When it comes to sleep, everyone has their favorite position. But whether you sleep on your back, stomach or side, everyone’s goal is the same. A good night’s rest. Unfortunately, when you are a side sleeper that can be harder to achieve than you would expect. To tackle this problem, it is important to choose a mattress that suits your preferred sleeping position and body weight.
For side sleepers this is more important than in any other sleeping position. If done correctly, sleeping on your side can be the healthiest option. But, get a wrong mattress and you will be plagued by back and neck aches. And if your mattress is made from low quality materials hot nights will soon turn your downtime into a nightmare.
So how exactly do you get a good mattress for side sleepers? To answer that question, we had a look at what common issues for side sleepers are. Then we compared those against what doctors recommend and compiled everything into a lengthy guide.
And to top it all off, we picked out 6 mattresses for side sleepers that we think will let you have a good night’s rest. Every single night.
In a rush? Skip to the part you are looking for
- Common Problems for Side Sleepers
- What makes a good mattress for side sleepers
- Our recommended mattresses for side sleepers
- Our favourite mattress
- How to sleep on your side the healthy way
What are common problems for side sleepers?
Combine that with the fact that 2/3 of Americans sleep on the side, we should have a well-rested nation. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Many of the side sleepers complain of aching shoulders, hips or lower back. Tossing and turning through the night and waking tired, grumpy, and not ready to face their day. Why is that?
The answer is simple. It is hard to choose the right mattress if you are a side sleeper.
If you get one that is too hard, there will be too much pressure on your shoulders and hips. They will get squished and misalign your spine. Because of this, you will often wake up with painful shoulders or lower back.
And if your mattress is too soft your spine will sag. As your hips sink into the mattress, your spine will get curved. This will strain your back between your shoulder blades and lower back, resulting in restless night.
Another common problem is heat. Regardless if you are looking for the best mattress for side sleeping or any other position, this issue will persist.
Most common cause for that?
The fact that your mattress is made from low quality materials. Doing proper research on the brand and investing a few extra dollars can go a long way when it comes to a good sleep.
So, what exactly makes a good mattress for a side sleeper?
Sadly, there is no one mattress “fits them all” solution. But we devised a 3-step system to figure out which mattress will suit you best.
Step One: Choose your mattress type
There is a wide variety of materials to choose from when it comes to mattresses. Latex, memory foam, innerspring, pillowtop or a hybrid between any one of those. Each one of them have their pros and cons. So, let’s have a closer look at them.
Made from latex foam, these mattresses have great responsiveness, bounce, and are often much cooler. Also, they provide a better motion transfer than most other mattresses. This reduces the chances that your partner will wake you up in the middle of the night.
Because these mattresses are made from latex, they are resistant to bed mites, bedbugs and many other allergens. Therefore, latex mattresses make a great choice for those who suffer from asthma or other allergies. And, as an added bonus, latex mattresses are the most durable of all types. Often lasting up to 4 years longer than other mattresses.
When it comes to memory foam, there is a major advantage for side sleepers. The foam contours your body relieving the pressure from your hips and shoulders. This way, it spreads your weight across the bed and allows your spine to be relaxed through the night. It also helps to maintain its natural alignment.
A foam mattress is also a popular choice for people with pre-existing pain problems. For example, people that suffer from arthritis. They report that after starting to use quality memory foam mattress they were able to sleep through the night.
And, while you might be a side sleeper, chances are your partner isn’t. However, memory foam mattresses are generally great for any position. This makes it a perfect choice for couples who enjoy different sleeping styles.
Also, the motion transfer is so great, that your partner can toss and turn all night without ever waking you up. Although with a good mattress, it is unlikely that they would do anything else but sleep soundly.
Gel Memory Foam
Gel memory foam is a relatively new addition to the mattress market. It has been around for just over a decade. Over the short period of time, it managed to secure itself a stable foothold. Quite impressive. But what makes it so special?
Traditional memory foam mattresses received a lot of complaints about heat during the night. And nobody likes sleeping in a hot bed. Back in 2006 Peterson Chemical Technologies may have found a solution for that. Gel. During the fabrication process, beads of gel are infused into the memory foam. This way, creating wider cells and allowing more air to flow within the foam. Because of the way that the gel is designed, it wicks the body heat away from you. Further reducing the temperature.
Everyone has slept at least once on an old innerspring mattress. Loud, bouncy, and often an odd spring resting against your shoulder. Innerspring technologies have come a long way since then. And while in the past you may have had a questionable experience with one. Now they definitely offer some good benefits. Like lower temperature and price. So let’s have a look at what innerspring options are available.
