8 best pillows for side sleepers

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The 8 Best Pillows for Side Sleepers, According to Our In-Depth Testing

Out of 31 options, the Snuggle-Pedic Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow stood out because it’s breathable, easy to clean, and supportive.

By Melanie FincherJune 28, 2022

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

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Finding a pillow that feels comfortable is one of the most important steps in creating your ideal bed, especially for side sleepers. That’s because people who sleep on their side generally require more head and neck support than other types of sleepers, which is due to the large gap between their head and mattress. 

We tested 31 pillows in our Lab and evaluated them based on quality, breathability, durability, overall value, and most importantly, their effectiveness at providing support and comfort for side sleepers. For expert insight, we spoke to Natalie D. Dautovich, Ph.D., who serves as the environmental fellow at the National Sleep Foundation

Our top pick, the Snuggle-Pedic Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow, can be customized to fit your sleep preferences by removing or adding fill so you can reach your desired level of firmness and loft. It’s also very breathable and completely machine washable. 

Keep reading for more recommendations on the best pillow for side sleepers, as proven by our Lab testing. 

Our Top Picks

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: AMAZON.COM

Best Overall Pillow for Side Sleepers: Snuggle-Pedic Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow

VIEW AT AMAZON (FROM $55 FOR STANDARD)

Who it’s for: People who want an adjustable and supportive pillow that stays cool. 

Who it isn’t for: People who prefer the softer feel of a down pillow.

The Snuggle-Pedic Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow earned high marks across the board for its customizability, cool-to-the-touch feel, and supportive construction. Our side-sleeping testers were impressed with its ability to relieve pressure and maintain its shape while remaining comfortable to sleep on. “This would be perfect for hot sleepers or anyone with chronic pain, as this pillow provides ample support without compromising plushness or softness,” says one tester.

Since the pillow is made with shredded memory foam filling, you can add or remove foam from the inner pillow to adjust it to your preferred loft and firmness—it even comes with a bag of additional filling if you prefer an extra-firm pillow. The manufacturer recommends side sleepers first try the pillow as-is, and then add or remove filling as needed.

In our testing, the perforated bamboo cover remained cool to the touch and only rose 4 degrees Fahrenheit after we laid on it for 15 minutes. And unlike most memory foam pillows, this breathable option is entirely machine washable.

For side sleepers in particular, this cooling memory foam pillow provides significant support to keep your head and neck in alignment and checks off all the extra boxes—including breathability, easy cleaning, and adjustability.

Product Details: 

  • Firmness: Adjustable
  • Fill: Shredded memory foam
  • Cover: Bamboo
  • Return Policy: 30 days
  • Machine Washable: Yes
Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: REAL SIMPLE / RACHEL MAREK

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: AMAZON.COM

Best Budget Pillow for Side Sleepers: Linenspa Shredded Memory Foam Pillows

VIEW AT AMAZON (FROM $23 FOR STANDARD 2-PACK)

Also available at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Who it’s for: People who want an inexpensive set of pillows that can be flattened or fluffed as needed.

Who it isn’t for: People who want to adjust the amount of fill in their pillow or people who want a machine-washable option.

For less than half the price of the Snuggle-Pedic pillow above, Linenspa’s budget-friendly set comes with two pillows, so you can fully outfit any bedroom in your home. These pillows are also made from shredded memory foam, so you and your guests will be able to easily fluff or flatten the pillows to your desired loft and firmness. However, you can’t add or remove the fill from this pillow.

Our testers were impressed with how well these inexpensive pillows form to your head while still providing the support necessary for side sleepers. Plus, it only rose 6 degrees Fahrenheit after 15 minutes of testing, thanks to the breathable shredded foam.

Unfortunately, both the inner pillow and the cover are not machine washable, so you’ll need to protect it with a pillowcase or pillow protector. The good news is that we found the pillows to fit snug in a standard pillowcase, and the foam did not give off any odor. For side sleepers or combination sleepers, these easy-to-adjust pillows make a great value set.

Product Details: 

  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Fill: Shredded memory foam
  • Cover: Polyester
  • Return Policy: 30 days
  • Machine Washable: No
Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: REAL SIMPLE / RACHEL MAREK

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: SAATVA.COM

Best Splurge Pillow for Side Sleepers: Saatva Latex Pillow

VIEW AT SAATVA (FROM $165 FOR QUEEN)

Who it’s for: People who want a pillow with a high loft for side sleeping.

