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Everything You Need To Know About Picking a Mattress for Side Sleepers

A woman sleeping in bed on her side hugging a pillow to her chest.
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When shopping for a new mattress, many important considerations go into your decision. Your sleep position is one of the most important elements to consider.

While your ideal sleeping position might change over time, studies have found that people spend over 50% of their time asleep on their side. Sleeping on your side has many health benefits, but it can also create pressure points and aches if you don’t have the right mattress, so here’s what to know about which mattress is best for side sleepers.

A mattress that works best for side sleepers will ensure the spine remains aligned throughout the night, allowing the hips and shoulders to gently sink into the bed to avoid pressure points.

To help you with your search for the best mattress for side sleepers, we’ve checked in with a few experienced Sleep Experts® at Mattress Firm. These experts have tested each mattress and compiled their recommendations for the best mattresses for side sleepers below, as well as offer expertise about what side sleepers need to be on the lookout for when shopping for a new mattress.

How To Pick a Mattress for Side Sleepers

Shopping for a new bed can feel overwhelming at first. With so many options to choose from, it’s hard to narrow down to the most important factors, but your sleep position should always be among the top considerations. For side sleepers, this means seeking a mattress that offers pressure relief.

Los Angeles-based Sleep Expert® Gino Garcia says finding the best mattress comes down to satisfying two simple components. “When you're shopping for a mattress, no matter what sleeping position you prefer, you need comfort and support,” he explains. For side sleepers, Garcia says this typically includes hybrids and memory foam beds, but innerspring mattresses with a pillow top (a single layer made of either fiber or foam used for comfort) could work, too.

Why Knowing You’re a Side Sleeper Is Important When Mattress Shopping

As Garcia mentioned, all sleepers need a mattress that provides both comfort and support, but side sleepers face a unique challenge when it comes to sleeping well. The position puts extra pressure on the shoulders and hip area, explains Florida-based Sleep Expert® Alexis Maldonado. Therefore, pressure relief and firmness level are two of the most important considerations for side sleepers when buying a new mattress.

A mattress that is too soft could cause your hips and lower back to sink lower into the mattress than your shoulder or legs, causing an unnatural curve in your spine. On the other hand, a mattress that is too firm won't allow your hips and shoulders to sink into the bed and can cause pressure points throughout the night, which could lead to numbness or tingling in your arms or legs.

The Best Mattress Firmness for Side Sleepers

No single firmness level is a match for every side sleeper, Maldonado explains. Elements like body weight, shape, and size all affect how we experience a bed’s firmness. “Firmness is very subjective, but it is very essential for people to try out the individual preferences to determine what suits their body,” Maldonado says. “This is where a Sleep Expert® can come in to help make sure that they're making the right choice.”

The size of your frame can also affect your comfort needs. “Because of our body weight, we experience gravity differently,” Garcia says. “A firm bed could feel like a medium to somebody who weighs a third more than you. This is a common conversation because a lot of people have a sleep partner who doesn’t weigh the same amount. We have to find something soft enough for the lighter person but supportive enough for the heavier person.”

While it’s up to personal preference, Garcia and Maldonado have both found that the majority of side sleepers prefer a plush to medium level of firmness. The best way to find out which firmness suits your needs is to lie on them. “Trying them in person is great because people experience the softness level differently,” he explains. “And trying different brands is important too, honestly, because they feel different.”

The Best Type of Mattress for Side Sleepers

Like mattress firmness, the best type of bed for side sleepers depends on your preferences. However, our helpful Sleep Experts® find most prefer a completely foam bed or a hybrid mattress. An innerspring mattress with a plush pillow top could also work well. These mattress types tend to have the ideal combination of pressure relief and support for side sleepers, making for restful sleep while dealing with aches or pains.

