One question we see often is, “What is the best mattress for side sleepers?” Whether positioned in The Sprinter, The Log, or The Fetal, side sleepers need a lot from their beds. It must contour to the parts of their body that stick out, namely the hips and shoulders, while keeping the spinal column and neck aligned and supported.
Although side sleepers prove less likely to snore or experience airflow issues than back sleepers, they may face issues with pelvic rotation and spinal misalignment while they sleep.
In this article, we outline sleeping problems unique to side sleepers, and offer mattress recommendations. Learn about minimizing pressure points, avoiding misalignment and other issues that may prevent side sleepers from getting deep and relaxing sleep.
Overview: The Best Mattress for Side Sleepers
Below, we outline the key features of mid-priced soft and medium-soft mattresses that offer the best comfort and support for side sleepers. These beds have a design that helps decrease pressure points, promote conformity, and help support the spine with proper alignment.
|Firmness||Layers||Price (Queen)||Return policy (days) / Warranty (years)||Consumer Rating|
|Amerisleep AS3 (formerly Liberty)||Medium-Soft||3” Comfort|
|$1,299||100 / 20||4.6|
|Sealy Optimum Elite Courage Plush||Soft||5” Comfort|
|$1,774||Varies / 10||4.6|
|Serta Recognition Plush||Medium-Soft||4.5” Comfort|
|$1,599||120 / 10||Not yet rated|
|Sleep Science Ara||Soft||3” Comfort|
|$1,099||90 / 20||4.2|
|Tempur-Cloud Prima||Medium-Soft||10” Total||$1,699||90 / 10||4.5|
What Matters Most for Side Sleepers
The three most important factors for mattress selection among side sleepers are firmness, support, and pelvic rotation. As a result, the best mattress for side sleepers is one that takes all of these factors into consideration.
In terms of mattress firmness, side sleepers tend to fare better with soft to medium mattresses. Softer material better contours to the curves of the body.
When you sleep on your side, your shoulders and hips tend to stick out more than the rest of your body. If the mattress is too firm, these parts will create uncomfortable pressure points and misalign the spine.
Softer mattresses allow your hips and shoulders to sink into the mattress. This helps to relieve pressure points and promote better spinal alignment. More important than softness–the bed must contour to curves without losing support.
With side sleepers, a good supportive layer must back up the softer comfort layer. This keeps curves of the spine and neck naturally aligned.
During the night, a relaxed, aligned spine releases pressure built from the daily stresses of gravity and poor posture. If the spine twists and muscles remain tense during the night, the body isn’t renewing itself for the following day.
Having a supportive mattress is not the same thing as having a mattress of hard firmness. Well-built softer mattresses provide both conformity and support.
Pelvic rotation refers to a turning of the hips, which misaligns the back muscles and lumbar spine.
For example, when a side sleeper twists one knee down or curls their legs up to their upper body, pelvic rotation may occur. The top or bottom half of the body turns to closer resemble a stomach sleeping position, preventing the spine from laying straight.
This also occurs when mattress doesn’t contour to and accommodate hips and shoulders to minimize pressure points. On a too firm or too shallow bed, your sleeping body may compensate by twisting the pelvis thus misaligning the spine.
Many side sleepers switch between positions during the night. Going back to the common side sleeping positions mentioned in the first paragraph: the Log side sleeper rests with both legs fully extended; The Sprinter keeps one leg straight and the other one bent; and The Fetal sleeper bends both legs at the knee, pulling them in. Which ever position you choose, the best mattress for side sleeping will keep your spine straight.
Best Mattress for Side Sleepers
The best mattress for side sleepers allows the parts of the body that stick out to comfortably sink in. This then allows the neck and spine to be supported on top of the mattress in alignment.
Soft to medium memory foam mattresses do an exceptional job of contouring to the curves and protruding parts of the side sleeping body. Those with good density simultaneously provide support to those parts that need support.
A mattress that contours to the natural curves created by your body when you lay on your side prevents or at least limits pelvic rotation caused by pressure points.
The exact firmness of the mattress depends on your personal preference, size, weight and body type. Ideally, look for a mattress somewhere in the range of 3-6 out of 10 on the firmness scale, with the higher numbers being firmer. This will achieve a good balance between support and conformity. More petite people may prefer softer, while heavier people likely need thicker and slightly firmer beds for long-term comfort.
Good quality memory foam mattresses bring other benefits including motion isolation, breathability of materials, improvements to cooling, and reduction in pressure points. Scientific advances with plant-based materials also allow for healthier, safer, eco-friendly options for memory foam mattresses.
Other Tips for Alleviating Back Pain for Side Sleepers
Due to prolonged pelvic twist, a side sleeper’s spine may already be misaligned. Sleeping on too firm of a mattress that does not sufficiently absorb pressure points facilitates or worsens lower back and neck pain.
Along with switching to a mattress that compliments the side sleeping styles, there are a few other preventative measures that help ease pain and misalignment.
One of the biggest ways to avoid pain? Training yourself to sleep more aligned:
- When first getting comfortable in bed, ensure that your hips and pelvis remain straight.
- Your spine and neck ideally should remain in a straight line, parallel to the floor.
- If needed, make adjustments before falling asleep or if you wake in the night.
- Try keeping a pillow in front of you to avoid leaning your torso forward.
- Use a small pillow between your knees, which helps minimize pelvic twisting. The Mayo Clinic recommends side sleepers do this to prevent back pain.
The pillow you use for your head also proves important. Look for one that supports varying pressures of your head and neck. Overly stiff or tall pillows keep your head too high relative your spine, creating a new form of pressure. If it is too short, it won’t sufficiently cradle your head and neck. Keeping your neck straight with your spine is the goal.
Side sleepers find plenty of good options available in the mid-price mattress range. The key is just knowing what to look for.
The Amerisleep AS3 and Sleep Science Ara prove the most affordable options of the above mattresses, although Amerisleep holds a higher customer satisfaction rating. The Sealy and Tempur-cloud models also rate fairly well among consumers, albeit at a higher price point.
Side sleepers should ensure that the mattress they choose possesses a thicker, softer comfort layer to conform and relieve pressure points. But, the bed must also provide adequate support so that the spine remains straight and parallel. According to reviews, people tend to state that quality memory foam makes the best mattress for side sleepers looking to score a great night’s sleep.