Side sleepers need a pillow that keeps their head and neck in alignment at night. A pillow that's too high will hyperextend their head, while a thin option won't give enough support. There are many types of bed pillows, and the best ones come in memory foam, down, or polyester fill, but a medium firmness is ideal.
"The height and thickness of the pillow is critical," explains Robert Hayden, DC, chiropractor and spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association. "If it is too tall or too short, it will create angles in the neck that may cause long-term harm, such as chronic strains or bone spurs." Dr. Hayden adds that the pillow should be firm enough that the head does not burrow into it, creating those angles while you sleep.
After months of testing, discover our picks for the best pillows for side sleepers.
Coop Sleep Goods The Original Pillow
CertiPUR-US and GREENGUARD Gold-certified
The Coop Home Goods adjustable memory foam pillow was a winner in our testing, because it could be customized to any individual needs with the easily removable stuffing that can be added or taken out. The thick cover also provided added support while we slept on the pillow.
The fill is unique with its blend of memory foam and microfiber, which is both breathable and hypoallergenic. The foam has a fluffy feel—similar to a down-filled pillow—and those who prefer a denser cushion will find it holds its loft well. For added peace of mind, the foam is also CertiPUR-US and GREENGUARD Gold-certified, meaning it's met rigorous safety testing standards. The pillow is described as being medium-firm, though its texture can be called cloud-like.
The real perk of this pillow for side sleepers is it ships with an additional half-pound of filling that you can add to the pillow for extra loft. Side sleepers will especially appreciate this feature, since sleeping on your side can create the need for support between your shoulder and neck. The stretchy liner makes it easy to squish, scrunch, and mold the pillow into the position that's just right for you. What's more, the breathable outer cover is made from bamboo-derived viscose rayon for a soft touch and cooling feel.
It’s hard to beat the assurances that come with this adjustable pillow for side sleepers. In addition to customizing the fill, the company offers a 100-night sleep trial in case you don't love it right away. It's also machine washable for years of sweet dreams.
Price at time of publish: $78
Sizes: Queen, king | Fill Material: Gel-infused shredded memory foam, microfiber | Shell Material: Viscose rayon and polyester | Care: Machine-wash cold, tumble-dry low
Runner-Up, Best Overall
Purple Harmony Pillow
Maintains its shape
Three pillow heights
Breathable outer layer
Using the same technology seen in their innovative mattresses, Purple's Harmony Pillow is a supportive and cooling option that's perfect for side sleepers. Depending on your needs, you can choose from three different heights—Low, Medium, and Tall—and the website provides detailed instructions for picking the perfect height for you and your needs.
The Harmony Pillow incorporates a gel-infused layer with a moisture-wicking breathable mesh cover to keep you cool as you sleep. We love how this pillow regulated our temperature throughout the night, helping to avoid overheating. It held its shape throughout use, never falling flat or losing its shape. The inner material felt a bit like jello, but a highly comfortable kind of memory foam jello! The moisture-wicking cover is removable and can be tossed in the laundry, and we noticed no changes in its quality or shape after multiple washes in our testing.
Price at time of publish: $179
Sizes: Queen, king | Fill Material: Ventilated Talalay Latex with Polyester Knit Cover | Shell Material: 92% Nylon Fiber, 8% Spandex Fiber | Care: Machine-wash cover on cold, air dry
Best Down Alternative
Parachute Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow
Gusset keeps the fill in place
Not as long lasting as other picks
Gussets are a great option to look for when purchasing a pillow for a side sleeper; they're more than just a decorative detail. Gussets keep the filling in place, which prevents you from having to re-fluff throughout the night. The 3.5-inch gusset on Parachute's Down Alternative Side Sleeper microfiber-filled pillow is just the right height to give your shoulders and neck support without putting too much strain on spinal alignment.
In general, a medium-firm pillow, like this option, is the best for side sleepers because it's not too soft or too firm for your body. If you suffer from allergies, you'll enjoy the hypoallergenic down-alternative fill that gives you the down-like feel without the sneezes. But for those who do prefer down pillows, you can get the same side sleeper pillow with that fill. Our testers have always enjoyed Parachute's premium pillow shell, and this 100 percent cotton sateen shell adds a nice luxurious touch while also looking good after many nights of rest.
