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The Best Pillows For Side Sleepers (According To Chiropractors & Sleep Doctors)

April 23, 2021
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If you're reading this, odds are you're a side sleeper. And you're in good company: One 2012 survey found that up to 74% of people opt to sleep on their sides. But while common, this position can wind up disrupting your good night's sleep by contributing to shoulder pain and neck cramps. That's why it's extra essential for side sleepers to find the right pillow.

Here, sleep specialists name their top pillow picks for side sleepers and spill some tips on how to position them for your most comfortable night's rest:

What pillow types are best for side sleepers?

Side sleepers will want a pillow that can adjust to the shape of their head, neck, and shoulder "to prevent any kinking of the neck to either side," explains chiropractor B.J. Hardick, D.C. That way, your spine won't be out of alignment as you're sleeping.

The size:

Hardick says that down-filled and feather pillows tend to be best for side sleepers, as they can more easily fit the shape of the neck's crevice. "Something too thin will cause the neck to flop toward the bed, and something too thick will cause it to kink the other way," he explains.

The shape:

And for the shape, sleep medicine specialist and psychiatrist Nishi Bhopal, M.D., recommends a body pillow or U-shaped pillow to help keep the spine aligned, as well as the hips.

The upkeep:

Naturopathic sleep doctor Catherine Darley, N.D., notes that you should be cleaning your pillows quarterly and replacing them every two years. Once your pillow has run its course, it simply won't offer you (or your head) the necessary support.

She also emphasizes the importance of finding a pillow that's just right for you and sticking to it. "Each person should have their own [pillow] set that has the correct sizes rather than bed partners sharing pillows night to night."

How side sleepers should position their pillows.

Again, the main objective here is to keep the spine in alignment. When sleeping on your side, either go with a longer pillow like a body or U-shaped option, or use a few pillows to achieve a similar effect. Here's how to place them:

  1. Put one under your head: The pillow your head is resting on, Darley notes, should be "the height of the distance from the outside of the shoulder to the ear" or be able to be bunched up to fit perfectly in that crevice.
  2. Put one between your knees: This will ensure that your lower spine isn't twisted.
  3. Put one next to you: Darley adds it can be helpful to have a pillow next to you to rest your top arm on so your shoulders aren't twisting or crouching in a way that could leave you with a neck kink.

The 7 best pillows for side sleepers.

These are Hardick, Darley, and Bhopals' top pillow picks for side sleepers, ranging the gamut in size and price point:

Avocado Green Pillow

As with any product you're bringing into your home, Hardick notes it's so important to go for organic options that do not off-gas any potentially toxic chemicals. This organic cotton pillow by Avocado Green Mattress meets that bill—and it's also vegan and handmade in Los Angeles. It also comes with an extra bag of filling for customizable comfort.

Snuggle-Pedic Full Body Pillow

If you're a side sleeper who likes to prop a leg up or sleep with a pillow between your knees, Bhopal says body pillows can offer the comfort and support you're looking for. This body pillow by Snuggle-Pedic is sure to cover all your bases, with memory foam inside, a breathable bamboo cover, and cooling technology. It's also hypoallergenic.

Cozy House Collection Luxury Bamboo Pillow

Speaking of bamboo, Hardick notes it's a great choice when it comes to pillows, and this bamboo pillow by Cozy House Collection won't disappoint. Not only can you adjust the amount of filling to create the perfect level of support, but the filling itself is shredded memory foam, ensuring your pillow will never lose its shape.

Brooklinen Down Pillow

As Hardick explained, down pillows are great for a pillow that's supportive but moldable to your specific needs. This one by Brooklinen comes in three different firmness levels, though their website notes the "firm" variety is the most supportive—and is recommended for side sleepers. With over 2,000 reviews and an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars, folks seem very into this down pillow option.

TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow

This super-well-rated pillow is also recommended by Hardick, as it was designed with neck support in mind. It's made with Tempur-Pedic's "EMPUR-Breeze Gel" on both sides of the pillow, to help you stay cool, plus its knit cover is 100% cotton—and 100% washable, so you can keep it in good shape night after night.

Darley tells mbg she's seen her patients who get too hot at night have success with cooling pillows, and with this pillow by Vaya, that's exactly what you'll get. Its shredded foam filling gives support that contours to your head and neck, which is essential for keeping your head, neck, and spine aligned. Plus, the cooling cover and perforations will keep this pillow cool all night.

Lincove Classic Natural Goose Down Pillow

And last but not least, for another down-filled option that's able to be bunched perfectly into your neck and shoulder, per Hardick's recommendation, Lincove's natural goose down pillow offers just that, with the guarantee of ethically sourced down. It's also available in three different sizes and firmness levels, so you can find the right one for you.

At the end of the day (literally), too many of us are sleeping on our sides for us not to have the best pillows available. After all, we spend nearly a third of our lives asleep. So, rather than waking up with a stiff neck and tense shoulders, we'd all be better off with quality pillows that offer the perfect balance of comfort and support.

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Meet The Experts

Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.