While your mattress is arguably the most important component of your bedtime routine, your pillow comes in at a close second. 

And depending on your sleep position, the pillow you rest your weary head on can either make or break your night. 

Unlike back sleepers, who need a thin and softer pillow, side sleepers need a pillow with more thickness and support, since they’ll want to keep their heads and necks elevated and aligned. A firm pillow may cause even more neck pain, so understanding firmness levels will help as well.

Research & Resources:

In writing this article, we:

  • Read 10+ articles
  • Scoured dozens of customer reviews
  • Spent 15+ hours writing and editing to make sure we provided the best information available 

What should side sleepers look for in a pillow?

Today, pillow options go far beyond a basic stuffed cotton pillowcase – now you can choose from a wide variety of styles, materials, lofts – there’s even scented pillows if that sounds appealing to you! The most important thing to look for in any pillow, no matter your sleeping position, is proper support. A pillow that’s too flat, too soft, or too firm can cause neck pain and restlessness all night. 

After looking at dozens of the most popular pillows on the market, we put together this list of the main pillow brands to consider. 

BrandPillowFeaturesLoft LevelPrice for Standard
amerisleep comfort classic pillowEditors' Choice: Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow

  • Stuffed with soft but supportive foam
  • Removable cover for easy washing
  • Certified eco-friendly by CertiPUR-US®
Medium-firm $75
layla pillowBest for Shoulder Pain: Layla Pillow

  • Filled with Kapok fibers and memory foam
  • Copper-infused cover may help replenish dead skin cells
Medium$99
nest bedding easy breatherBest for Neck Pain: Nest Bedding Easy Breather

  • Shredded memory foam filling
  • CertiPUR-US® certified foam
  • Removable fill makes it adjustable
Adjustable$99
brooklyn bedding shredded memory foamBest Cooling: Brooklyn Bedding Shredded Memory Foam

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Talalay Latex adds bounce
  • Removable foam makes it adjustable
Adjustable$44
avocado pillowBest Contouring: Avocado Pillow

  • Eco-friendly
  • Made with organic certified latex and Kapok fiber
  • Medium-plush feel
Unknown (but you can buy refill packages to adjust and add volume)$79
leesa hybridBest Gel: Leesa Hybrid

  • Reversible hybrid with a quilted pocket side
  • Cooling gel side
  • Removable insert
Adjustable$125
casper pillowBest Value: Casper Pillow

  • Polyester microfiber fill
  • 100% cotton cover
  • Soft but fluffy filling offers support
Medium-Soft$65
Best for Pregnancy: Queen Rose Full Pregnancy Body Pillow

  • U-shaped body pillow supports your back and your belly
  • Helpful to those with fibromyalgia, sciatica, reflux, and more 
Unknown$50

1.  Amerisleep Comfort Classic Our Editors’ Choice

 

Amerisleep Comfort Classic Memory Foam Pillow

Sleeping on your side is typically recommended for better health because it can relieve pain and pressure on your back and it naturally aligns your spine. When it comes to choosing pillows, side sleepers usually want something that won’t sink in too far and will also have a hefty loft, or thickness, to support their necks. 

The Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow pillow is our choice for overall best pillow for side sleepers because it’s the perfect medium loft. The pillow is filled with Amerisleep’s classic Bio-Pur® foam, engineered with an open-cell structure ensuring that you won’t sleep hot. Many reviews point to this pillow being great especially for side sleepers because it’s quite thick (6” in height), so you won’t have to constantly fluff it or fold it to keep your head in a comfy spot. 

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FEATURESPOSSIBLE CONS
Stuffed with eco-friendly and pressure-relieving foamSome reviews said pillow lost its shape
Designed especially for back and side sleepersSome reviews said it was too soft
Cooling and breathable because of ventilated airways in the foam 

2. Layla Pillow – Best for Shoulder Pain  

Layla Pillow

According to a paper published in the Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology Journal, 18-26% of adults experience shoulder pain, “making it one of the most common regional pain syndromes.” Chronic pain can be discouraging, especially when it starts to affect your everyday life. Our hope is that your pillow doesn’t make that pain worse, so we’ve looked at a few different models to find the most comfortable option for those of you suffering from shoulder pain.

Our choice for those suffering from shoulder pain is the Layla Pillow.

FEATURESPOSSIBLE CONS
Copper-infused to wick away heatSome reviews complained of off-gassing smell
Filled with memory foam and Kapok fiberSome reviews said pillow was not supportive enough
No fluffing neededSome reviews said pillow went flat after normal use

3. Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow – Best for Neck Pain

  

Nest Easy Breather

Your neck supports your head, so a sore neck can lead to headaches, muscle stiffness, and just a plain ol’ bad night of sleep, which leads to a host of other issues. Bottom line: a pillow that helps alleviates your neck pain is invaluable. 

