Buying a new pillow can feel like a very involved and stressful process when you start digging into your options. In fact, you should get excited — this is going to be the pillow that helps you fall asleep quicker, stay asleep longer, and ease aches and pains in the neck and back. But even if you’ve just done some light skimming of the pillows out there, you’re probably overwhelmed with the incredible number of pillows available to you. Luckily, you can narrow down your choices easily.
There are a few things you should ask yourself when you start looking for that perfect pillow: What position do I like to sleep in? Do I prefer to sleep on my back or am I a stomach sleeper? Do I sleep hot and need a cooling pillow? Do I prefer a high loft or something to sink into? Then, you can start filtering through some of the brands you recognize. While the brand doesn’t mean everything, you can usually trust top-quality pillow and mattress companies to create a long-lasting product. We’ve filtered through some of our favorite brands and even some lesser-known brands to give you the top best pillows for side sleepers. You may also want to check our list of the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday mattress deals, while you’re at it, because who doesn’t love to save a buck when we can?
The best pillows for side sleepers
- Best firm pillow:
- Best cooling features: Layla Kapok Pillow
- Best hybrid pillow: Leesa Hybrid Pillow
- Best budget option:
- Best for athletes: Bear Mattress Cooling Foam Pillow
- Best pillowcase:
- Best shredded memory foam:
- Best ergonomic contouring:
- Best for neck, shoulder, or head pain:
- Best down fill: Brooklinen Down Pillow
Best firm pillow: Tuft and Needle Pillow
Sure, this is a pricey choice, but if you need an ultra-supportive pillow with a high loft and something that will let you sleep on top of it rather than “in” it, Tuft and Needle created a great pillow for you. It’s still comfortable despite being quite firm, and that means you’ll wake up feeling less sore and more refreshed, and you won’t feel like you’ve been straining your neck or shoulders with a low-loft pillow. Memory foam pillows, in general, are great choices for side sleepers who need plenty of support and loft, but it’s always good practice to try a pillow higher than you think necessary at first.
If you’re new to buying a pillow, you’ve likely been using a pillow that’s one-size-fits-all, and you’re no stranger to the middle of the night dance to fold over your pillow and get it to an appropriately high loft. Stop doing that — just buy a lofty pillow like this one. Interested in the Tuft and Needle Original Foam Pillow? Read our Tuft and Needle pillow review so you know exactly what you’re getting with this choice.
- Filling: Memory foam.
- Firmness: Medium (soft, yet supportive).
- Who’s it best for? It’s great for hot sleepers, as the heat-wicking graphite keeps you cool.
- Cost: $60.
Best cooling features: Layla Kapok Pillow
The Layla Kapok Pillow is another very lofty and supportive pillow, which makes it perfect for broad-shouldered or heavy sleepers. If you feel like you’re wearing through pillows way faster than you think they should be lasting, you’re likely a heavier sleeper who needs to look into a pillow that will support you longer and won’t flatten out after a few weeks.
This shredded memory foam pillow will do the trick. Shredded memory foam is known for sleeping cool, thanks to the increased level of airflow the shredded foam offers, and one of the best parts of many shredded memory foam pillows is the fact that you can just unzip the side and let out or add some memory foam if the pillow feels too lofty or too flat for you. What’s more? The interwoven copper fibers allow you to stay cool on both sides of your pillow throughout the night!
- Filling: Shredded memory foam comprised of Kapok fibers (from a tree found in the rainforest) and responsive memory foam.
- Firmness: Medium (adjustable).
- Who’s it best for? Side sleepers in need of a supportive pillow.
- Cost: $99.
Best hybrid pillow: Leesa Reversible Hybrid Pillow
This quilted hybrid pillow looks quite different from most pillows, but the quilting is an intentional choice to make the pillow more functional and to ease your frustrations at night. If you’re a heavy sleeper who often wakes up with all of the pillow filling on the edges of the pillow and not under your head, this pillow’s quilted design will prevent that shifting.
It’s filled with a down-like material, making it super comfy and soft. Plus, this pillow has increased cooling power, as it’s filled with a combination of gel and memory foam. Gel is a popular material in sleep products, as it doesn’t hold onto heat or moisture like other materials do.
- Filling: Polyester microfiber, plus a layer of ventilated gel.
- Firmness: Medium-firm.
- Who’s it best for? Hot sleepers or those who move around a lot while sleeping. The quilting keeps your fill centered, not bunched up on the sides.
- Cost: $109.
Best budget option: Wamsutta Extra-Firm Pillow
This heavy pillow is made for the broadest-shouldered sleepers who need the most loft and firmness. Your average pillow has curved sides, coming to points at each seam, but this pillow was made in three dimensions, so your head is kept far from the mattress all night. One of the biggest concerns for side sleepers is dropping the head too far into the mattress, which can cause problems in the spine. You may not notice any pain or discomfort now, but if you sleep on the wrong pillow for years, you’ll undoubtedly cause lasting damage to your shoulders and spine. So, try out a pillow that will support and cradle you.
This is also a great choice for sleepers on a budget, made with 100% polyester fill. That fill may not last quite as long as some other pillow materials, but what feels luxurious to one sleeper might be different for another.
