Mattress Nerd consulted Dr. Tom Ingegno to ensure that this article met our editorial standards
Did you know that almost 70 percent of adults sleep on their sides for at least a portion of the night? For many, myself included, there’s no cozier position than side sleeping. Whether you like to extend your legs fully, keep one straight, or revert to the fetal position, curling up on one side is certainly a comforting way to rest.
Much like back and stomach sleepers, side sleepers need a mattress that supports their unique needs. A mattress that allows the pelvis to sit too high or low can place undue pressure on the spine, which translates to pain in the hips and shoulders.
In this guide, we’re covering our top mattresses for side sleepers along with a detailed list of qualities to look for and the benefits of sleeping on your side. Alternately, click here if you want to see our best mattresses overall.
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Luxury zoned support made for side sleepers
The Helix Midnight Luxe is our pick for the best mattress for side sleepers. It’s an all-around great mattress that is good for every sleeping position, for couples, for cooling, for plus-size sleepers, for anything you could want—Helix makes their mattresses with all sleeping preferences in mind.
All Helix mattresses are hybrids, which means they contain a mix of foam and coils. Coils mean more support, but the Midnight and Midnight LUXE models are made with contouring foam and support specifically for side sleepers. The hips, shoulders and neck have targeted support while the Comfort Foam keeps your spine aligned, which is essential for waking up without pain and stiffness.
The Helix Midnight Luxe is also great for side sleepers with back pain because its zoned support helps with spinal alignment, while still being soft enough to provide good pressure relief for your shoulders. Basically, if you sleep on your side, we think you’ll love the Midnight Luxe
Read our full Helix mattress review to learn more.
Saatva is one of the first direct-to-consumer online mattress companies. The Saatva mattress is a little different from the other “bed-in-a-box” companies out there because this one doesn’t come in a box at all. It’s a regular innerspring mattress delivered to your door by delivery professionals.
High quality and custom firmness options
The Saatva is our pick for the best innerspring mattress for side sleepers. It is customizable (both firmness and height), meaning that it can work well for almost any sleeper, regardless of body weight or sleeping style. Firmness options include Plush Soft (4), Luxury Firm (6), and Firm (7.5), and you can choose from 11.5- and 14.5-inch profiles. Keep in mind that the Saatva’s responsiveness may make it unpleasant if you wake easily at the movements of a partner, as it doesn’t shine in the motion isolation department.
Read our full Saatva mattress review to learn more!
Competitively priced memory foam mattress that doesn’t compromise on quality. Great for motion isolation.
Best Bed-in-a-box on a budget
The Nectar is a memory foam mattress with a cooling cover, 3 inches of gel memory foam for a plush feel on top, a transitional layer with quick response time, and a supportive, durable base layer at its foundation. While appropriate for any sleep position, this is an affordable option for side sleepers.
The Nectar comes in at a very friendly price point without sacrificing any of the features side sleepers need. It delivers pressure relief throughout the entire body for exceptional value, with a queen size coming in under $1,000. Bolstering its appeal, the company offers a 365-night trial period, free shipping and returns, and their Forever Warranty.
Read our full Nectar mattress review to learn more!
A unique combination, the GhostBed Luxe can provide pressure relief for side sleepers while still remaining firm enough to support the spinal alignment of back sleepers.
Top-of-the-line cooling technology
For a memory foam mattress, the GhostBed Luxe has some of the qualities of a latex mattress. This makes it easier to move around on the mattress and stay comfortable in multiple positions. In the middle of the firmness scale, the GhostBed Luxe can support back sleepers and cradle side sleepers.
Both types of sleepers will find their weight evenly distributed across the mattress. Lightweight and average weight side sleepers will sleep soundly on the three firm layers that balance comfort and support. Another plus to the GhostBed Luxe is the Ghost Ice layer dedicated absorbing heat that is often trapped inside memory foam mattresses.
Read our GhostBed Luxe Mattress Review for more information.
Advanced comfort and support
The Leesa Hybrid is an excellent option for many groups of sleepers. Obviously, one of our favorite matches for this mattress are side sleepers with shoulder pain. This mattress has a great balance of give and support, so you will not feel like your shoulders are jamming against the mattress when you lie down, and you will also still feel like the rest of your body is aligned.
This is also a great option for couples, even couples who have different sleeping positions from one another. The Leesa Hybrid performs above average for all sleeping positions, so if you and your partner have differing concerns about a mattress you may find this one is a happy medium. Since it is a hybrid, you will get a nice amount of airflow to keep you cool throughout the night.
Read our full Leesa Hybrid review for more info!
A soft cooling mattress that's great for side sleepers
The Nolah Evolution, with a firmness rating of 6/10, earns our pick for the best pressure relieving mattress for side sleepers. The soft layers of foam allow hips and shoulders to sink comfortably into the surface, providing them with the cushy support that is essential to relieving pressure in these sensitive areas.
