The Best Pillows for Side Sleepers — The Best List

Making sure your bed and bedroom are primed for rest and relaxation is a vital part of making your home happy and healthy, so we take it seriously over here at Apartment Therapy. We’ve checked out mattresses and sheets, but what about pillows? The unsung hero of the bedroom, pillows are one of those home goods that you don’t really notice until something’s wrong, yet they can drastically influence your sleep. Since side sleeping is generally considered to be the most popular sleep position, we rounded up our favorite pillows made with side sleepers in mind, from firm and ergonomic to soft and cuddly.


How This Works

Every week we research new product categories and bring our final picks into the office, where we haggle and decide which ones make the final list. Everything is based on quality, appearance and price. These are what we could choose for our own home.


Maxwell’s Favorite:

I’m a side sleeper, but, until this month, I’d never focused on the fact that pillows are actually built differently, so I LOVED this assignment. I chose four pillows from our list to get a sense of the differences, slept with each one and came back very swiftly—spoiler alert—to liking the most luxurious, most expensive one. Not only that, but my two guest testers in the video above joined me in this unanimous ruling, EVEN THOUGH we admitted that it would be hard to recommend this pillow to AT readers, since it would assuredly bring sticker shock. Nevertheless…

First of all, I confirmed that I prefer a down pillow and second of all, I was surprised to find that the boomerang shape was a really good idea. The Dr. Mary Side Sleeper Pillow can come in pure down (no feathers, if that makes sense to you) or in a more affordable down alternative ($135), but either way, it’s CUSTOM made to your frame size, age, and gender so that your head is aligned with your spine to keep your blood flowing freely all night long. Problems result when this is not the case. The cover is 300 thread count cotton sateen and there’s a lovely little lavender sachet inside each one, which gives it a pop of the garden and which you can remove if you want to.

I found myself quickly adapting to the unique shape of the pillow and the fact that my down pillow was quite firm (better to keep the head up), and getting into a deep hugging position, which I’d never really done before. The pillow sits under your neck, but then slopes into your body in front of you giving you a really nice feeling of an embrace. It was really fun to sleep with. The downside? The Dr. Mary simply doesn’t fit in with my regular pillows and my bed looks like I have some personal secret connection to the letter “C,” which I can’t even make up.


LOW


Side sleepers need more support for their necks, so consider going for an extra firm pillow like this one from Wamsutta. Sold exclusively at Bed Bath & Beyond, this pillow has a 100 percent cotton cover and is seriously budget-friendly. No need to worry about this pillow getting flat or lumpy with time—it consistently retains its shape. If you’re not used to super firm pillows, it might take you a few nights to get used to, but your neck and shoulders will thank you in the long-run.


A much more affordable version of Maxwell’s favorite, this L-shaped pillow is also a bit smaller and comes with a machine-washable cover. As a side sleeper who hadn’t done much pillow research in the past, my mind was blown when I realized L-shaped pillows existed—they’re designed to provide the best neck/shoulder support and even help with posture. Plus, they’re cuddly—what’s not to love?


Filled with gel memory foam, this pillow reliably contours to your body and keeps your neck neutrally aligned during sleep. The name doesn’t lie—this pillow is thicker than most, which could take some getting used to. On the plus side, the larger size and contoured shape provides added support and comfort, letting your head rest at the perfect angle for a pain-free morning.


Speaking of contoured pillows, this one found on Amazon is pretty incredible. It looks different from your average pillow, with a thicker bottom half and a prominent contour. This ergonomic design allows for serious support, and unlike other options on our list, can comfortably be used for any sleep position. If you tend to fall asleep on your side but move around while you sleep (this is me), this type of pillow might be perfect.


MEDIUM


If you’re interested in memory foam but don’t want to part with your plush pillow just yet, the BioSense pillow from Brookstone provides the best of both worlds. It has a thick memory foam core surrounded by a soft, down alternative shell that can be zipped off and on. Although memory foam is known for keeping warm, this pillow manages to keep cool—the ventilated core adapts to body temperature.


The name may be corny, but this pillow is indeed extremely comfortable. It’s made of memory foam but has a bamboo cover, which makes it cooler and more breathable than other pillows. It’s also adjustable—just unzip and take out the memory foam to fit your preference. This pillow also looks and feels like a “normal” pillow and works well for any sleep position, but the firm memory foam and breathable cover make it especially good for side sleepers.


This pick takes “ergonomic side sleeper pillow” to the next level with a built-in arm rest. Designed with the help of chiropractors, this pillow keeps your shoulder joints aligned and provides support to not only your neck, but also to your wrists and elbows. Made of a mix of cotton and Coolmax, it stays comfortable and cool all night long.


HIGH


Designed and made by California-based company Honeydew Sleep, this pillow stands out for being filled with specially-made 100 percent Certipur-US certified virgin gel foam. Cool and supportive yet totally soft and comfy, the fill can also be adjusted—unzip the pillow and take out as much foam as you’d like. You’ll have to buy a special pillowcase separately, which adds a bit to the already expensive cost, but you also get a 60-day trial to be sure it’s worth the investment.


One of my best friends has this pillow, and I remember seeing it for the first time and thinking how weird and uncomfortable it looked. She swears by it though—the curved shape provides support to your neck, and the firm edges give way to a soft center that is seriously comfortable. This pillow is made for those of us who switch sides as we sleep—no matter how you move, this pillow will keep you supported.


  1. Be sure to check your pillow’s label. Certain pillows should not be put in the washer (like memory foam). Make sure you check, and if it can be washed use a mild liquid detergent to avoid residue.
  2. Wash your pillows twice a year. Even if you use pillow protectors, it’s good to freshen up your pillows every few months. If you’re worried about putting them through a washer, an alternative is to leave your pillows out in the sun for a few hours.
  3. Use tennis balls! If your pillows can be put through the dryer, throw in a few tennis balls to speed up dry time and to keep the fibers from clumping.

Our Best Pillow Posts:


Other Good Resources:


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