Price at time of publish: $109
Sizes: Standard, king | Fill Material: 100 percent hypoallergenic microfiber fill | Shell Material: 100 percent cotton sateen | Care: Machine washable
Best for Combo Sleepers
Casper Original Pillow
Supportive and lofted
Fill remains distributed evenly
Only one firmness option
If you frequently shift between your side and stomach while you snooze, the Casper Original Pillow features a unique pillow-in-pillow design that supports all sleep positions. It has a supportive inner pillow and soft, fluffy outer pillow to keep you comfy and align your neck, which our tester loved. Plus, there's a breathable 100 percent cotton cover with a percale weave that feels crisp and cool. What's more, the pillow has a 2-inch gusset along the sides to support the neck and keep the microfiber fill evenly distributed.
In our testing, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that this Casper pillow delivered a lot more loft and support than we anticipated. The inner core prevented our heads from sinking onto the mattress, while the outer layer of fluff really amped up the comfort factor.
Aside from accommodating multiple sleeping positions, that pillow-in-pillow design makes it easy to remove and machine-wash the outer layer. We found the pillow to be soft, but not so soft that it won't support your head throughout the night.
Price at time of publish: $65
Sizes: Standard, king | Fill Material: Polyester microfibre fill | Shell Material: 100 percent cotton | Care: Machine washable
puredown Natural Goose Feather Pillow
Feathers don't poke out
Cover can be stiff at first
Down pillows are a popular option with side sleepers since they offer soft support that easily conforms to a variety of sleeping positions. Puredown's Natural Goose Feather Pillow is actually a set of two goose down pillows, each with a gusseted design that offers medium support for your neck and shoulders, keeping you perfectly comfortable whether you’re a true side sleeper or also sleep on your back and stomach.
One advantage of these puredown pillows: They don’t lose a considerable amount of feathers compared to other down pillows on the market because the weave of the 100 percent cotton pillow cover helps keep the feathers inside. Not only does this keep the pillow full for longer, but it also means fewer feathers poking you when you lay your head down at night. These down pillows may look very flat upon unpacking, but follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to give these pillows 24 hours to fluff up to their full loft. Feather pillows can also be cleaned in the washing machine.
Price at time of publish: $57
Sizes: Standard, queen, king | Fill Material: 95% goose feathers and 5% goose down | Shell Material: 100 percent cotton | Care: Machine wash cold on gentle, tumble dry low
Best Memory Foam
Marlow The Pillow
Easy to fluff up
Difficult to clean
Keep cool and sleep better with this memory foam pillow for side sleepers. Designed to be both breathable and supportive, Marlow's The Pillow is a good choice if you sleep hot. Side sleepers will find that it strikes a perfect balance that supports the head and neck without pressure points—particularly on the ear.
One of our favorite parts about this pillow is that it's adjustable, with two zippers to customize the height and loft. After a bit of trial and error, we found the perfect stiffness during our testing, which helped to eliminate overnight neck pain. Even hot sleepers will find this pillow to be comfortable enough to sleep on, which isn’t always the case with memory foam pillows.
Price at time of publish: $65
Sizes: Queen, king | Fill Material: 80% polyurethane foam (memory foam) and 20% polyester fiber | Shell Material: 100 percent cotton sateen | Care: Spot clean
Best Body Pillow
Snuggle-Pedic Full Body Pillow
Reduces pressure on hips and lower back
Easy to fluff and refresh
Appears lumpy at first
The Snuggle-Pedic Body Pillow is constructed with shredded memory foam and offers a solid pillow with plenty of give that can support your legs, back, or arms. Some side sleepers might like to rest their head on top of the body pillow and use the rest to support their neck, torso, and knees for proper spinal alignment.
"Putting a pillow between your legs [when sleeping on your side] helps the hips and lower back to relax. That way it reduces pain," says Samantha March-Howard, D.C. "On your back, having a pillow beneath the knees can also relax the lower back muscles and reduce pain."
Since everyone has different views on how firm a pillow should be, Snuggle-Pedic offers fill customization for this body pillow. The company will actually adjust the proprietary mix of shredded foam inside to make changes to the support, firmness, thickness, or weight of the pillow–you just have to reach out to the manufacturer directly.