“The main concern with a side sleeper is the comfort and pressure relief on the shoulder and hip,” Garcia mentions. “You have a lot of blood that flows through your shoulder and your hips, so getting pressure relief for those areas is harder.” When it comes to pressure relief, his favorite mattress brand for side sleepers is Tempur-Pedic, while Maldonado’s top picks are in the Beautyrest Black lineup.

Important Mattress Features for Side Sleepers

Just like shopping for shoes or jeans, one style doesn’t fit all when finding the best mattress for side sleepers. Each sleeper has unique preferences, and it’s more than just sleeping position that plays a role. “Factors such as age, height, weight, and body temperature can definitely factor into how someone might feel about a mattress,” says Maldonado.

Keep in mind, if you've had any injuries or accidents, that can also sway somebody's preference.”

The best side-sleeper mattress combines features of pressure relief and support. It’s soft enough to give shoulders and hips a comfortable surface while offering enough support to keep the spine in good alignment. “Essentially, you're looking for proper posture and something that gives you the same posture you have when you’re standing up,” Garcia says. “It's got to be firm enough to keep your posture the same way as when you're standing straight but soft enough to keep you comfortable and give you blood flow.”

In addition to the feel and support of the bed, you’ll also want to look for features that match your individual sleeping style. Hot sleepers should seek out materials that offer cooling, while the best mattress for those who sleep with a partner will offer motion isolation, for example.

Though there is no single perfect mattress for side sleepers, Garcia and Maldonado have found that a few mattresses continue to offer great comfort and support to side sleepers.

The best way to determine your comfort level preference is to test out mattresses in a store near you. But to get you started with your search for the best mattress for side sleepers, Sleep Experts® Garcia and Maldonado share a few top beds for side sleepers that they’ve tested and approved.

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-LuxeAdapt® 13" Soft Mattress

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The all-foam Tempur-Luxe Adapt has four layers of support and pressure relief that could be exactly what a side sleeper is looking for in a mattress. With a plush level of firmness, the bed excels when it comes to pressure relief, motion isolation, and durability, so you know you’re investing in comfort that will also be long-lasting. The Tempur Support Base Foam ensures support for spinal alignment while also helping reduce motion transfer for those who experience sleep disruptions due to a partner who tosses and turns.

Garcia recommends the Tempur-Pedic line for stomach sleepers as well because of the brand's specialized Tempur material that adapts to your individual body shape, weight, and temperature.

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Adapt® 11" Medium Hybrid Mattress

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Some side sleepers might prefer the responsiveness and melt-into-the-mattress feel of a hybrid mattress. The combination of coils for spinal alignment and cushioned foam layers in the Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Adapt could make for the perfect match. The hybrid Tempur Adapt features the same Tempur material Garcia favors but includes a coil support core for spinal alignment. These layers, along with superior cool-to-touch comfort, allow side sleepers to get pressure-relieving support and increased breathability for deeper sleep, so you feel rejuvenated every morning. This design is ideal for sleepers who like strong edge support.

Sleepy's Willow Plush Eurotop Mattress

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Designed by the Mattress Firm Sleep Experts®, Sleepy’s Willow Plush Eurotop bed has quality pressure relief for side sleepers. Made with layers of organic and natural wool, cotton, and latex, the Willow has a plush Eurotop for pressure relief. Support comes from the bed’s combination of latex and innerspring coils. The organic latex support layer evenly distributes your weight as well as helps to maintain joint and spinal alignment, making it ideal for side sleepers. Side sleepers seeking out a mattress made with natural materials should look into the benefits of the Sleepy’s Willow.

Side Sleepers' Dream Mattresses: Our Expert Selection

Pressure relief and spinal alignment are important considerations for side sleepers, but they aren’t the only two elements to consider when choosing the best mattress for side sleepers. Below are specialized recommendations from our Sleep Experts.