Side sleepers looking for something on the cooler side will also appreciate the graphite infused layer of AirFoamICE, which helps to comfortable regulate the temperature of the sleeper. If all that isn’t enough, the lifetime warranty that Nolah offers will keep you sleeping comfortably for a long time.
Easy-to-remove cover and cooling gel
The 5 layers of the Idle Gel Foam are designed to provide contoured support around the shoulders and hips of side sleepers. Advanced comfort foams make up the 12″ mattress and work to prevent the pain associated with pressure points.
While it is firmer than other contouring mattresses, the Idle Gel Foam adjusts the sleeper’s body to provide more support where needed. The three different layers of polyfoam each serve a function to curve around the natural shape of the sleeper’s body and evenly distribute their weight, helping to prevent hip pain and protect pressure points.
For more information, check out our Idle Sleep Gel Foam Mattress Review.
Comfier, plusher version of Bear's original cooling all-foam mattress
Bear mattresses are known for helping sleepers stay cool. The Bear Pro is no exception, made of gel memory foam and a Celliant cover designed to wick away excess heat from the body. The Copper infused foam also contributes to an overall neutral temperature feel, while still soft enough to protect the pressure points of side sleepers.
The memory foam will contour around the body but has enough bounce for sleepers to change positions as needed. There is also a two-layer comfort section that contours around the shoulders and hips, an appreciated addition for many side sleepers.
See our Bear Pro Mattress Review to learn more.
Striking the perfect balance between the contour of memory foam and the bounce of pocket-coils, the Casper Hybrid offers the best of both worlds when it comes to superior comfort and support.
Zoned comfort and the addition of a coil layer
This hybrid mattress takes features from the original Casper, an all-foam mattress, and marries them to other materials sleepers desire in a mattress. Pocketed coils steal the spotlight in its makeup and add extra bounce. Other materials include latex, memory foam, and poly foam, a winning combination for support and comfort.
Casper aims to provide a balance of comfort and support with this hybrid, and we think they nailed it. If you’re a side sleeper who occasionally sleeps on your back, we recommend this option because it’s supportive enough for both positions but feels softer when you’re on your side. While some sinking will occur in the top foam layers, it should be just enough to provide satisfying relief for side sleepers while distributing body weight evenly throughout the mattress.
Read our full Casper Hybrid review to learn more!
The Layla is a copper-infused memory foam mattress that’s double-sided, allowing you to choose from two firmness levels in the same mattress. The medium-soft side is pressure-relieving, and the firm side provides more support.
Regardless of which side you choose, the cover design on this bed will keep you cool and makes flipping the bed a cinch. We recommend the medium-soft side for most side sleepers, but heavier individuals may enjoy the firm side. As an added bonus, the foam in this mattress is copper-infused, which keeps you cool by drawing heat away from the body. The copper also kills bacteria naturally, helping extend Layla’s lifespan.
Read our in-depth Layla Mattress Review!
If you’re one of the roughly 65% of Americans who sleep on their side, then you’ll be happy to know that it is the healthiest sleeping position, according to experts! When you sleep on your side, your shoulders, spine, and pelvis remain properly aligned, which can help reduce or prevent pain in these sensitive areas. Another bonus of sleeping on your side is the resulting breath circulation–side sleepers tend to snore less than back sleepers because their air passages remain more open throughout the night.
All that said, it’s still important to shop for a mattress that supports your particular kind of side sleeping. First, you’ll want to decide on the type of mattress material that best fits your personal preference. Once you’ve made a decision between memory foam, latex, innerspring, or hybrid, you’ll need to think about mattress firmness.
Related: What is the best sleeping position?
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, so long as quality materials are used in the bed’s construction. Whether or not a mattress is ideal for an individual is dependent upon the mattress’ construction and the sleeper’s preferences, size, and build.
Memory foam beds provide a hugging feel that can lead to greater pressure point relief in sensitive areas for side sleepers. Despite this softness, memory foam mattresses usually have a dense layer of base foam that provides the durability that is necessary to keep larger people from sinking too far into the surface, which is why many of the best mattresses for heavy people often contain dense support foam. But if you’re one of the many people who get uncomfortably warm during the night, it should be noted that memory foam tends to trap more heat than innerspring or hybrid mattresses. Our favorite memory foam mattress for side sleepers is the Nectar original. For more information, take a look at our article on the best memory foam mattresses.
Latex is a mattress material that is naturally hypo-allergenic, temperature neutral, and very supportive. The durability that latex provides contributes to longer-than-average lifespan, as well as solid structure for heavier side sleepers. Latex mattresses are often quite a bit pricier than the alternatives, and they have a bouncy feel that may not be for everyone, but if you are concerned with the way in which sourcing materials affects the environment then latex can be a wonderful option. The Awara is a good latex mattress for side sleepers, but if you want more information you can check out our article on the best latex mattresses of 2021.
Most innerspring mattresses are made of one layer of steel coils, topped with several layers of polyfoam. These layers combine to make a mattress that provides comfort and support. Some side sleepers may find that innerspring beds do not sufficiently contour to their body’s natural curves, but many companies, such as Saatva, construct their innerspring mattresses in such a way to mimic the adaptive feel of memory foam. If you’re a side sleeper who overheats, then innerspring might be the way to go, as they are more breathable than the average foam mattress. For more information on the wonders of innerspring, take a look at our best innerspring mattresses list.
For those who want the best of both worlds, a hybrid mattress is the way to go. A memory foam layer provides the pressure relief that side sleepers appreciate, and a durable base of coils promotes breathability and edge support. If hybrid sounds like the right choice for you, head over to our best hybrid mattresses article for a more comprehensive look at what makes them great.
Most shoppers think of firmness only in terms of preference, but the firmness of a mattress will impact how it sleeps. Mattresses are generally rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being extremely soft and 10 being extremely firm.
Side sleepers need a mattress that’s soft enough to contour to their body’s curves. A lack of contouring means a lack of support, resulting in pressure that can lead to back, neck, and shoulder aches and pains. That said, your body type can also affect which firmness level works best for you. A heavy side sleeper will likely prefer something different than a lighter side sleeper.
Anything under a 5 on the firmness scale is considered soft. If you’re petite (less than 130 lbs), a softer mattress may feel supportive enough for you. People with average or larger body types, however, will likely find that their hips and shoulders sink too far into the surface of softer mattresses when they are on their sides.
Related: Best Soft Mattresses
Medium-firm beds fall anywhere between a 5 and a 7 on the firmness scale. The average side sleeper usually gravitates towards this, what we refer to as Goldilocks firmness: not too firm, not too soft. We have found that a firmness around 5 makes for an ideal sleeping surface for a side sleeper of average weight (between 130 and 230 lbs).
A mattress is considered firm when it falls above a 7 on the firmness scale. If you’re on the heavier side or have a large build (over 230 lbs), your shoulders and hips sink further into the mattress the softer it is. As such, you may find that firmer mattresses provide the support that you need. For more information, check out our article on the best mattresses for plus-size sleepers.
Related: Best Firm Mattresses
Aside from firmness and mattress material, there are several other factors that side sleepers should take into consideration when shopping for a new mattress.
The shoulders and hips are the areas in most need of support for side sleepers, as they press further into the mattress than the rest of your body. There’s a delicate balance that needs to be achieved, where these areas sink into the surface of your bed, but not too far in.
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.
Contouring ability is one of the more important mattress features for side sleepers. The better a bed is at contouring, the more support your pressure points will receive when you are on your side.
We recommend memory foam mattresses for side sleepers because they are known for their ease in contouring to the body and the slow return back to the 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. Though your spine will of course bend on occasion, it isn’t healthy for it to remain that way for too long. 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.
If you find that you wake up with neck pain after a night of side sleeping, the culprit may not be your mattress. If your pillow is too thick or too thin, it will cause your head to lie at an angle that throws your neck out of alignment with your spine, hence the neck pain. Since the perfect size pillow will depend on who’s looking, we put together a helpful best pillows for side sleepers guide. But for the sake of convenience, we’ll say that an adjustable pillow is always the safest bet.
It is important to note, if you do suffer from back pain you should see a doctor if possible, rather than trying to diagnose the problem yourself. There are many reasons why one might be experiencing this, and a professional consultation will help you better identify the root of the problem.
That said, if you have come to the conclusion that a new mattress can help, then there are a few things you’ll want to consider, especially as a side sleeper. Back pain can be helped by a medium-firm mattress with a strong support system, but it’s important for side sleepers that the surface be soft enough to relieve pressure in their hips and shoulders; these two factors can easily cancel one another out. As we mentioned above, we think that the Helix Midnight Luxe is a good option in this case, but for more options and information you should take a look at our article on the best mattresses for back pain.
When you learned that side sleepers may be better served by softer mattresses, you may have then jumped to the conclusion that a memory foam mattress would be your best bet, and for good reason. Memory foam often has an innate softness that lands it on the lower end of the medium-firm range. However, something you should consider before making your decision is that memory foam sometimes makes for a warmer night’s sleep, since heat can become trapped in the thick layers. If this is something you’re concerned about, consider a hybrid mattress, an innerspring mattress with a cooling mattress topper, or a foam mattress that directly addresses this issue with cooling gel layers or copper infusions. Take a look at our list of best cooling mattresses for more information.
Related: Memory Foam vs. Hybrid
If you aren’t quite ready to purchase a new mattress, a mattress topper can go a long way in improving the quality of your old one. While shopping for a topper, you should be mindful of the same things that you would be while shopping for a mattress.
Say, for example, your current mattress causes soreness in your shoulders and hips when you sleep on your side. Well, it’s probably too firm for a side sleeper. A soft memory foam mattress topper can be added to the bed in order to aid in pressure relief, so you get a better night’s sleep for a lot less than the price of a new mattress.
That is not to say, however, that this is a permanent solution. A new mattress topper is a good stopgap, and a great way to test out mattress materials, but there’s no substitute for a new mattress that is built in a way to accommodate side sleepers. If you’re interested in more information, take a look at our best mattress toppers for side sleepers.
Side sleeping 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.
Related: Understanding Sleep Apnea
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 alleviates. 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. For more information, check out our articles on what is the best side to sleep on and how to properly sleep on your side.
While there are many benefits to sleeping on your side, there are also some notable issues that side sleepers may face. One of the most common problems for side sleepers is shoulder pain. When you are sleeping on your side, your body weight can put a significant amount of pressure on your shoulders, which can result in shoulder pain over time. As a result, we typically recommend softer mattresses for side sleepers to help with pressure relief.
Another common problem that side sleepers face is lower back pain and neck pain. This is usually caused by pelvic rotation, which results from the misalignment of the back muscles and lumbar spine. While this can’t necessarily be remedied completely, there are some preventative measures you can take, such as choosing a mattress that offers proper support and softness or keeping a pillow in between your legs while you sleep. If you’re thinking about changing up your preferred position, be sure to look at our best mattresses for back sleepers, best mattresses for stomach sleepers and best mattresses for combination sleepers guides.
Still, need guidance in your mattress buying journey? Check out our ultimate mattress buying guide!
When revamping your sleeping situation, you need to consider your accessories as well as your mattress. For side sleepers, one of the most important factors contributing to a good night’s sleep is the pillow. A pillow with too much loft, or not enough loft, will hold your head in an awkward position and can result in neck pain. For this reason, we highly recommend customizable pillows for side sleepers, so you can make adjustments in order to find the perfect level of pillow-thickness for you. One of our favorites is the Helix pillow, but for more options check out our full list of best pillows for side sleepers.
Our pick for the best mattress for side sleepers with back pain is the Helix Midnight Luxe. From our testing, the zoned support helps with spinal alignment, while still being soft enough to provide good pressure relief for your should while sleeping on your side.
Edge support is a measurement of how well the perimeter of a mattress holds up under the weight of a sleeper. The lower the score, the more a mattress is prone to sag around the edges. If you sometimes find yourself waking up on the outskirts of your mattress’ surface, as can happen to many side sleepers, then you should consider edge support when shopping for your new bed.
Related: What is Edge Support in a Mattress?
Memory foam mattresses can a good fit for side sleepers because it contours to the shape of your body and supports the natural curvature of your spine. Memory foam mattresses are also excellent at equally distributing your body weight when you’re sleeping on your side. When choosing a memory foam mattress for side sleepers, you will want to choose one with a softer firmness level as this will help with pressure relief in your shoulders.
Innerspring mattresses can be a good fit for side sleepers provided they are soft enough. Innerspring mattresses tend to be on the firmer side, so when looking for an innerspring mattress for side sleepers, look for one that has a thicker comfort layer or a pillow top to help with pressure relief. You might also want to consider a hybrid mattress because they incorporate softer foam in the comfort layers while still having a layer of springs for support.
Most companies recommend that you allow at least one month for your new mattress to settle in before making a decision on whether or not you’d like to keep it. It can take a few weeks before a mattress comes into its own, so don’t worry if it feels a little bit stiff immediately out of the box.
|Helix Midnight Luxe||Editor’s Pick|
|Saatva||Best Innerspring Mattress for Side Sleepers|
|Nectar||Best Memory Foam Mattress|
|GhostBed Luxe||Best Mattress for Side & Back Sleepers|
|Leesa||Best for Side Sleepers with Shoulder Pain|
|Nolah Evolution||Best for Pressure Relief|
|Idle Gel Foam Mattress||Best Mattress for Side Sleepers with Hip Pain|
|Bear Pro||Best Mattress for Hot Side Sleepers|
|Casper Hybrid||Best Hybrid Mattress for Side Sleepers|
|Layla||Best Mattress for Heavy Side Sleepers|
Dr. Tom Ingegno is part of our panel of medical expert contributors on the subject of sleep health. They provide important perspectives on the topics we discuss to help make our content as accurate and dependable as possible. They do not personally endorse any products, nor are they associated with any brands featured in our review content.
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