Who it isn’t for: Combination sleepers who would prefer a pillow with less height.

Testers were immediately impressed by the weight and loft of Saatva’s Latex Pillow. A plush, down-like microfiber layer provides breathable comfort, while the shredded latex core provides neck support and relieves pressure. Finally, the 100-percent organic cotton cover offers ample airflow.

When we first opened the package, there was no noticeable odor. After laying on the pillow for 15 minutes, it rose about 8 degrees Fahrenheit. It doesn’t claim to be a cooling pillow per se, but our testers found it to feel cool and comfortable during use, thanks to breathable materials like a cotton cover, microfiber outer layer, and shredded latex core.

The cover is machine washable, but it did shrink some after drying, which made it a bit difficult to put the pillow back into it (especially considering how plump the pillow is). We’d recommend washing it according to the care label and laying it flat to dry instead of tumble drying.

Overall, this lofty latex pillow is a great choice for side sleepers because it’s buoyant and not prone to sinking, so it will keep your head and neck in alignment throughout the night. If the price is a deterrent, there is a 45-day trial so you can determine whether it’s worth the splurge for you or not. It’s also worth noting that the Saatva pillow doesn’t come in a standard size, only queen and king.

Product Details: 

  • Firmness: Medium
  • Fill: Shredded natural latex
  • Cover: Organic cotton
  • Return Policy: 45 days
  • Machine Washable: Cover only 

RELATED: The 4 Best Mattress Toppers, According to Our Tests

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: REAL SIMPLE / RACHEL MAREK

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: NESTBEDDING.COM

Best Pillow for Side and Back Sleepers: Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow

VIEW AT NEST BEDDING (FROM $107 FOR STANDARD)

Who it’s for: People who switch between back and side sleeping who want an adjustable pillow with plenty of resistance.

Who it isn’t for: People who sleep hot or stomach sleepers.

The Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow is a great choice for people who sleep in different positions throughout the night. One tester who is a self-described back-and-side sleeper says this pillow offered plenty of neck support and maintained the right amount of resistance, meaning it didn’t sink with use.

Nest claims that this pillow has a cooling cover, but we found that although it was initially cool-to-the-touch, it didn’t maintain its coolness over time—the temperature of the pillow rose 15 degrees over 15 minutes as testers used it. The material is breathable, but not enough to maintain a cool temperature throughout the night.

This pillow comes overstuffed with a shredded memory foam filling, which is CertiPUR-US certified (so it meets strict criteria for content, emissions, and durability). The manufacturer suggests trying it as-is for side sleepers, removing 1/4 of the fill for back sleepers, or removing 1/3 of the fill for stomach sleepers. If you switch between your back and side throughout the night, this pillow allows you to customize your firmness and loft to what’s most comfortable for you. Plus, both the inner pillow and the cover are machine washable—a rare find for a memory foam pillow.

One thing to note: The Easy Breather pillow comes in a dedicated “side sleeper” size that has a contoured design, but we tested the regularly shaped version (which is available in standard, queen, and king options).

Product Details: 

  • Firmness: Adjustable
  • Fill: Shredded memory foam
  • Cover: Icecore/polyester/spandex
  • Return Policy: 30 days
  • Machine Washable: Yes
Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: REAL SIMPLE / RACHEL MAREK

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: AMAZON.COM

Best Pillow for Side and Stomach Sleepers: Amazon Basics Down-Alternative Pillows

VIEW AT AMAZON (FROM $25 FOR STANDARD 2-PACK)

Who it’s for: People who want a soft yet supportive pillow that makes it easy to switch sleeping positions. 

Who it isn’t for: People with aches and pains who require extra-firm support.

Finding a pillow that can support both stomach and side sleeping can be a bit of a challenge. “Stomach sleepers tend to like a very thin pillow, which can be used under the head, chest, or stomach,” says Dautovich. Side sleepers, on the other hand, need something that can support their head and keep it from tilting at an angle.

A down or down-alternative option, like this affordable set from Amazon Basics, makes a great compromise because you can fluff it to reach the height needed for side sleeping and flatten it when you switch over to your stomach. Our testers found these down-alternative pillows to be surprisingly lofty while retaining that soft, cloud-like feel that’s signature to down: “​​I was able to maintain a neutral spine alignment and my neck felt supported as well,” one tester says. “It was very easy to switch from side to side while using this pillow.”

These down-alternative pillows are available in both soft and medium firmness levels, so you can choose which option better suits your needs. Plus, they have microfiber covers that remain cool and breathable, and the pillows are entirely machine washable.

