While many people think that sleeping on your back is the best sleeping position, there are actually a ton of benefits to sleeping on your side. If done properly (and on the proper mattress), sleeping on your side can reduce both joint and low back pain, as well as chronic pain associated with conditions like fibromyalgia.
Many people prefer side sleeping simply because they find it more comfortable, but sleeping on the wrong mattress may result in neck and back pain. The best type of mattress for most side sleepers is a medium-firm one that contours to the shape of the body and provides moderate support.
There are all sorts of considerations that go into finding a good mattress. To compile our list of the best mattresses for side sleepers, we looked for materials that help encourage proper spinal alignment.
We also prioritized standards and certifications that indicated their overall safety and quality. We checked for reasonable warranties and return policies, and we scrutinized customer reviews.
Support the spine with less pressure: The mattresses on this list provide contouring support and pressure point relief for side sleeping comfort.
Less foam odor: Each foam mattress is made from foam that’s CertiPUR-US certified, so you can expect less of that off-gassing smell.
Manufacturer warranties: We looked for transparent manufacturers that offer at-home sleep trials and warranties with purchase.
Customer feedback: We read customer reviews and chose mattresses that had significantly more raves than complaints of any kind.
Return policy: We also looked for mattresses with free or inexpensive returns through the manufacturer or online store.
Quality mattresses are an investment. Many retailers offer payment plans, and some mattress brands go on sale intermittently throughout the year.
The mattresses on this list are priced for queen size, not including the base, tax, delivery charges, or setup fees, should they apply.
Your gut health may also improve if you’re a side sleeper. This is the optimal position for your digestive system, and may lead to a decrease in gastrointestinal issues like heartburn, constipation, and bloating.
Latex mattresses: Latex mattresses allow for proper spinal alignment since this material contours to the body and prevents you from sinking too deeply into the mattress. This provides relief from pressure points and can help prevent pain in certain body parts.
Spring mattresses: The steel coils in innerspring mattresses allow for support throughout the mattress, especially near the edges. Innerspring mattresses don’t sink in the way that foam mattresses do, which makes for more consistent comfort while you sleep.
So do I need a firm or soft mattress?
Ideally, you want to choose a mattress that has a medium level of firmness. Medium-soft to medium firmness provides pressure relief in the shoulders and hips and just enough support without feeling too stiff. This level of firmness helps you maintain proper spinal alignment.
However, it’s important to keep your weight in mind when shopping. People who weigh under 130 pounds usually need a softer mattress, while people who weigh over 230 pounds require firmer support.
One notable drawback to sleeping on your side is that it can increase your risk of shoulder pain.
Whether you’re on your left or right side, the corresponding shoulder can collapse into the mattress as well as up toward your neck, creating misalignment and pain the next morning.
Your body may prefer a bit of variety throughout the night to prevent pain in other areas of your body. This could involve starting on one side and then shifting over to the other.
It’s also important to be mindful of your chin placement by keeping your head on the pillow. Tucking your chin toward your chest will create neck pain.
Accessories that help side sleepers
If you sleep on your side, certain accessories may help keep you comfortable. For example, some pillows are made specifically for sleepers who need relief from neck and back pain.
Also, if your current mattress isn’t suitable for sleeping on your side and a new mattress is out of your budget, you can try a mattress topper to give your current mattress a refresh. Mattress toppers can provide similar benefits to a brand-new mattress, including making sure that your spine is aligned properly while you sleep.
When shopping for a mattress, keep in mind that firmness and support aren’t the same thing.
Mattresses come in several firmness levels, from extremely soft to extremely firm. These levels indicate how hard or soft the mattress will feel to you — not how supportive it will be to your spine.
Support refers to how efficiently a mattress maintains spinal alignment. A supportive mattress is one that provides pressure point relief while keeping your spine aligned and in its proper position, even while side sleeping.
Soft to medium-firm mattresses may offer more support than extra-firm ones do, since they have more give.
If you’re a side sleeper, mattresses that are too soft and don’t offer the right support can cause pain in the shoulder or lower back.
A too-firm mattress may not supply enough curve-hugging give, but for support, keep in mind that mattresses soften over time. So what may feel soft now will likely feel even softer several weeks and months down the line.
Features to look for in a mattress as a side sleeper
Side sleepers need to focus on spinal alignment, as they place extra pressure on their shoulder and hips each night. Here are some important features to look out for when purchasing a new mattress.
high quality materials
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Also, remember that what you find comfortable, someone else may dislike. To get the best mattress for you, always buy one that comes with an in-home sleep trial offer of at least 1 month, so you can try it out at home for a period of time.
Pay attention to the materials used and opt for nontoxic mattresses. Small amounts of toxic, gaseous chemicals called VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are found in polyurethane mattresses and in some mattress coverings.
VOCs can become activated and released by your body’s heat while you sleep. Even low exposure to VOCs can cause oxidative stress and airway inflammation.
Look for a reputable, transparent manufacturer that offers a long-term warranty and its details. A good mattress should last at least 10 years. If it doesn’t, ask for a return or exchange.
Questions to ask when mattress shopping
Which products does the warranty apply to?
What is and isn’t covered by the warranty?
Is there a shipping fee for my order?
How is the mattress delivered?
Can I return the mattress? How do I do so?
Are there fees for returning the mattress?
Do other customers like the mattress? What are their experiences with the mattress and manufacturer?
Side sleepers are more likely to have pressure points in their shoulders, back, and hips, so mattresses that offer support, pressure relief, and contour are recommended.
Hybrid mattresses are one type that has all these qualities. Latex mattresses are another good option: They also provide pressure relief and contour and are usually more affordable than hybrid mattresses.
What kind of firmness is best for side sleepers?
Most side sleepers benefit from medium-soft to medium-firm mattresses, but firmness usually varies by body weight.
Most companies offer an in-home sleep trial for their mattresses, which can help you determine what level of firmness works best for you.
What are the benefits of a medium-firm mattress for side sleepers?
Medium-soft to medium-firm mattresses provide pressure relief in the shoulders and hips and just enough support without feeling too stiff.
Side sleepers have more pressure points than other sleepers, like back sleepers. However, mattress firmness usually varies by body weight.
Weight causes mattresses to sink, so more weight requires more support, which may mean a firmer mattress.
If you’re a side sleeper, finding a mattress that supports spine alignment while cushioning your shoulder and neck is important.
There are many mattresses available across multiple price points that may be good choices for side sleepers.
Last medically reviewed on June 14, 2023
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