Are you a side sleeper? Did you know that not only is it the most common sleeping position, but it’s also the most recommended by sleep specialists? Consider yourself in good company!
Benefits of Side Sleeping
Got back pain? Try sleeping on your side. According to MindBodyGreen, sleeping on your side does a better job keeping your spine and pelvis aligned than sleeping on your back or your stomach.
Additionally, sleeping on your side makes it easier for your organs to breathe and keeps your airways open, ideal for those who snore or are prone to sleep apnea.
Speaking of organs, which side you sleep on can make a difference. According to WebMD, heartburn sufferers can worsen their heartburn by sleeping on their right, or alleviate it by sleeping on their left. For similar heart-related reasons, pregnant women should also sleep on the left to improve heart circulation.
Common Side Sleeping Positions
According to The Better Sleep Council, 41% of sleepers sleep in the fetus position with their knees up curled up towards their chest. Other common side-sleeping positions include: the log position preferred by 15% of sleepers who rest on their side with both arms down by their side; and the yearner position preferred by 13% of sleepers who sleep on their side with their arms out in front of them.
|Identify Your Side Sleeping Position|
|Fetus Position||Log Position||Yearner Position|
41% of sleepers
15% of sleepers
13% of sleepers
Source: The Better Sleep Council
When choosing a mattress, side sleepers should look for how the mattress supports spinal alignment (specifically, how horizontal the spine stays when lying in the bed on your side). Additionally, side sleepers should consider the following questions:
- Does the mattress contour to your body, and how much? Is it too much or just right?
- Will it provide pressure point relief?
- Does the mattress retain heat, and to what extent?
Consider these questions as you read through the rest of this guide to find the best mattress for you as a side sleeper.
What Is the Best Mattress for Side Sleepers?
When it comes to choosing the best mattress for side sleepers, firmness matters most of all.
“If the mattress is too firm, it will push on those main pressure points and take you out of alignment. If it’s too soft, those pressure points won’t be properly supported, so your whole body flops back.” – Arya Nick Shamie, MD
So finding the right mattress depends in large part on choosing the right firmness.
Ideal Firmness for Side Sleepers
Side sleepers should look for mattresses that fall in the upper middle of the firmness scale (a 6-7 on a range of 1-10, with 10 being the most firm). A mattress with this level of firmness will keep your spine in alignment by contouring to the curves of your body without letting them sink down, or pushing them up, too far.
Does Body Weight Change the Firmness Scale?
In a word, yes. Heavier side sleepers weighing over 230 pounds should look for a firmer mattress, while lighter side sleepers weighing less than 130 pounds should look for a softer mattress.
What Are the Best Mattress Types for Side Sleepers?
After firmness and support, side sleepers should be looking at contouring ability when selecting a new mattress. It’s important that a mattress conform (or contour) to your body shape to allow your spine to stay in alignment. Let’s review the pros and cons of different mattress types in relation to their contouring ability so you can choose the best one for you.
|Mattress Type||Innerspring/Coil||Memory Foam||Hybrid||Latex||Airbeds|
|Description||What springs to mind when people envision a mattress. Uses coils for support with foam and fabric on top for comfort.||Designed specifically to contour to the sleeper’s body shape. They’re made of polyurethane foam.||A combination of innerspring mattress with a layer of memory foam, gel foam, or latex foam.||Constructed entirely of all-natural latex or a combination of natural with synthetic latex.||Designed for temporary use. The bed is inflated using an electric or hand-powered air pump.|
|Durability||3 years||7 years||4 years||8 years||1 year|
|Additional Considerations||Widely available and provide better edge support than all foam bed, but poor motion transfer and prone to collect dust||Superior motion isolation, but harder to move, can trap heat, initial offgassing odor, and inferior edge support||Provide support without fully enveloping the body, great edge support, and superior temperature regulation||Can be fully organic, but harder to move, limited availability in stores, trap heat, initial offgassing odor||Tend to lose air during the night, typically only support up to 300 lbs|
|Side Sleeper Grade||D||A+||C||B||F|
What Else Should a Side Sleeper Consider?
Now that you’ve decided on a mattress, what else should you be thinking about?
No mattress is complete without a pillow (or a few). Pillows play a key role in spinal alignment for side sleepers. It’s important to keep your neck supported to avoid any kind of back or shoulder pain from sleeping. Because you are on your side, there is a greater distance between your head and the mattress. That’s where a good, firm pillow comes in.
If you prefer something softer, consider a memory foam pillow that’s extra thick – it will provide the necessary support while feeling more cushiony. Ideally, you want to keep your neck in alignment without tilting it upward or downward, as demonstrated by the image below:
Many side sleepers benefit from a back or stomach pillow, too. These will keep your spine and legs aligned by preventing you from leaning into your back or your stomach, which can be an especially important consideration for pregnant women. Look for a large pillow that’s very firm thanks to thick padding.
Mattress prices can vary widely from $100 to several thousand dollars, depending on the size and type of mattress, the quality, and where you buy it. A few notes here:
- As a general rule, latex mattresses are the most expensive, followed by memory foam or hybrid mattresses, with innerspring mattresses being the cheapest. Learn more about different mattress types in our Buyer’s Guide.
- Typically, mattresses you buy directly from a manufacturer tend to cost more than those you’ll find online or in stores.
The Return Policy
Recognize that the five minutes you spend in the store isn’t a great proxy for how the mattress will feel to sleep in for several hours a night. Mattresses require some break-in time, so give yourself at least a month to adjust to the mattress before you decide to return it. Make sure the return policy and trial period allow for break-in time, and fully read the warranty (see our Guide to Mattress Warranties for everything you need to know).
Additional Resources for Side Sleepers
Looking for more information on the best mattresses for side sleepers? We’ve rounded up the best of the web right here.
Find more information on the best mattresses for side sleepers online:
- Consumer Reports ranks the best mattresses for side and back sleepers.
- Consumer Reports also provides ratings for the best mattresses for couples, which is a good read if you and your partner happen to be different types of sleepers.
- Sleep Like The Dead discusses the best mattresses for side sleepers seeking relief from back pain.
- WebMD provides side sleeping tips for pregnant mothers.
- Business Insider reviews the online mattress brands preferred by sleepers of all types.
- Huffington Post offers a 5-step checklist for buying your next mattress.
- The Mattress Subreddit is a great place to connect with other side-sleeping consumers and hear about their experiences with various mattress brands.
- The Chicago Tribune shares advice on the best pillows for all types of sleepers.
Read more from BestMattressReviews.com:
- Our How to Buy a Mattress Online Guide explains the pros and cons of buying a mattress online in detail so you can make an informed decision and choose the best one for you.