Product Details: 

  • Firmness: Soft or medium
  • Fill: Down-alternative
  • Cover: Polyester microfiber
  • Return Policy: 30 days
  • Machine Washable: Yes

RELATED: This $13 Pillow Is So Comfortable, I Sleep on It More Than My $150 One

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: REAL SIMPLE / RACHEL MAREK

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: BOLLANDBRANCH.COM

Best Down Pillow for Side Sleepers: Boll & Branch Down Pillow

VIEW AT BOLL AND BRANCH (FROM $158 FOR STANDARD)

Who it’s for: People who want a real down pillow that offers more support than a standard pillow.

Who it isn’t for: People who don’t want to spend a lot on a pillow.

Made from responsibly-sourced, real U.S. down and a 100-percent organic cotton cover, this Boll & Branch pillow is the finest in materials and construction. It’s available in three different firmness levels—soft, medium, and firm—so you can choose the one that best fits your sleep style. We tested the medium-firm version of this traditional down pillow, and we were impressed with how supportive it was: “I have stayed away from down pillows in the past due to the lack of support, but this one offers a really good amount of support and I could use this as a side sleeper,” says one tester.

Our testers were also surprised to find that this natural down pillow stayed pretty cool: The temperature rose less than 4 degrees Fahrenheit after 15 minutes of use. We like that it’s relatively easy to clean, too. The brand suggests washing the pillow as needed in cold water on a gentle cycle and tumble-drying on low heat.

If you’re ready to invest in a real down pillow, we think this luxury, hotel-quality pillow will give you years of use and provide the right balance of support and comfort for side and combination sleepers. Plus, there’s a 30-day trial period so you have time to make your decision—which is helpful given the steep price.

Product Details: 

  • Firmness: Soft, medium, or firm
  • Fill: Down
  • Cover: Organic cotton
  • Return Policy: 30 days
  • Machine Washable: Yes
Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: REAL SIMPLE / RACHEL MAREK

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: AMAZON.COM

Best Memory Foam Pillow for Side Sleepers: Coop Home Goods The Original Pillow

VIEW AT AMAZON (FROM $72 FOR QUEEN)

Also available at Coop Home Goods and Target.

Who it’s for: People who want an adjustable pillow with a generous trial period.

Who it isn’t for: People who sleep hot and want something that stays cool.

The Original Pillow from Coop Home Goods comes stuffed with a blend of medium-firm shredded memory foam and microfiber, which can be removed or adjusted to suit your preferences. It also comes with an extra half-pound bag of fill if you need more neck support and height. During testing, we found the fill was easy to remove and adjust, and we appreciated that there was no chemical odor or off-gassing.

“I’m a combo (back and side) sleeper and the medium firmness was great for me—I’d want it softer as a stomach sleeper,” says one tester. “[It’s] very easy to switch from back to side.”

Even though it’s not designed to be a cooling pillow, this pick does claim to be constructed from breathable materials, including a polyester and bamboo-derived rayon cover. But in our tests, this pillow warmed up a lot—about 14 degrees Fahrenheit over 15 minutes. (Our testers didn’t feel the need to flip it over, though.) Both the inner pillow and the outer cover are machine washable, and it comes with an impressive 100-day trial so you can thoroughly put it to the test before you commit.

Product Details: 

  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Fill: Shredded memory foam and microfiber
  • Cover: Polyester/bamboo-derived rayon
  • Return Policy: 100 days
  • Machine Washable: Yes
Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: REAL SIMPLE / RACHEL MAREK

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: AMAZON.COM

Best Cooling Pillow for Side Sleepers: Casper Foam Pillow With Snow Technology

VIEW AT AMAZON (FROM $139 FOR STANDARD)

Also available at Casper and Target.

Who it’s for: People who want a cooling pillow that maintains its shape.

Who it isn’t for: People who want a pillow that can be adjusted to their desired loft or firmness.

Made from solid-core memory foam, this sturdy pillow from Casper will maintain its shape throughout the night and provide the height and firmness necessary to support a side sleeper’s neck. But this pillow really stands out for its cooling abilities. We tested the version that comes with “Snow Technology,” a type of temperature-regulating technology that absorbs heat away from your head and neck as you sleep. Plus, it’s constructed with three layers of breathable memory foam designed to promote air circulation. In our testing, it did prove itself able to pull away heat, rising just 8 degrees Fahrenheit in 15 minutes and keeping our tester cool and comfortable.