Our recommendation for side sleepers experiencing neck pain is the Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow. 

FEATURESPOSSIBLE CONS
3 sizes available (standard, queen, and king)Some reviews said the pillow expanded, even after removing some of the foam
Removable foam makes it adjustableSome reviews said pillow slept too warm
Uses a Tencel fabric cover, making it breathable and coolSome reviews said pillow was too firm 

4. Brooklyn Bedding Shredded Foam Pillow – Best Cooling 

 

Brooklyn Bedding Shredded Memory Foam

Many sleep accessories tout “cooling” technology, but what exactly does that mean? It’s important to understand what actually makes a pillow cool, since some of these features are nothing more than a marketing tactic. Naturally, when your body heat gets trapped in something like a pillow, it has nowhere to escape, so it warms up even more, and then you flip the pillow all night in frustration trying to find the coolest side.

Now, this might make you leery of memory foam pillows, simply because memory foam hasn’t always had the best reputation for being cool. However, companies are solving this problem with new innovations and technologies, like grid-shaped foam, gels, copper-infused fabrics, and more. 

Our recommendation for Best Cooling pillow is the Brooklyn Bedding Shredded Foam Pillow.

FEATURESPOSSIBLE CONS
Adjustable loft, so you can pull out foam as needed Some reviews said the pillow “expanded” due to the inner material
Cooling gel foam infusion in deconstructed foam draws heat out and away from the head and neckSome reviews said the pillow was heavy
Hypoallergenic to keep away dust mites and allergensSome reviews complained of off-gassing smell

5. Avocado Pillow – Best Contouring  

Avocado Pillow

A pillow that contours to the shape of your head and neck is ideal, as it’s hard to find a one-size-fits-all pillow. Many side sleepers are combo sleepers, and they change positions often in the night. This means they need a pillow that springs back and doesn’t go flat as they switch sides. If this describes your sleeping style, try to choose a pillow stuffed with memory foam or latex, since they are more springy than cotton or polyester filling. 

Our choice for the best contouring pillow is the Avocado Pillow. It’s made with GOLS organic certified latex and GOTS organic certified Kapok fill. Kapok is a fiber sustainably harvested from the seeds of a kapok tree. It is sometimes referred to as “cotton silk” because of its light texture. 

FEATURESPOSSIBLE CONS
All-natural, eco-friendly, and non-toxicSome reviews said pillows needed to be fluffed to maintain their loft
Medium-firm, adjustableSome reviews said the pillow compressed too much and went flat
100-night trial + 1-year warrantySome reviews complained of an odor

6. Leesa Hybrid – Best Gel  

Leesa Hybrid

Pillows with gel components often tout cooling ability, a welcome feature for those who hate waking up with a sweaty head or neck. Side sleepers will benefit from gel pillows because they can also help relieve pressure points and they contour nicely to the neck. 

Our choice for best gel pillow is the Leesa Hybrid pillow

FEATURESPOSSIBLE CONS
Reversible with a down-like quilted pocketed side and a cooling gel sideSome reviews said pillow was too firm
Pillow insert and cooling gel layers can be removed, so you can adjust the pillow to your needsSome reviews said the gel side was not cool enough for them
100-night trialSome reviews said pillow was heavy

7. Casper Pillow – Best Value  

Casper Pillow

Much like mattresses, pillows can come in a wide range of prices–usually these prices correspond with the materials used to make the pillow. Of course, you can buy a pillow for $10 and probably sleep comfortably on it for a few nights, but it will most likely flatten very quickly and offer little to no support. 

A longer-lasting pillow will cost anywhere from $25-$100. Those that cost even more usually offer additional features like aromatherapy, advanced ventilation, hybrid construction, or a sleep trial (sleep trials are not as common with pillows as they are with mattresses, but a pillow with a sleep trial is one worth considering).

Our choice for best value pillow is the Casper Pillow. The Casper Pillow boasts a 2-inch gusset (the extra fabric sewn into the sides) for proper neck and spinal alignment and a 100% cotton cover that allows air to flow through the pillow easily, helping you sleep cool.

