How to Pick the Best Mattress for Side Sleepers
Whether you realize it or not, your sleep style has a significant effect on your health and well-being. Aches and pains, digestive problems, and circulatory issues can all be traced back to the position in which you sleep. If you experience these side effects, you may feel helpless. After all, there’s not much you can do to control your body’s position when you’re unconscious.
What you can control, however, is your mattress. Soft, medium, firm, memory foam, or hybrid—not all mattresses are made equally. Some people might be well off sleeping on a soft, plush mattress, while the same mattress might cause serious discomfort for others. When choosing a mattress, it’s important to identify your sleep style and the features that will benefit you.
For many people, that means choosing the best mattress for side sleepers. A side sleeper is someone who sleeps on their side, rather than on their back or stomach. The fetal position, with knees curled up toward the chest like a newborn baby, is a common example of a side sleeping position. In fact, the fetal position is the most popular sleeping position, not just among side sleepers, but among all sleepers.
That popularity is one reason why there are so many fantastic mattresses available for side sleepers. You just have to know what to look for. Keep reading to learn what side sleeping means for your body and what you should be looking for as you mattress shop. This guide has everything you need to know to find the best mattress for side sleepers.
Pros and Cons of Side Sleeping
Side sleeping isn’t just the most popular sleep position—when done properly, it’s also the most beneficial. Unfortunately, many side sleepers don’t experience the full range of benefits because of an unaccommodating mattress.
Below are some of the benefits, as well as the potential downsides of sleeping on your side:
Pros of Side Sleeping
- Could be good for digestion – Facilitates gut health and the digestive system, especially when sleeping on your left side. It can also ease heartburn and acid reflux and relieve constipation and bloating.
- May possibly help aches and pains – When your spine is properly aligned, side sleeping may limit aches and pains in your joints and back.
- Might reduce snoring – Mitigates snoring, which may be caused by blocking your respiratory system and may cause other serious health complications like diabetes, heart attack, and cognitive dysfunction.
Cons of Side Sleeping
- Hard on pressure points – If you have a poorly suited mattress, side sleeping may lead to spinal misalignment, causing or exacerbating pain in the neck, back, hips, and shoulders.
- Stiffness in the neck – Your shoulders support the full weight of your head in this position, so it needs extra support. Without a supportive mattress and pillows, side sleeping may cause compression in the neck and shoulders, resulting in a stiff neck in the morning.
- Paresthesia – This is the tingling sensation you feel when your arm falls asleep. In most cases, paresthesia is harmless, but it is certainly uncomfortable.
What Features Should Side Sleepers Looks For in a Mattress?
Because the biggest health threat to side sleepers have to do with pressure and support, the best mattress for side sleepers must have these three features:
1) Pressure Relief
Side sleeping puts extra strain on the hips and shoulders, as they hold the bulk of your body weight when lying on your side. To eliminate this excess pressure, look for a mattress that is engineered for pressure relief. Foam mattresses are good for absorbing the weight of these body parts, while the coils in hybrid mattresses make up for any lack of support.
2) Spinal Alignment
Flexible support is crucial for side sleepers, who need a mattress that not only relieves stress on high-pressure areas, but also supports the areas in between. On a mattress that does not support spinal alignment between the hips and shoulders, side sleepers are prone to arching and subsequent back and neck aches. A hybrid mattress may be the best mattress for side sleepers who suffer from such discomfort, as coils help keep the spine in place.
3) Medium Firmness Level
When considering the firmness of a mattress, side sleepers should look for a mattress that is medium soft or medium. Somewhere between 5 and 6 on the firmness scale is perfect. A mattress of this firmness will allow the shoulders and hips to sink in comfortably. Too firm and your spine is likely to arch; too soft and your spine may sink in too much and bow in the other direction.
As a rule, heavier-bodied side sleepers should stay on the firmer side, as they may sink in too much on a soft mattress.
Our Picks for the Best Mattress for Side Sleepers
What type of mattress is best for side sleepers? Because side sleepers require a unique blend of pressure relief and support, hybrid mattresses are the way to go. A hybrid mattress combines the strength, durability, and reactivity of a traditional spring mattress and the comfort of a foam mattress.
Here are a few of our recommendations:
The Purple mattress is unique in that it uses its patented Purple Grid to support the spine, rather than memory foam or coils. This hyper-elastic polymer comfort layer is firm upon first contact, then melts to cradle pressure points. For side sleepers, this means flexibility beneath high-pressure zones like the shoulders and hips.
Unlike memory foam, which can be slow to adapt its shape, the Grid reacts immediately and snaps back just as fast. That means you can switch from side to side without feeling stuck in the mattress. Below the Grid, two layers of high-density foam provide additional support so that you maintain optimal comfort and support no matter how much you move or weigh.
The Purple Mattress starts $599.
The Saatva Classic mattress is a luxury hybrid mattress engineered with Spinal Zone active wire for back support. This feature makes it great for side sleepers suffering from chronic back pain. Its plush Euro top contours to the body’s natural curve, cushioning the hips and shoulders, and supporting the back. The Saatva Classic mattress has even been approved by the Congress of Chiropractic State Associations for its superior spinal support.
What’s more, the Saatva Classic comes with customizable firmness. You get to choose whether you want a plush soft, luxury firm, or firm mattress. For the best hybrid mattress for side sleepers, we recommend luxury firm or plush soft for lighter weight sleepers.
The Saatva Classic mattress starts at $849.
The DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid mattress combines the pressure relief of memory foam with the stability of innerspring coils. It’s topped with a lightweight, cooling cashmere blend so you don’t overheat as you sink in. It also features two memory foam layers that soothe pressure points to help you fall asleep fast and wake up ache-free. Finally, DreamCloud’s individually-wrapped coil layer offers responsive support, adapting to your body weight to provide support where you need it.
The DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid mattress starts at $899.
Unlike the aforementioned hybrid mattresses, the Awara Luxury Hybrid Mattress combines premium coil support with latex, rather than foam. This is the best mattress for side sleepers who want an eco-friendly and organic mattress.
Dunlop latex is similar to memory foam, molding to the body and alleviating high-pressure zones. Meanwhile, the Awara mattress also features nine inches of premium innerspring coils, individually wrapped to provide zoned support. The entire mattress is encased in organic cotton and humanely-sourced New Zealand wool.
The Awara Organic Luxury Hybrid Mattress starts at $999.
The Casper Wave is Casper’s most advanced mattress model, featuring 27 gel pods for hip and core support. This gel pod technology is great for spinal alignment and side sleepers who want to prevent damage to their back. The Wave also features three foam layers that absorb weight and transfer pressure away from impacted areas.
One of the best things about the Casper Wave is that customers can choose between an all-foam model or a hybrid model. Both provide vital pressure relief under the shoulders and hips, but the hybrid model is more stable and supportive. It has been endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association.
The Casper Wave starts at $1,495.
If you’re a side sleeper, choosing a mattress that adapts to your body’s particular needs is one way to improve not just your quality of sleep, but also your quality of life. It’s amazing how the proper support and pressure relief in your mattress can help you feel well-rested.
In the end, what is the best mattress for side sleepers? In addition to the mattresses listed above, you’ll find reviews of many other great mattress brands on our website. With careful browsing, keeping an eye out for key features, you’re sure to find the best mattress for side sleepers.
This article was updated on 3/21/2021.