Although the memory foam inner pillow is not machine-washable, the polyester-spandex cover is, and it remained just as soft post-wash as it was right out of the package. This pillow isn’t adjustable like many shredded memory foam pillows, but it will still provide the loft and firmness necessary for side sleepers—no fluffing or reshaping necessary.

Product Details: 

  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Fill: Solid memory foam 
  • Cover: Polyester/spandex
  • Return Policy: 30 days
  • Machine Washable: Cover only 

RELATED: The 9 Best Cooling Pillowcases for Sweat-Free Nights

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: REAL SIMPLE / RACHEL MAREK

Final Verdict

Our top pick is the Snuggle-Pedic Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow because the adjustable shredded memory foam allows you to choose the level of support that feels best for you. Plus, it’s entirely machine-washable and remains cool-to-the-touch. 

If you want something more affordable, we like the Linenspa Shredded Memory Foam Pillow, which can be fluffed and reshaped as needed. It’s our budget-friendly recommendation because it comes with two pillows for less than half the price of our best overall pick. 

Our Testing Process

We tested 31 pillows in our Lab over two days. We know every sleeper is different, which is why we enlisted testers of varying sizes, preferences, and sleeping positions (including side sleepers). 

First, we evaluated the quality based on the materials and construction of both the pillow and cover. We also took note of whether there were any noticeable odors coming from the pillow. Next, we placed each pillow inside a standard pillowcase to see how well it fit and whether the pillow’s cover was visible through the pillowcase. For pillows with adjustable filling, we tested how easy it was to add or remove the fill material. 

To test the temperature and breathability of each pillow, testers used an infrared thermometer to measure the surface temperature both before and after laying on it for 15 minutes. For cooling pillows, we tested whether each pillow offered a cool-to-the-touch sensation. 

The real test of each pillow was its effectiveness at matching its proposed firmness and support. For pillows designated for all sleeping positions or those with no specified sleeping style, we used the pillow for five minutes in each major sleeping position—back, side, and stomach—and recorded how comfortable it was to sleep in each. For pillows for side sleepers, we tested had testers sleep on their side on the pillow (including testers who are natural side sleepers and testers who are not), noting whether it was comfortable and helped to fill the gap between a side sleeper’s neck and mattress, keeping their neck and spine in alignment. 

After those tests, we measured the dimensions of each pillow before and after washing it according to the manufacturer’s instructions to assess its durability, in addition to any change in consistency or firmness. 

Finally, testers received the price of each pillow and were asked to score its overall value based on the cost relative to its performance in our testing.

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: REAL SIMPLE / RACHEL MAREK

How to Shop for Pillows for Side Sleepers Like a Pro

Loft 

The first thing to consider when shopping for a side-sleeper pillow is the loft (or height) of the pillow. Side sleepers will need a pillow with a high loft that can provide enough support to keep the head and neck in alignment with the spine. But it shouldn’t be so high that it props your neck upwards, and thus, out of alignment with your spine. 

“Side sleepers often use a thicker pillow,” says Dautovich. “If you sleep on your side most of the night, you want a pillow that supports your head enough to keep it in alignment so it’s not tipping down towards the mattress.” 

Firmness

Loft and firmness are two sides of the same coin. A lofty pillow that’s too soft will flatten under the weight of your head. That’s why it’s best to look for a medium-firm or firm pillow that will maintain its shape and height even under pressure. 

RELATED: The 10 Best Pillows for Every Type of Sleeper, According to Our Tests

Fill

Your choice of fill material usually comes down to personal preference, although some fill materials are better suited to slide sleepers than others. Here’s a quick overview of the most common pillow fill materials: 

Solid Memory Foam: Solid memory foam is one of the best fill materials for side sleepers because it provides substantial support and structure. A memory foam pillow will maintain its shape well, so your neck and spine will remain in alignment even under the weight of your head. However, solid memory foam is typically dense and not breathable, although you can find some memory foam pillows that offer cooling and temperature-regulating technology (usually at a higher cost). 

Shredded Memory Foam: A shredded memory foam fill is exactly what it sounds like—loose chunks of memory foam. Oftentimes, you can remove, refill, or reposition the memory foam in these pillows to adjust it to your desired loft and firmness. Shredded memory foam pillows tend to be more breathable than solid memory foam. They also offer more customization, which is particularly useful for combination sleepers who want to be able to adjust their pillow to their unique sleeping style. 

Latex: Latex can be either natural or synthetic, and solid or shredded. It’s similar in feel to memory foam, but it tends to be bouncier and more breathable. Latex is also less prone to sinking, which makes it a very supportive material in pillows for side sleepers. 

Down and Down-Alternatives: Down and down-alternative pillows offer the least amount of support for side sleepers because they compress down under the weight of your head. However, some people may prefer the cushiony, cloud-like feel of down, so it’s mostly a matter of personal preference. For those who do prefer the feel of a down pillow, choose one that is more firm and lofty to support your head and neck.

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: REAL SIMPLE / RACHEL MAREK

Breathability

For hot sleepers, breathability is one of the most important factors. Down and down-alternative pillows tend to be the most breathable, while shredded memory foam typically feels cooler than solid. The cover material is important, too—look for a light and breathable material such as cotton or bamboo.

Fortunately, even solid memory foam pillows can stay cool thanks to temperature-regulating technology that pulls heat away from the body or gel layers that give a crisp, cooling sensation. Keep an eye out for these features if you want to maintain that “cool side of the pillow” feeling all night long. 

Return Policy

Even if you’ve taken all of the above factors into consideration, sometimes a pillow is just not comfortable to sleep on. This is exactly why a good return policy is so important. Many companies offer a risk-free sleep trial, ranging from 30 days up to one year, so you have ample time to determine whether the pillow is right for you. 

RELATED: ​​The Best Places to Buy High-Quality Bedding Online

More Pillows for Side Sleepers to Consider

Rest Haven Shredded Memory Foam Pillows: We were impressed with how cool these pillows remained during testing, especially considering you get two for such a low price. They make a great budget alternative to more expensive shredded memory foam pillows, but they were a bit too small to fill out our standard pillowcases. 

Avocado Green Pillow: Made from 100 percent organic materials, this shredded latex pillow is both firm and soft at the same time. The zipper was a bit finicky, but this was the only pillow we tested that didn’t rise in temperature at all after 15 minutes of use. 

Tuft & Needle Original Foam Pillow: This responsive, solid memory foam pillow is comparable to our best cooling pick in terms of structure and support. It features cooling gel beads to trap and pull away heat, but it’s worth mentioning that our tester didn’t notice a significant difference in temperature while laying on it.

Side Sleeper Pillows

CREDIT: REAL SIMPLE / RACHEL MAREK

Questions You Might Ask

How should you position your pillow as a side sleeper? 

How you position yourself and your pillow is just as important as which one you buy. If you sleep on your side, it’s best to keep a firm pillow under your head with your ears in line with your shoulders. Avoid tilting your chin down towards your neck. You can also sleep with a pillow between your knees to create better alignment in your spine. 

Does your mattress make a difference in your pillow choice as a side sleeper?

The short answer is yes. “In order to maintain your head and neck in neutral alignment, you will want to consider your mattress type when selecting your pillow,” says Dautovich. “If you have a softer mattress, you’re more likely to sink compared to a firmer mattress.” Be sure to choose a pillow that will fill the gap between your head and the mattress. If you have a softer mattress, this may mean choosing a thicker pillow. 

RELATED: The 9 Best Beds for a Perfect Night’s Sleep

How often should you replace your pillow?

“Many doctors recommend replacing pillows every two years,” Dautovich says. Odors, stains, lumps, and flattening are all signs that it might be time to replace your pillow. Increased neck pain or allergy symptoms can also be signs that your pillow is no longer serving you. When cleaning, be sure to refer to the care label on your pillow to ensure it lasts as long as possible. 

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Melanie Fincher, associate commerce editor for Real Simple with nearly three years of experience writing product reviews and lifestyle content. To determine the best pillows for side sleepers, we tested 31 pillows in our Lab and evaluated them based on their quality, breathability, effectiveness, durability, and value. We also spoke to Natalie D. Dautovich, Ph.D., who serves as the environmental fellow at the National Sleep Foundation, for expert tips on how to choose the right pillow for side sleepers. 

What Is Real Simple Selects?

Next to each product on this list, you may have noticed a Real Simple Selects seal of approval. Any product appearing alongside that seal has been vetted by our team—put through tests and graded on its performance to earn a spot on our list. Although we buy most of the products we test, sometimes we do get samples from companies if purchasing a product ourselves isn’t an option. If that’s the case, we test the product just like we test anything we buy, but we also disclose that we received it for free to be as transparent with you as possible.

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