Everyone must have slept on one of the Bonnel spring mattresses. Because of their inexpensive price tag, they are popular in scout camps, dorms, and hostels. Remember the spring against your shoulder I mentioned earlier? That was most definitely a Bonnel spring. Made from hourglass shaped steel wire springs, these mattresses are cheap and not very durable. Most certainly stay away from them if you want a good night’s rest.
Marshal coils, wrapped coils, pocked coils or sometimes encased coils. These all refer to the same innerspring system. Individually encased in small fabric pockets they offer great pressure relief. Because there are no wires connecting these coils this innerspring system offers surprisingly great motion absorption. Two can share a bed without much disturbance during the night.
Pocket coils usually have a comfort layer above that which would stabilize and contour your body. Because they work so well with other materials these are the most popular innersprings for a hybrid mattress. Put high quality memory foam above and you will get the best of two world. While we don’t usually recommend an innerspring mattress for those sleeping on their side If we had to recommend one we’d say that the pocket coil is the best mattress for side sleepers.
Inspired by the original Bonnel springs, the offset coil has a flat top that are joined together with a helical wire. This is intended to contour your body better. Giving you more stability and support through the night. While the offset coils are knotted together in the same way like the Bonnels, there is another variation of them.
LFK coils are the unknotted variation of the offset coil. The open ended sensory arm construction theoretically can respond and adapt better to your bodies weight. These are more stable and longer lasting coils. That’s why it is a popular choice in higher end innerspring mattresses.
Probably the firmest of the bunch, the continuous coil is made from one single wire. Bent into many S shapes this wire simulates coils and provides a very flat and firm surface. It is very cheap to make and is a popular choice in a low-end hybrid mattresses. That is because on its own, it can be a little too firm for most people. But, with a nice comfort layer on top, it makes a nice and firm mattress. Maybe not the best choice for your master bedroom, but definitely an option for your guests.
While there are some good points about it, we would not recommend an innerspring mattress for a side sleeper. Simply, there are plenty of choices that can do the job better.
A hybrid mattress is made out of two different materials. It combines the best of both worlds while at the same time, mitigating some of the cons.
The most common hybrid mattress is innerspring and memory foam. This option offers bounciness and support because of the innerspring bottom. While the memory foam top layer contours your body reducing pressure points.
Hybrid mattresses do a good job of combining the pros from both materials. But people often complain about the forming of heat pockets while they sleep. This is mainly due to the fact that manufacturers rely on the airiness of the innerspring for lower heat. And then use cheap memory foam which causes you to overheat.
This of course may not hold true when it comes to high end price tags. But in our opinion, the biggest drawback of the hybrid mattress is their price for quality ration. If you want it good, you must be ready to pay big.
Step Two: Choosing the right firmness
Sleeping on your side means your hips and shoulders are going to press against the mattress for the most part. And, if you choose the wrong firmness it can result in unnecessary pain.
People go for a softer mattress thinking it will reduce the pressure and allow for better sleep. In truth, while this does take pressure from your hips and shoulders, it also allows your spine to “sag”. This creates strain on your spine, and I’m sure you guessed it, results in back pain.
Although it differs from person to person, generally you should aim for a mattress of medium firmness. It is usually represented by 5 or 6 on the scale to 10. This allows your pressure points to sink into the mattress enough to elevate the pressure. At the same time, the rest of your body has a steady support throughout the night.
Step Three: Keep your body weight in mind
Medium firmness mattress is a good starting point for every side sleeper. But you must also consider your body type.
For the light weights (under 130 pounds) we would recommend a medium soft or even a softer mattress. This will allow you to sink in a little more to ensure there are no pressure points.
If you are average (130 to 230 pounds) a medium mattress should work best for you. Although some of you might enjoy sleeping on a medium firm as well.
For those above 230 pounds, a medium firm or even firmer mattress would work best. This would prevent you from sinking too deep into the mattress and protect your spine from curving. Which is a common cause of pain for heavier people.
Our recommended mattresses for side sleepers
Now that we know what to look for, let’s have a look at what is available on the market. There are hundreds of different mattresses for sale. But, shopping like that would be as good and useful as talking to a salesman on commission. Instead, we had a look at the recommended brands, compared mattress reviews, and chose out 6 favorites that are the best for side sleepers.
Let’s start with our favorite Amerisleep AS3. This mattress is made by one of the eco-friendliest manufacturers on the market. Their open cell Bio-Pur™ memory foam is made using VPF chamber, which exceeds the requirements of the Clean Air Act. This memory foam manufacturing process prevents any harmful chemicals from entering the atmosphere. And the foam itself is made from plant-based materials. These two technologies help you sleep well at night and successfully reduce the footprint on the environment.
Now let’s have a look at this mattress from the bottom up. The Bio-Core™ is what will keep your hips and shoulders supported. For a side sleeper, this is the most important part of the mattress. As good base support will keep your spine aligned and relieve pressure build up.
The next affinity transitional layer adapts quickly as you change position. This makes AS3 a perfect mattress for side sleepers that share the bed with their partner. The transitional layer creates a softer feel. So no more hard surfaces for your pressure points.
The open cell Bio-Pur™ cooling layer is five times more breathable than traditional memory foam. For your sleep, this is a game changing layer. Conventional memory foam mattresses were always too hot to sleep on. However, Amerisleep AS3 was designed to move your heat away from your body. At the same time it allows cool air to circulate within the mattress, which greatly reduces the sleeping temperature.
The top layer in general is the most important for side sleepers. But the top layer of Amerisleep AS3 is by far the most interesting.
Their top cover is made from smart Celliant® fabric. Infused by 13 different thermoreactive minerals it brings temperature balance to the mattress. The thermoreactive minerals absorb the heat radiated from your body and convert it into infrared light. The light gets reflected back to your body improving your blood circulation. In turn, helping you stay cool and healthy through the night.
Overall, Amerisleep AS3 is our recommended mattress for sleeping on your side. It has a perfect amount of support and versatility. At the same time, it keeps you cool through the night. Because of the great support from the base and a gentle cradle from the other layers, your spine aligns perfectly. You can rest assured that you will wake up without any aches in the morning.
The original Purple mattress
In the early 1990s the Pearce brothers created the Floam material. Adopted by the medical industry it has served as the base for wheelchairs and hospital beds for over 20 years.
Later on, the Pearce brothers started Purple. A mattress company that wanted to be different from the rest. Made from Hyper-Elastic Polymer™ Purple mattress is somewhat of an odd sheep in the mattress world.
The base of Purple mattress is made from poly-foam. This is where the foundation for your support is. At 4 inches thick, it is a relatively sturdy base layer. On top is a 3.5 inch transitional layer. This gives you some compression support. For the heavier built side sleepers this would act as a transfer layer between the top comfort layer and the strong base.
The top layer is where Purple’s major innovation is. Their unique hyper elastic polymer grid top is what the company is famous for. The grid contours your body and distributes your weight evenly across the mattress. At points where more pressure is applied the grid starts to collapse relieving the pressure. For the bits that are not as pressure intense, the grid offers support. This way, it lets you sink in where you want to sink in while supporting you where it matters most.
Because the grid is fairly wide, it allows for excellent air flow. This keeps the mattress fresh and does not allow for the heat to build up. It comes as a medium-firm but if you are a light weight, it might feel a little firmer. All because your body weight might not be heavy enough to collapse the polymer grid properly.
All in all, the original Purple mattress makes a great addition to any bedroom. And for the side sleepers, it will definitely get rid of the achy mornings.
Medium-soft Tomorrow Sleep hybrid
With a whooping 365 day free trial, Tomorrow Sleep radiates confidence. Most other companies specialize in one type of mattress. Tomorrow Sleep sells both memory foam and hybrids. But looking at their website, it seems like hybrid is where their pride is. Combining the individual coil system with memory foam, they aim to provide a perfect balance between comfort and support.
The pocketed coil system means that each spring is individually wrapped in fabric. There is no wire connecting them and this allows them to behave independently. That’s why when you apply pressure to a certain area, the rest of the coils stay still. The movement on one side does not affect the rest of the coils eliminating the shakiness associated with innerspring mattresses.
Because of its great support, adaptability and lack of movement, pocketed coil mattresses are the most popular choice when it comes to innerspring.
And it’s biggest competitor? The memory foam, of course.
But what Tomorrow Sleep did was take them both and combine the best of them. They created a hybrid mattress that comes in two firmness levels. Medium soft and medium firm.
The base of the mattress is made out of 6-inch pocketed steel coils that sit on the high-density foam layer. The coils stand individually providing support and contour the body of the sleeper. Because of the gaps in between them, they are known to be very airy and isolate motion well. For a side sleeper, the coils offer plenty of support for the back, while allowing the hips and shoulders to sink in. This way, it keeps your spine straight.
The coils are housed in the 3-inch-thick poly foam. It allows for a greater edge support for when you are sleeping with a partner. Or if you often find yourself sleeping on the edge. Because this is a medium soft mattress, you will find that you sink in a bit when you sit right at the edge. But, when you are sleeping there is no problems shifting positions near the edge.
The 2-inch comfort layer offers ample of pressure relief. As you lay on your side, it allows you to sink in a little deeper into the mattress. This takes away pressure that would otherwise build up on your hips and shoulders.
On the top sits the 1-inch layer of cooling, open cell memory foam. This layer is made with phase change material which helps the mattress to regulate the temperature.
Overall, the medium Soft Tomorrow Sleep is a great hybrid mattress. But, because it is a medium soft, people who like little firmer mattresses might find this one a bit too soft.
Loom & Leaf
Born from their successful Saatva innerspring mattress Loom & Leaf brings another memory foam mattress to our list. Different from Amerisleep AS3, the Loom & Leaf uses a gel infused memory foam. This helps to reduce body heat and keeps you cool through the night.
Loom & Leaf use organic cotton and eco-friendly memory foam to reduce the damage on the environment from their production. Their mattress, at 12″ tall, towers above most of the competitors. But considering the amount of foam that goes into constructing such a tower, is it not too soft for a side sleeper? Let’s have a look.
The top cover is made from natural cotton and flame-retardant thistle. This keeps you cool and safe from the threat of fire. It is also extremely soft and has a nice cool feel against your skin. Although most people use bed sheets, the soft touch of the top cover can still be felt through the material.
Underneath is a layer of gel infused memory foam. Additionally, there is an extra layer of gel in the spine area to further reduce heat the build-up for your back. Considering that not many other mattresses have this extra layer of gel in the back region makes us question why it is there in the first place. Is this going to be a new industry standard for the gel memory foam mattresses? Or was there an enormous amount of heat building up and they had to reduce it somehow. Guess that time will tell.
Next is a layer of high density visco elastic memory foam. Slowly responding to the pressure applied by your body it contours your body shape supporting you where it matters most. Designed to work together with the layer above it removes pressure build-up and provides a steady support throughout.
The extra layer of polyfoam beneath is there for the additional support. It makes the mattress a little stiffer so when you want to change position you don’t sink in. The transitional layer is also very breathable and in turn it keeps the mattress nice and cool. Although this might not be the coolest mattress of the bunch, it does a pretty good job at keeping the temperature comfortable.
Base layer is made from 5.5″ high density polyfoam. Keeping the mattress nice and sturdy this give it durability and stability.
Is this the best mattress for side sleepers? Probably not. But it sure is at the top 5.
Nolah Original 10″
Nolah had a look at memory foam and latex mattresses and decided it was time for a change. Their innovative Airfoam was created to be a modern replacement for the older technologies. Not only that, but their Original 10″ mattress was designed specifically with a side sleeper in mind. How does it compare with the traditional memory foam? Let’s look inside of it and see.
The top layer of the mattress is made from a 2″ Cooling Noah Airfoam. This material is not temperature sensitive which means that it will not heat up from you laying on top. Sleeping on it feels cooler than most other mattresses and because it is made from 2″ foam it contours your body nicely.
Below is a 1-inch high resilient supportive layer. Even though it is relatively thin it gives you a nice amount of support and bounce to keep you comfortable. The fact that it is only 1 inch thick prevents you from sinking too deep into the foams. The result? A full night’s sleep without achy mornings.
The base layer is a 7-inch high-density polyfoam. This provides ample support and stability. While the top two layers create comfort, the base is all about that feeling of safety.
Good news for those who live in more hot or humid environments. The natural viscose cover is designed to wick away any sweat or moisture. Keeping you dry all night. Because there is no excess build-up of moisture, you stay cooler through the night.
For those that might not like memory foam or hybrid mattresses, we added a latex option. The reason it is at the bottom of our list is because we find that latex might not be the best choice for side sleepers. Saying that Spindle offers a great mattress that has both the support and pressure relief that the side sleepers are after. Made from natural materials, this is right at the top in terms of eco-friendly manufacturing.
The mattress is made from 4 different parts. A cotton cover and three 3″ layers of latex. After you order your mattress online, it gets delivered in 4 different boxes. Yup, it’s a build it yourself kind of mattress.
The first (bottom) layer is a little firmer than the other two. This is to form a base for your mattress. Getting it into the cover can be a little tricky, but all in all, it is not a very complicated set up.
The next two layers are medium/medium soft, depending on the sleeper. Stacking them up is fairly straightforward. Once stacked up, you simply zip the whole thing shut and you are ready to sleep. There is a common misconception that because there is no adhesive, the layers might shift in your sleep. But, because of the naturally adhesive properties of latex, they will be firmly glued to each other.
In the unlikely situation that the layers shift, simply unzip the cover, take the layers out and adjust them one by one.
For couples that sleep in different positions, or further apart from each other, this might not be the perfect choice. The motion can be felt through the mattress a little more than with the previous models. And when sleeping right at the edge, the mattress compresses a bit more than we would like.
So which mattress for side sleepers is the best?
As you can see, all of these mattresses are of excellent quality. Finding our favorite was not an easy task. In the end, we decided that Amerisleep AS3 is a bit more versatile and adaptive than the rest. Here is what we mean.
The affinity support layer provides targeted support where it is needed most while simultaneously relieving the pressure. To achieve this Amerisleep has innovated a Harnessing Intelligent Ventilation & Energy (HIVE™) technology. Made from a hexagonal grid it allows different parts of the mattress to react to pressure differently.
For example, on shoulder and hip areas the grid is placed closer together. This way, it provides more support and prevents you from sinking too deep into the mattress. Where less support is needed, the hexagons are further apart. Contouring your body and not letting it sag.
By converting your body heat into infrared light, the thermoreactive minerals help improve your blood circulation. The added circulation helps you stay calm and cool through the night. This makes the already healthy sleeping position that little bit better.
The company itself provides great customer service. With the 100 night trial period, they offer plenty of time to make up your mind. And if you are unhappy, they will pick it up, give you a full refund, and donate the mattress to the less fortunate. (I thought they recycle them?) And with a 20 year warranty you can rest assured that no matter what, you will always have a good night sleep.
Guide to sleeping on your side
Now that we figured out how to choose a mattress for side sleeping, and we have made a list of best 6, it is time to have a look at your other sleeping habits that might be affecting you.
With around 74% of people sleeping on their side, you would think that by now people would have figured out how to do it and avoid pain. Unfortunately, many of us suffer from morning aches even after buying a great mattress. So how can we improve?
More than in any other position, pillow plays a major role in comfort for a side sleeper. When you sleep on your side the gap between your head and the mattress is quite big. And without a quality pillow, your head will drop down forcing your neck and spine to bend. This is extremely bad for your spine alignment and can be a major cause of nightly injuries.
Getting a pillow that would fully fill the gap will greatly improve your sleep. But, make sure that it is not too big either. If the pillow is forcing your head the other way, your spine twists and you will wake up with a stiff neck in the morning.
For side sleepers, the best option is to get a firmer pillow. If it is too soft, your head’s weight will collapse it. This would result in the same scenario as if your pillow was too small as well.
Finding a pillow that is perfect for you can turn into a major task. But if you have a chance, try and experiment with different sizes and models. After all, we are all different. Just as with a mattress, there is never a “one size fits all” option that will work perfectly for all.
When you sleep on your side, and your top leg is not supported properly, it can pull on your spine. This will misalign your spine and can result in chronic lower back pain. A good way to avoid this is to use a thin pillow between your knees. This way, you will provide proper support for your top leg. Reducing the pull of your hip and the pressure on your lower spine. It will help you prevent a big portion of lower back pain.
Quite often when you sleep on your side, your top half will pull towards the bed. This is quite normal when you consider that you aren’t awake to keep balance. Unfortunately, this can add extra tension on your shoulders rotator cuff. It can cause back pain, shoulder pain and can even result in injury.A common pointer that you have been applying too much pressure to your shoulder and shoulder blade is a numb arm. It is common for side sleepers to wake up from pins and needles in their arm during the night. This is caused by pressure on your nerves caused by your shoulder. To prevent this, place a medium sized pillow in front of your chest. This will help you keep balance during the night and result in much comfier sleep.
Last thoughts about the best mattress for side sleepers
Now you know everything there is to know about what to look for when buying a mattress side sleepers. Hopefully, this will help get rid of any nightly aches and improve your sleep quality. It is time for you to make the right choice and listen to what your body tells you.
For us, Amerisleep AS3 is our recommended mattress for side sleepers. Which one looks the best to you?