natural alignment. There are a few exceptions though. These are the high quality innerspring mattresses.
- Air mattresses and water beds are two other types to avoid if you’re a side sleeper. These don’t offer the proper support.
3. It Restricts Pelvic Twisting/Rotation
When we sleep on our sides, we often bend our top leg forward. This lets it rest on the mattress which is more comfortable.
But in doing so we twist our hips causing it to be misaligned with our lumbar spine. It also puts pressure on our back muscles. As a result it can cause or worsen back and neck pain.
A good side sleeper mattress restricts your ability to rotate your pelvis. This lets you keep your spine in its natural alignment.
An alternative to training yourself to sleep sideways with your spine aligned is using a pillow between your legs. This is easier to do for most people. We discuss this more in the next point.
4. Take Advantage of Pillows
We’ve mentioned above that one of the biggest problems when sleeping on your side is turning. This can be your shoulders turning towards the mattress. Or, your hips rotating.
Both these situations cause spinal misalignments and put unnecessary pressure on the back, hips, shoulders and neck.
An easy way to neutralize these issues is by using pillows. For the best results, we recommend them in 2 places, your head and between your knees.
This will give your neck proper support. A good pillow is firm with good loft.
– You’ll want to get a pillow that’s firm to extra firm with good support. This will keep your head from sinking too much. You do want to get something that’s comfortable.
– A thicker or loftier pillow is also recommended. This will be higher than your regular pillow. The goal is to cover the space between your shoulder and your head. This way, when your head rests on the pillow it is level with your spine.
For a side sleeper, the neck pillow keeps your head properly elevated. It allows your neck and head to stay in line with your spine. Having too many or too few pillows will force your neck to bend upwards or downwards. This results in an unnatural alignment with your spine. It also places extra pressure on the neck causing pain in the morning.
Place a Pillow Between Your Knees
This will eliminate or reduce the amount of hip rotation. Having pillows between your knees also let one leg sit on top of the other evenly. Doing so allows your spine and pelvis to stay neutral while on your side. Additionally, having a pillow between your knees relieves pressure on your lower back.
We recommend pillows made from latex, memory foam or shredded foam. These are responsive to our bodies. Plus, they provide stable and consistent support to your head and neck.
Best Mattress for Side Sleepers Reviews
Do note that that it is a bit firm in the beginning. But does get to its softer plush feel once you start using it. Its 10 inch thickness makes it popular because most people are comfortable between 8 and 10 inches off the bed. Not too high or too low.
The thickness also puts it at a relatively affordable price range.
We like that the bed comes with cooling gel that keeps you from getting too hot at night. In this case, the gel particles have been infused into the memory foam. This keeps the foam from retaining heat.
Here’s how the mattress breaks down.
- You have a 6.5 inch thick support layer. This consists of high density foam. It provides support to keep your body up.
- Above the base layer are two 1 inch thick foam layers. These layers are made with poly gel foam. They offer support as well as add to comfort.
- The topmost layer is a 2 inch thick memory foam. As mentioned, the foam is infused with gel to make it stay cool. Besides its breathability, it conforms to your body’s shape.
The memory foam layer makes it ideal for side sleepers. The reason being that it adjusts to the shape of your body. In the case of side sleepers, it’s your shoulders and hips. This makes soft enough to sleep on. Yet, not too soft that you sink down.
We like the thicker mattresses for side sleepers because they give you more cushioning. The cushioning makes it soft enough for your hips and shoulders to rest on through the night without reaching the firmer support foam layers.
This products comes with a nice 25 year warranty. That gives you peace of mind. And, the confidence that the manufacturer backs their product.
When it comes to feel, we like that the mattress gives you a combination of support and comfort.
This is thanks to:
- The 4 inches of memory foam.
- And the 10 inch thick lower layer at the bottom.
We like the thicker memory foam layer. Often you get 2, maybe 3 inches of memory foam. This one has 4.
Do note that the 4 inches are made up of 2 distinct layers.
- The lower layer is a 3 inch gel memory foam. It is a ventilated open cell foam that’s infused with gel. As such, it gives you the benefits of memory foam without retaining the heat.