You may find the that pillow is lumpy when it's initially unpacked, but following the manufacturer’s instructions to fluff and refresh the pillow in a dryer seems to help. And while Snuggle-Pedic has stellar customer service and pillow customization, one con is that the pillow is sewn shut on the end, and you can’t make simple adjustments to the fill yourself.
Price at time of publish: $112
Sizes: One size | Fill Material: Shredded memory foam | Shell Material: Not Listed | Care: Machine wash cold on gentle, tumble dry low
When it comes to the best pillow for side sleepers, we recommend the Coop Home Goods Adjustable Pillow. It’s filled with a combination of memory foam and microfiber, so it’s both breathable and hypoallergenic. However, if neck pain keeps you up at night, Parachute’s Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow is an excellent choice. The unique construction helps keep your body in proper alignment throughout the night for a more comfortable night’s sleep.
How We Tested
To compile this list, we first researched highly rated pillows on the market. Then, we put our top picks to the test at The Lab in Des Moines, Iowa, evaluating each option's quality, construction, and durability. Our long-term side sleeper testers then took each of our picks home to sleep on and test for weeks. They noted whether their sleep was enhanced or hurt during that time, earning them high or low marks. With our writers' research and our testers' notes, we published our final results.
What to Look for in Pillows for Side Sleepers
Pillows come in a whole range of materials, and each has its pros and cons. Think about what is most important to you, and look for a material that supports that. For instance, memory foam pillows, like our top choice from Coop Home Goods, are firm and maintain their shape well. However, they can trap heat at night. If you're hoping to sleep cooler, you'll want to look for one specifically made to regulate temperature, like Marlow's. In our testing, we loved that these types of pillows didn't overheat throughout the night.
Down pillows and polyester-stuffed pillows are fluffy and pliable, but they may not offer enough support for those who like a firm place to lay their head. For a hypoallergenic option, look for a down alternative, like our side sleeper pick from Parachute.
Look for a pillow shape that will properly support your neck and accommodate your shoulders properly when you sleep on your side. The best pillows for side sleepers are a bit boxy, rather than round, in order to keep your neck and spine aligned as you sleep.
In the case of pillows, softer isn't always better. While your preferred firmness is a personal decision, side sleepers will need a medium-firm pillow to keep their neck properly aligned while resting. If you like a super-soft surface to lay your head, consider a pillow with a firmer core and a fluffier outer layer to give you the best of both worlds. Some brands even offer an adjustable firmness like the Marlow Pillow or three different pillow heights like the Purple Harmony pillow, both of which scored big points in our testing.
How do you wash pillows?
If you're wondering how to wash your pillows from time to time, just do so as you'd wash your sheets and bedding. Washing pillows isn't as tricky as it seems; many can go in the washing machine! Some, however, may not tolerate the agitation of a washing machine, like foam pillows. For those, stick with hand washing. Before you wash any pillow, read the care instructions on the label. In general, it's best to use the gentle cycle, cool water, and mild detergent.
How often should you replace pillows?
Over time, your pillow can accumulate dirt and allergens and lose its shape, which can affect your sleep comfort. According to the Sleep Foundation, it's a good idea to replace your pillows every one or two years. Of course, you can try a new pillow any time you want!
Why do pillows turn yellow?
As with any fabric, a pillow can discolor over time, due to normal wear and tear. If you sweat or wear makeup, you may notice more yellowing on your pillow. Taking care of your bedding with regular washing can increase its longevity, but you may need to replace your pillow if it's yellow beyond repair (if only for aesthetic purposes).
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Cristina Sanza, a lifestyle writer who specializes in home products and organization hacks. She reviews the latest and greatest home products for The Spruce. Her work has been featured on Bustle, Ranker, Inside The Magic, and Upright Citizens Brigade. For this list, she used insights from product testers, who slept on each pillow for weeks, evaluating the durability, softness, and comfort of each.
For additional background on pillows, we spoke to Dr. Samantha March-Howard, a doctor of chiropractic at 100% Chiropractic office in Dunwoody, Georgia, as well as Robert Hayden, DC, a chiropractor and spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association. Additional reporting was done by Ashley Abramson, a writer whose work has appeared in MyDomaine, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Allure, InStyle, and more.