FEATURESPOSSIBLE CONS
2” gussetSome reviews complained they woke up with neck pain after sleeping on the pillow
100% cotton coverSome reviews complained pillow lost its shape
3-year limited warrantySome reviews said pillow was too soft
Short-coated fibers make up the filling 

 

8. Queen Rose Full Pregnancy Body Pillow – Best for Pregnancy  

Queen Rose Pregnancy Pillow

The American Pregnancy Association recommends pregnant women try to sleep on their sides (often referred to as the “SOS” position). Pregnant women typically experience loads of discomfort during pregnancy, including a growing belly, back pain, heartburn and indigestion, and insomnia – all of these things combine to create a poor night of sleep. 

Pregnancy pillows are specially designed to address these issues. Most models are full body pillows, u-shaped, and are meant to cradle the abdomen. Some women find it hard to adjust to side-sleeping when pregnant if they were previously back or stomach sleepers. A pregnancy pillow ensures a smooth and comfortable transition.

Our choice for best pregnancy pillow is the Queen Rose Full Pregnancy Body Pillow. 

FEATURESPOSSIBLE CONS
Eliminates tossing and turning No cooling features
Offers support for those suffering from fibromyalgia, sciatica, gastric reflux, congestion, carpal tunnel, and back painSome reviews said it wasn’t firm enough
Four different size optionsSome reviews said it flattened quickly
Filled with bionic polyethylene and cottonSome reviews said cover was a little flimsy
 Pillow is not machine washable (especially tricky if you use it for nursing)

Possible Problems for Side Sleepers

Side sleepers get all the praise, since the majority of the population sleeps this way and it’s also the healthiest sleep position. However, side sleepers can experience some drawbacks from lying laterally. 

  • Paresthesia, or that uncomfortable “pins and needles” sensation you get when circulation is cut off to a limb, is a common issue when you sleep on your side. If you’re sleeping on a bad pillow or mattress, this problem can be aggravated because your pressure points aren’t properly supported. Look for pillows with a generous loft and filling that won’t break down or flatten after normal use. 
  • Shoulder pain can develop if you sleep on your side, especially if you sleep with one arm under the pillow, supporting your head and upper body on this arm. A supportive pillow can help take that pressure off your arm and give you a better night of sleep.
  • A side sleeper may be more likely to suffer from wrinkles, simply because their face is squished up against their pillow all night. Side sleepers can try out different pillowcase fabrics to help with this issue, such as silk. 
  • Jaw pain can get worse if you sleep on your side, so be sure the pillow you’re using has a generous comfort layer along with ample support. 

Pillow Sizes

Understanding different pillow sizes can help you choose the right one for your sleep position. Here we outline the basic pillow sizes and who they work best for. 

Pillow SizeWorks best for…Probably not best for…
Standard: 20” x 26”Those who are average-sized, those who sleep stillThose with broad shoulders, those who toss and turn
Super Standard: 20” x 28”Combination sleepers, those sleeping in bunk beds, single, or twin size bedsLarger sleepers
Queen: 20” x 30”Those who toss and turn, combo sleepersThose needing a smaller sleep surface
King: 20” x 36”Sleepers with broad shouldersSmaller sleepers who don’t need as much material
Euro: size varies, but they are always square-shapedPeople who want a headrest or backrest in bed; small sleepers, like childrenThose needing a longer pillow, those with broad shoulders, combo sleepers
Body: 20” x 54”Pregnant women, side and stomach sleepersBack sleepers who want a flatter surface to sleep on

More pillow options

We mentioned memory foam, gel, down, latex, and hybrid pillows in our article, but there are quite a few other options you can explore:

PILLOW TYPEFEATURESCONSMATTRESS BRANDS TO CONSIDER
BuckwheatSleeps cool, contours to head/neck, durableCan be extra firm and noisyHullo, Beans72, Nature’s Pillow
Down pillow alternativesSoftness and support, moldableNot enough support for some, may need extra fluffingSleep Restoration, Langria, Brooklinen
Down Very soft, moldable, and quietLose their shape quickly, pricierRoyal Hotel, Luxuredown, Downlite
FeatherSleeps cooler than most, soft, moldableFeathers can poke through fabric, need to be fluffed oftenLuxury Goose Feather, Classic Feather Pillow, ECB
LatexSupportive and soft, durablePossible odor, very bouncy which can bother someSimmons Beautyrest, Malouf, PlushBeds
Memory foamSupportive and soft, not noisy, often adjustablePossible odor, can retain heatCoop Home Goods, Weekender, Snuggle-Pedic
WaterPain relief, contouring, no odorHeavy, risk of water damage/leakageMediflow, Chiroflow, The Duck and Goose

Conclusion

While pillow-shopping can quickly get overwhelming, we hope this article has targeted a few of your needs, especially if you’re a side sleeper. The perfect pillow may not exist for everyone, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find the most comfortable and affordable option for a good night of sleep.