For side sleepers who also sleep hot

Garcia recommends Tempur-Pedic beds for side sleepers, and those who also tend to overheat at night could be especially happy with the Tempur-Pedic TempurLuxe Breeze. Featuring all the pressure relief benefits of Tempur-Pedic beds, the Luxe Breeze adds cooling materials to help you sleep at up to 10 degrees cooler. An added bonus for this particular mattress is that not only is the cover made with breathable materials, but it unzips and is safe to launder at home in your washing machine.

For side-sleeping couples

If you and your partner both sleep on your sides, the Purple Hybrid Premier® 4 Mattress could be great. This mattress features a 4-inch layer of Purple's patented Smart Comfort Grid on top of a base layer of individually wrapped responsive-support coils that will give the personalized comfort you need for better sleep. Plus, there’s no need to worry about waking up your partner tossing and turning; this mattress features motion separation technology. Your spine, joints, and lower back will thank you every morning after being cared for by this bed all night long.

Mattress Accessories for Side Sleepers

Pillows

Your mattress is only one part of the equation involved with getting good sleep. Side sleepers will also want to make sure their pillow offers optimal support. “Because your spine starts in your neck, it's so important to talk about the pillow,” Garcia explains.

While sleeping on your side, a higher-loft pillow is sometimes necessary to keep your head, neck, and shoulders aligned. The ideal height of the pillow can depend on the type of mattress and size of your body frame, so a pillow fitting from a Sleep Expert® is one of the best ways to determine which pillow fits you and your mattress, keeping your head from sagging or being propped too high.

Mattress Protectors

Once you’ve found the perfect mattress, you’ll want to ensure you have it for as long as possible. Maldonado explains that a mattress protector is the best way to keep your mattress pristine. The right cover will prevent any moisture, dust, or allergens from settling into the mattress. In time, those can deteriorate a mattress’ materials, so it’s important to prevent them from getting onto the mattress in the first place. Maldonado recommends Sleepy's Ultimate Allergy Bamboo Mattress Protector, which provides a barrier on the top and sides of the mattress, keeping out moisture and allergens.

Bases

Now that you have an idea of the best mattress for side sleepers, Garcia and Maldonado have some recommendations that extend beyond the mattress.

They both say sleeping on an adjustable base will change your entire sleep experience. “Even if you get the most pressure-relieving and adaptive mattress in the world, having an adjustable base is going to allow you to further relieve the body pressure,” says Maldonado. These movable bed foundations allow you to raise the head and foot areas of the bed to get customized support and relief.

The benefits of an adjustable base include reduced snoring and acid reflux, but they can also improve your breathing. Garcia explains sleeping with the head and chest elevated allows the body to breathe easier at night, which could make a world of difference.

No matter which sleep position you prefer, sleeping comfortably is key to getting restorative rest each night. You’ll want to consider more than the mattress; think about your pillows, sheets, and comforter to ensure you get the most comfortable sleep possible. Also, keep in mind your bedroom’s environment can play a role in how you sleep when it comes to issues like sound and light. Investing in a white noise machine or a sleep mask might be ideal if you experience disrupted sleep because of the environment.

Frequently Asked Questions About Side Sleepers Mattresses

Is a softer mattress better for side sleepers?

Although the decision between soft versus firm mattresses is up to an individual’s preferences, most side sleepers feel best on a softer mattress that relieves pressure on the shoulders, hips, and knees. Because of this, many gravitate to plush mattresses or mattresses made with comfort layers made of memory foam or a pillow top.

How many pillows should side sleepers sleep with?

Like choosing a firmness level, how many pillows you prefer to sleep with comes down to personal preferences. As Garcia explained, side sleepers should ensure the pillow’s loft adequately fills the gap between the shoulder and the head. Ideally, this would be one pillow, but if you’re traveling and have only low-loft pillows available, you might feel best stacking two on top of each other.

Are there any budget-friendly options among the top mattresses for side sleepers?

There sure are! According to Garcia and Maldonado, side sleepers could feel great on hybrid or all-foam beds. Both mattress types come in budget-friendly options such as the Sleepy's Basic Hybrid Mattress or Tulo Lavender 10" