What makes the best mattress for side sleepers?
Side sleeping is the most common of all the sleeping positions, and we’ve tested and rated the best mattress for side sleepers along with compiling all of the research to help side sleepers understand how to optimize their bedroom for a great night of sleep.
Based on our research, here are some key features that side sleepers should look for in a mattress:
Source: Wall Street Journal
- Firm and ample support: ability to keep spine aligned and elongated
A mattress with good support and some give can help align and lengthen the spine and body in a neutral position, which helps prevent back and neck pain for side sleepers. When a mattress is too soft, it can cause the body to sink into the mattress too much, causing the spine to curve.
- Soft enough: relief on pressure points
Mattresses for side sleepers need to be soft enough to allow for good circulation and to relieve pressure points in the hips, shoulders, and neck. For example, foam mattresses perform well by taking tension away from pressure points. Also, mattresses with a soft outside layer, like a top or cover, are great for relieving pressure.
- Contours: conformity to the body for muscle relaxation
Side sleepers also prefer a mattress that will conform to and cradle the body. The mattress takes away pressure and allows the muscles to relax, which is ideal for getting a good night’s sleep.
- Correct thickness and firmness: based on body weight
A mattress with the correct thickness is important for side sleepers, too. Mattress thickness and firmness needs vary for people with different weights. For example, heavier people may have different needs for comfort. If the firmness level is too high for a more petite person, it can cause aches and pains because the mattress doesn’t conform well to the body.
- Stays cool and breathes well
Side sleepers may also prefer to have a mattress that has technology built in to cool and breathe well. Many hybrid, foam, and spring mattresses have built-in layers for cooling and breathing.
Firmness and support for side sleepers
It is key for side sleepers to pick a mattress that both:
- Supports the body enough to keep it in a comfortable position
- Is soft enough to provide pressure relief
The goal is to find a mattress with support that is rooted in the center of the mattress with soft and firm areas built in for conforming and giving in to the weight and pressure of the body. It is recommended that the comfort level is 5 to 10 (or a soft to medium firm mattress).
Side sleepers can face several challenges because of the sleep position:
When a side sleeper moves by twisting or curling legs in the opposite position of the upper body, it causes muscles in the back and the lumbar spine to go out of alignment. This movement can cause and worsen lower back and neck pain. Side sleepers can try to prevent this by sleeping in positions that ensure alignment of the spine and using a mattress that has enough support and softness.
Skin aging and wrinkles
Side sleeping can also cause the aging of skin and wrinkles while one side of the face is on the pillow.
Although sleeping on the side is beneficial because it elongates the spine, this position can also cause breasts to sag.
What is the best type of mattress for side sleepers?
There are many mattress types and several kinds of mattresses that will achieve both the great support and correct firmness range for side sleepers. Consider these suggested side sleeper mattress varieties below.
The best kinds of mattresses for side sleepers are:
- Foam mattress (poly and memory foam)
- Hybrid mattress
Learn more about the different kinds of Mattress Support Cores.
Note: Side sleepers should consider all types of mattresses with a soft to medium firmness somewhere between 3 to 6 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 is the firmest). And, consider starting with a 2 to 4 inch soft top comfort layer.
Foam mattress (poly and memory foam)
- High-density foam layers (several grades of poly foam) for support
- Combination of foam layers used for both support and comfort
- High-density foam layers (several grades of memory foam) for comfort for cradling body of side sleeper for body alignment
- Cooling technology to avoid heat trapping
- Consistent support
- Elasticity of memory foam allows mattress to bounce back to original position (slower response time, however, compared to latex)
- Excellent conformity and relief for pressure points for side sleepers (allows for horizontal alignment of shoulders, hips, and spine)
- Consider medium thickness of memory foam (comfort layer) combined with other materials
Hybrid mattress (foam and coil)
- Combination of both coils and foam(s)
- Coil support system gives great core support (coil types include: bonnell, offset, continuous, and pocket coil) layered with foam or quilting
- Support helps keep spine alignment and body in position
- Foam layers are used for comfort and added support (memory foam, latex, polyfoam, natural fibers)
- Consider medium thickness of comfort layers to help conform to body to help with spine alignment and pressure relief
- Good conformity with thick memory foam layer(s)
- Great support, but may break down over time
- Steel coil support system (coil types include: bonnell, offset, continuous, and pocket coil) layered with foam or quilting
- Coils range in thickness from 12.5 to 16 gauges and thinner coils can more easily shape themselves to contour to the body, while thicker layers provide support for holding up the weight of the body
- Conformity depends on comfort layers (materials like memory foam, latex, polyurethane foam, and natural fibers)
- Support may breakdown over time
- Consider medium thickness of comfort layers to help conform to body to help with spine alignment and pressure relief
- Resilient and durable
A few other kinds of mattresses side sleepers can consider are latex and adjustable air mattresses.
- Latex foam layers (mainly Dunlop and Talalay)
- Latex layers are for both support and comfort
- Great for core support layers and comfort layers
- Conforms well to the body and relieves pressure points
- Only a mattress with a latex core should be in this category
- Good durability and long lasting
- Elasticity is good, and latex mattress will bounce back into original position after being compressed
Adjustable air mattress
- Adjustable chambers of air used
- Foams and fiber layers, too
- Provides a lot of support
- Firmness can be adjusted for personal preference
- Adjustments to mattress can allow for higher or lower position on certain part of the body that are heavier
- Don’t have issues with mattress sagging
- May be too firm for some sleepers (basic or no comfort layer)
- Definitely needs an effective comfort layer to provide enough softness for comfortable sleeping
What else should a side sleeper consider?
After selecting the proper mattress, the next step is finding the right pillow — it’s just as important! Side sleepers should look for the following qualities in a proper pillow (for supporting the head and neck, and possibly for a pillow that goes in between the legs or knees) for the side sleeping position.
- Quality materials
- Firm or extra firm for good support for the head and neck
- A pillow that prevents the head from tipping down to the mattress and supports and aligns the head, neck, shoulders, and hips
- Thick enough pillow that can fill the space between neck and shoulder
- A firm pillow for in between the legs or a body pillow that can help prevent pelvic rotation
Changing sleep positions or sides
Another thing side sleepers should consider is the way in which they change sides during the night. It is suggested that sleepers avoid turning or twisting at the waist, but that they instead move the whole body together by tightening the core and bending knees together toward the chest when rolling over.
Also, side sleepers should always keep alignment in the ears, shoulders, and hips when sleeping and when turning or changing positions or sides.
No matter the sleeping position, the right mattress is important for getting healthy and consistent sleep. Luckily for side sleepers, there is a wide variety of mattresses available that are suitable for the most common sleeping position.
Side sleepers have specific needs that are based on the shape of the body in the side sleeping position.
Some key requirements to look for in The Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers are:
- Firm and ample support to keep the body and spine aligned
- Soft enough to offer pressure relief
- Conforms to the body to allow muscles to relax
- Thickness and firmness are appropriate for body weight
- Stays cool and breathes well
There is a wealth of information available to consumers on mattresses, and personal preference is ultimately what takes precedent for each sleeper when choosing a mattress. This guide provides an overview on the best mattresses for side sleepers based on research from publicly available sources like forums, chat boards, company websites, reviews, and information provided by consumers.
- Foam mattresses
- Hybrid mattresses
- Innerspring mattresses
Our guide outlines the best of the mattress varieties for side sleepers and highlights these categories for each featured and ranked mattress brand:
- Aggregate customer rating
- Special features
These mattress recommendations, which were not weighted in any way, were informed by research and information on each mattress.
The high-ranked mattresses in this guide are the best of what’s available on the market right now, and are high-quality mattresses with design, technology, durability, and special features that are well-suited for side sleepers.
The best of the best
Nest Bedding Alexander Signature Hybrid
Nest Bedding’s Alexander Signature Hybrid mattress is a foam and pocket-coil innerspring mattress. The 13-inch mattress is available in medium or luxury firm firmness levels, and most side sleepers will want to choose the medium firmness level for proper support, pressure relief, and comfort.
The Alexander Signature Hybrid from Nest Bedding features a 2-inch quilted foam comfort layer on its medium firm design and a 1.5-inch layer on its luxury firm mattress. The foam features cooling technology and is topped with a breathable polyester/cotton blend.
The support core of the Alexander Signature Hybrid is a 7-inch layer of 5-zone pocketed coils designed to provide support as well as responsiveness when sleepers switch positions.
- Comfort: Side sleepers will be pleased with the support offered, as well as with pressure relief.
- Edge support: The Alexander Signature Hybrid features improved edge support that extends its network of pocketed coils all the way to the outer edges of the mattress.
- Durability: The Alexander Signature Hybrid is made of durable foam materials and is expected to last between 12 and 15 years with proper use.
Learn more by reading our full Alexander Signature Hybrid mattress review.
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The Nectar mattress is available in 6 sizes ranging from Twin to California King. The 11”, all-foam construction is comprised of 5 layers designed to provide even distribution of weight, support, cooling, and bounce.
Side sleepers report that the Nectar has an initial softness on top but provides sufficient support and pressure relief.
Nectar offers some of the best guarantees in the industry, with a 365-day sleep trial and a “forever warranty.” With 11″ of memory foam and high-quality construction, the Nectar mattress should be a long-term investment for side sleepers.
- Firm support: The Nectar is a firm mattress ideal for side sleepers.
- Sleep trial: An industry topping 365-day trial comes standard.
- Forever warranty: This warranty includes a 10-year guarantee of replacement and a lifetime guarantee of repair or replacement after the first 10 years.
Learn more by reading our full Nectar mattress review.
Save $125 on a Nectar mattress plus two free pillows!
Other great options for side sleepers
Check out these 7 brands that all garnered high overall customer satisfaction ratings and are ideal for side sleepers.
Leesa foam mattresses are available in a medium firmness level which is recommended for side sleepers. All mattresses include a bottom support core made with dense foam that provides strength, structure, and durability. The 6-inch support core is ideal for side sleepers who need a supportive structure that helps keep the spine and body aligned.
The middle mattress comfort layer is a 2-inch memory foam layer that provides excellent pressure relief and body contouring. For added comfort, softness, and air flow, the Leesa middle layer is topped with a 2-inch cooling foam layer.
The top layer performs well for body movement, allowing for easy sleep position changes.
- Sleep trial and warranty: Leesa offers a 10-year non-prorated warranty, a 100-night sleep trial, and a full refund policy.
- Temperature: The three-layer design and Avena foam layer prevent the Leesa from sleeping hot the way other memory foam mattresses often do.
- Pressure relief: Both the middle and top layer provide softness that helps relieve pressure on the parts of the body that are heavier on the mattress for side sleepers.
Want to know more about Leesa? Read our full Leesa mattress review.
Tuft & Needle
Tuft & Needle mattresses are constructed with a proprietary T&N adaptive foam (that’s not memory foam or latex). The foam is made to work well for all shapes and sizes of sleepers. When more pressure applied, the mattress becomes more supportive.
These mattresses are medium firm, and each mattress is constructed with a 7-inch poly foam support core. The structured foundation is ideal for side sleepers and keeping the spine and body aligned.
The support core is paired with a 3-inch foam comfort layer that offers excellent pressure relief. It is recommended that side sleepers choose a mattress with a comfort layers between 2 to 4 inches thick, to prevent sleepers from sinking too far into the mattress.
- Temperature: The foam also is breathable and draws heat out of the mattress for cooler sleeping.
- Motion isolation: The Tuft & Needle mattress performs well in insolating movement.
- Durability: With a 7-inch support core and up to 4 inches of comfort layers, the Tuft & Needle is a durable mattress, especially for its price point.
Learn more about Tuft & Needle in our full Tuft & Needle mattress review.
GhostBed mattresses have great durability, and an excellent balance of comfort and support. They are medium to medium-firm. All of these traits are ideal for side sleepers.
The mattresses are constructed with 11 inches of layered foam. The support core is a 7.5-inch high density foam that provides good support to help side sleepers keep the body in natural alignment.
Comfort layers include a 1.5-inch latex layer that is naturally responsive and bounces back into it original shape. A 2-inch proprietary gel memory foam layer is under the latex layer, and provides additional comfort and pressure relief.
- Pressure relief: The latex layer conforms well to the body to cradle the heavier parts of the body for pressure relief.
- Temperature control: Latex does not retain heat, allowing for good airflow for more cool and comfortable sleep.
- Removable cover: The GhostBed mattress includes a plush cover that is removable for easy cleaning.
- Sleep trial and warranty: GhostBed offers a 101-night sleep trial and a 20-year warranty, both among the best in the industry.
Go in-depth with GhostBed in our full GhostBed mattress review.
Purple makes foam mattresses with medium firmness, which is recommended for side sleepers. The star of these Purple mattresses is the 2-inch top comfort layer that features a proprietary Hyper-Elastic Polymer material that is excellent for comfort, cooling, and motion isolation.
The foam and polymer blend responds well to movement and returns to its original shape. It also supports the heavier parts of the body that sink deeper into the mattress, and its softness offers ample relief for pressure points, especially the hips and shoulders for side sleepers.
The support core includes two layers: a 3.5-inch middle layer made with high density poly foam for support, and a 4-inchpoly foam bottom foundation layer.
- Bounce: Purple mattresses do have some bounce, but also perform well in isolating movement.
- Ideal for side sleepers: Purple claims their mattress provides perfect spinal alignment for side sleeping.
- Sleeps cool: The Hyper-Elastic Polymer layer features an open grid design, helping sleepers regulate their temperature.
Read our full Purple mattress review to get all the info you need to make an informed purchase.
Saatva makes foam and innerspring hybrid mattresses, with foam and memory foam comfort layers and a 4-7-inch support core made with individually-wrapped Bonnell coils. The coil-on-coil system is known for its responsiveness to pressure applied to the mattress and offers the appropriate amount of support for different parts of the body.
The memory foam comfort layers work in conjunction with the support base layer to bring comfort and softness to the mattress. The pressure relief of the memory foam layer is important for side sleepers with pressure points at the knees, hips, and shoulders.
Sleepers can choose a comfort level – from plush soft, luxury firm, and firm. The luxury firm is appropriate for side sleepers.
- Durability: These mattresses are known for their durability and can last 10 to 15 years.
- Support: Due to its coil innerspring construction, the Saatva has a high degree of lumbar support and ample edge support.
- Value: Saatva mattresses feature a euro pillow top, which is usually found in very expensive mattresses.
Learn more about Saatva in our full Saatva mattress review.
The Layla mattress offers is a flippable memory foam mattress. One side offers a soft comfort level, and the other firm. Side sleepers will most likely choose the soft side for its body contouring and pressure relief.
The Layla is made of four comfort layers: a 3” top layer of lightweight foam, a 2” transition layer of denser foam, a 5” support core of dense foam, and a 1” layer of foam for the firm side.
Layla offers several features to help side sleepers keep cool, including a ThermoGel-treated cover and “copper infused” memory foam outer layers which are designed to dissipate heat more efficiently than traditional memory foam.
- Support: Both the soft and firm sides of the Layla mattress offer ample support.
- Comfort levels: The adjustable feature of this mattress enables buyers to try two different comfort levels.
- Sleeps cool: The Layla mattress implements several design features that help it sleep cool.
Read our full Layla mattress review to learn more.
Save $100 off any Layla mattress!
Loom & Leaf
Loom & Leaf by Saatva is a premium memory foam mattress made with organic cotton and eco-friendly CertiPUR-US certified foam.
Multiple layers of memory foam are designed to offer body contouring and pressure relief. The Loom & Leaf mattress is 12” thick in total, which adds both to its durability and the support offered by the mattress. The memory foam used also helps distribute weight evenly across the mattress, allowing heavier parts of the body to sink down and lighter parts of the body to be supported; this is ideal for a side sleeper.
- Extra support: Loom & Leaf mattresses are quite firm and are ideal for side sleepers who need extra support.
- Cool comfort: Soft memory foam and cool memory gel help provide pressure relief while keeping the sleeper cool.
- Delivery and setup: Loom & Leaf delivers each mattress and a delivery professional handles installation.
Learn more in our full Loom & Leaf mattress review.
Additional resources for side sleepers
Consider these online resources for learning more about mattresses, sleep, and sleep positions:
- Learn about the history of mattresses by The Better Sleep Council
- Download the Better Sleep Guide by The Better Sleep Council
- Consider this Mattress Buying Guide by Consumer Reports
- Find a Back Friendly Mattress (6 Tips) by Cleveland Clinic
- Learn about the Sleep Positions and The Best Sleep Positions from The Better Sleep Council
- Find out what makes up your bedroom environment from the Sleep Foundation
- Read a New York Times article on how to buy a new mattress with so many choices
- Learn how to buy pillows for every type of sleeper from a Chicago Tribune article
- Find out more about the best sleeping positions for back pain from Mayo Clinic
Tips on how to buy a mattress online
There are some benefits to buying your mattress online, so consider these tips if that’s your plan:
- Consumer Reports Mattress Buying Guide
- How to Pick Your Perfect Mattress by WebMD
- US News & World Report on Buying a Mattress online
- What It’s Like to Buy a Mattress Over the Internet by LifeHacker
Best mattresses for side sleepers
Here are some additional sources with information on mattresses, especially important tips for side sleepers:
- The Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers by Consumer Reports
- Tips on Choosing the Right Mattress for Side Sleepers by University of Utah Health Care
What a side sleeper needs to know
- Side sleeping is the most common of all the sleep positions
- Choose the best mattress for side sleepers that gives support and conforms to the body to relieve pressure
- The best mattress for side sleepers with back pain is medium on the firmness scale
- Look for a mattress that is between 5 and 10 on the comfort scale
- Best mattresses for side sleepers are usually foam, hybrid, and innerspring mattresses
- Choosing a pillow is just as important as the right mattress
- Find a pillow that allows for support of head and neck and encourages spine alignment
- Consider a pillow between the legs or knees or a body pillow
- Common issues for side sleepers include: body misalignment, unwanted wrinkles, and saggy breasts
- Use caution when changing positions or sides and move the entire body as a unit without twisting at the waist