- Filling: 100% polyester.
- Firmness: Extra-firm.
- Who’s it best for? Broad-shouldered sleepers who need a firm pillow.
- Cost: $24.
Best for athletes: Bear Mattress Cooling Foam Pillow
The Bear Pillow is available in queen and king sizes, and it’s ready to keep you cool with “double ice fabric” (which remains cool to the touch all night long) and mesh panels on each end for superior breathability. Hypoallergenic with a removable, washable cover (machine wash cold, tumble dry low), this pillow comes with a 100-night sleep trial to make sure you love it before you pay. This pillow is cozy and perfect for all sleep positions.
- Filling: Proprietary Loft-X hybrid foam that’s not too soft and not too firm.
- Firmness: Medium firm.
- Who’s it best for: Hot sleepers and athletes of all sleeping positions.
- Cost? $100
Best pillowcase: Coop Home Goods Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods offers a few nice options, especially for side sleepers, but the Eden pillow is particularly great. It’s soft enough that it will naturally reshape to your body, but it’s not so soft that you’ll feel like you’re not sleeping on a pillow at all. The viscoelastic polyurethane and polyester fill means it’s super-soft and filled with a shredded material that will encourage airflow and natural cooling, so you won’t feel like you’re overheating at night, even if you’re sleeping with your arms under your pillow. The pillow comes with a bamboo-derived viscose rayon and polyester case, which is super-soft to the touch and won’t irritate your skin.
- Filling: Gel-infused memory foam and microfiber blend.
- Firmness: Medium.
- Who’s it best for? Hot sleepers and side sleepers.
- Cost: $80.
Best shredded memory foam: Xtreme Comforts Kool-Flow Bamboo Memory Foam Pillow
We keep going on and on about shredded memory foam throughout our sleep content on The Angle, but it really is a great fill choice for sleepers of all kinds. Shredded memory foam is particularly great if you’re not exclusively a side sleeper, as you can remove and add shredded memory foam to the pillow at will to make it softer or firmer as you want. But shredded memory foam is also super airflow-conducive and sleeps cooler than other memory foam pillows. Side sleepers are prone to getting hot at night, but this pillow will keep your head off the mattress and keep you cool in the process. It comes with a bamboo cover, which is incredibly soft to the touch.
- Filling: Shredded memory foam.
- Firmness: Starts out as plush. Remove or add fill to make it as soft or firm as you prefer.
- Who’s it best for? Hot sleepers and side sleepers.
- Cost: $50.
Best ergonomic contouring: Tempur-Pedic Ergo-Neck Pillow
As much as we preach the word of shredded memory foam, loaf memory foam is simply better for tons of sleepers. And no matter who you are, you really can’t go wrong with a Tempur-Pedic pillow. Designed for side sleepers and back sleepers, this pillow features a curve to support your neck and shoulders, and it sleeps cool if you need a pillow to help deal with your body heat. The other interesting thing about this pillow is that it’s sloped downward vertically. If one side is feeling too low or too high on any given night, just turn the pillow 180 degrees for a more comfortable night’s sleep. Depending on your profile build, make sure to check out the small, medium, or large pillow size.
- Filling: Memory foam.
- Firmness: Firm.
- Who’s it best for? Side and back sleepers.
- Cost: $84.
Best for neck, shoulder, or head pain: Drift Pillow Scrumptious Side Sleeper
If you frequently wake up with pain in your shoulders, neck, or even with headaches, the first culprit might be your pillow. And if you’re waking up in pain, you’re definitely not getting good-quality sleep. With its curved design, the Drift Pillow Scrumptious Side Sleeper curves around your shoulder, allowing you to slip the pillow further into your neck. This pillow isn’t a great choice for stomach or back sleepers, but if you exclusively sleep on your side, try this pillow out for the 60-day trial, and you’ll likely decide to keep it longer.
- Filling: Memory foam and micro-gel fiber.
- Firmness: Medium soft.
- Who’s it best for? Anyone who wakes up with neck, shoulder, or headaches.
- Cost: $100.
Best down fill: Brooklinen Down Pillow (Firm)
The Brooklinen site explains that their Down Pillow comes with three different construction options for you to select from. The Plush Pillow is best for stomach sleepers, and it’s the softest option, brimming with the fluffiest down clusters they have. The Mid-Plush Pillow is best for the versatile sleeper, as it has two separate layers of feathers and down clusters. The Firm Pillow is most supportive, being similar to the Mid-Plush in construction, but featuring a higher ratio of feathers to clusters. This Firm Pillow is the one that’s ideal for our side sleepers. Made in Canada, the cozy Brooklinen Down Pillow has a smooth 100% cotton sateen shell and comes in two sizes: Standard and king.
- Filling: Down feathers and clusters.
- Firmness: Choice or plush, mid-plush, and firm.
- Who’s it best for? Plush is good for stomach sleepers. Mid-plush is best for the versatile sleepers. Firm is best for side sleepers.
- Cost: $69.
Are you sick of waking up in the middle of the night and staring at the ceiling wishing you were asleep? Check out our guides on our sleep hub.
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- The 10 best memory foam mattress toppers for 2020