Every sleeping position creates zones of pressure along the body. For side sleepers, these occur at naturally contoured areas that press deeper into a surface when you’re lying laterally: the shoulders and hips.
If you’re sleeping on your side and have the wrong mattress, one of the first red flags is pain or numbness in these areas upon waking. A mattress that’s healthy for side sleeping will contour to the body and provide just enough give to allow these areas to relax throughout the night.
Most shoppers think of firmness only in terms of preference, but the firmness of a mattress will impact how it sleeps. Side sleepers need a mattress that’s soft enough to contour to their body’s curves. A lack of contour means a lack of support, creating pressure points that lead to back, neck, and shoulder aches and pains.
For the majority of side sleepers, soft to medium-firm mattress strikes a balance, but keep in mind that this will vary by size. If you’re on the heavier side or have a large build, you’ll sink further into the mattress and may find better support in a firmer setting. If you are petite, a softer mattress may feel supportive enough for you.
There’s no single mattress type that will suit side sleepers across the board. From innerspring to hybrid, memory foam, and latex, each type has benefits. Whether or not a mattress is ideal for an individual is dependent upon the mattress’ construction and the sleeper’s preferences, size, and build.
We can, however, find commonalities in materials used in the top-ranked beds for this sleeping type. For example, memory foam is often used for pressure relief in the top layers of these mattresses. Additionally, we noticed that mattresses with inner springs that support body weight yet allow for body contouring were common.
There’s no single “right” material, but be on the lookout for these two. Beyond them, it’s up to preference: pocketed coils reduce motion from a partner, memory foam can have a firmer base, latex is eco-friendly, and so on.
Like we’ve mentioned, contour is especially important for side sleepers because they require a substantial amount of it at the shoulders and hips. Memory foam products are known for their ease in contouring to the body and the slow return back to original form once the pressure is released. Hybrid versions of innerspring mattresses will offer a greater degree of contouring than traditional innerspring styles. To some, latex mattresses surpass even memory foam in their ability to contour. Natural latex has a less pronounced contour than memory foam, meaning that sleepers will feel supported even if they move throughout the night.
When you’re lying on your side, the ideal alignment for the spine is straight. This often surprises people who imagine sinking deeply into a mattress to sleep. While the spine has a natural ‘S’ curve when viewed from the side, it should be completely straight from an anterior or posterior view. Bending to the side occasionally is completely normal, but remaining in that position for more than a few seconds, much less throughout the night, isn’t healthy.
It’s crucial to side sleepers’ long-term health to find a mattress that encourages proper spinal alignment. It needn’t be excessively firm but should prevent exaggerated bending of the spine.
Benefits of Sleeping on Your Side
Side sleeping is the second most recommended sleeping position by doctors, and it offers many health benefits when done properly. It’s gentler on the neck than stomach sleeping, which is known to cause snoring, sleep apnea, and back problems and, for many, more comfortable than back sleeping.
If you think sleeping on the left or right side is little more than the flip of a coin, think again. It’s been proven that sleeping on the left is more beneficial. Sleeping on the right side can aggravate acid reflux and heartburn, both of which left-side sleeping alleviate. Due to the location of the body’s organs, sleeping on the left also boosts digestion, improves circulation, assists brain waste filtering, and stimulates lymphatic drainage.