- The upper layer is a bamboo charcoal memory foam. This is 1 inch thick. It is comfortable. And, has a plush feel. It adds to the 3 inches below it. We like the bamboo charcoal because it helps keep odors away. Just as importantly, it keeps microorganisms from growing on your mattress.
The memory foam and support foam give you enough softness to lean your shoulder and hip on the bed. At the same time, it is supportive and firm enough not to give way.
Which you choose depends on your preference. Both plush and medium feel mattresses both work well for side sleepers. It gives in enough for you to lay on your hip or shoulder. But not too much.
This mattress is 12 inches thick. And, you get a 25 year warranty with it.
It is offered in all sizes. So, you can get it in twin, queen or king. There are also the other in between sizes like twin XL, full XL and California King.
This product is similar to the 14 inch LUCID mattress above. It is slightly thinner though. And, the memory foam layers are inverted. You get the gel layer on top and the charcoal memory foam below it.
This gives you a cooler feel and a thicker memory foam to lie on.
We like that the mattress and its cover don’t get hot. They are made from breathable materials. Also, it does not sink. This makes it work well for heavy individuals as well as for sex.
The mattress comes with the following layers.
- An 8 inch thick foam layer. This serves as the support base. It consists of high density foam that keeps your body aligned during sleep.
- Above the base layer is a 1 inch bamboo charcoal memory foam. This layer uses ventilated foam to help keep it cool. The bamboo charcoal help with odor and bacteria resistance.
- The upper layer is a 3 inch gel memory foam. You sleep on a thicker memory foam. Plus, it sleeps cooler because of its open cell design and the gel infused into the foam.
It is a more affordable option compared to a few of the others in our review. We do like that you get to choose from different thickness. In this case, you have the option of 6, 8, 10 and 12 inch mattresses.
It is also available in all sizes including the in between sizes.
Unlike the previous 2 LUCID mattresses, this one does not come with the gel memory foam. You do get a 3 inch thick memory foam though along with the 7 inch high density foam.
This gives you the benefits of regular memory foam without the extras the others have. The gel infusion as well as the extra inch of bamboo charcoal memory foam do make up the price difference.
Overall, this is a great bed for side sleepers. It is affordable. And, you get the right firmness to let you rest on your side for the night. Its thick foam layers also help keep you properly cushioned and supported.
Learn How to Sleep On Your Side
In this section, we take a look at a few ways you can learn to sleep on your side.
Method 1: Using Pillows
This is the more conventional side sleeper method.
What you will need:
- 2 pillows
- 2 hand towels
Steps to learn to sleep on your side:
1. Lie on your side
2. Place a pillow on your head. Ideally, this is a high loft pillow. You may need more than one pillow if the ones you have aren’t thick enough. With this pillow there are two goals.
– Get your head to the point where it’s level with your spine when you’re lying on your side.
– It should support your head enough that your head doesn’t sink down. This will cause unnecessary strain on your neck and cervical spine.
3. Place one to two small towels under the small of your waist. This will fill the gap between your body and mattress. Doing so prevents the lower section of your spine from curving.
4. Bend your knees forward and place a pillow between your legs. We’ve found that the best pillow position between your legs is placing it diagonally. This way, you’ll have one end of the pillow towards your hips and the other near your toes. Doing so provides support in the hips and knees.
5. Finally, fold the other towel and place it under the pillow in the space below your neck. This props the front part of the pillow to support that gap. The towel takes the place of your arm which many people use to prop their head on when sleeping sideways.
Method 2: Using Restrictions
Here there are a few options. The goal is to place something on your back so that you don’t turn over. This keeps you on your side the entire time.
Some good ways to do this are:
- Sew a tennis ball to your night shirt or pajamas. The tennis ball will make you turn back to your side every time you roll on your back.
- You can also get a body pillow and place it right behind your back. This will place a barrier that keeps you from rolling over.
- Another way is to sleep on a narrow sofa for a few weeks. This will force you to sleep on your side and not turn over.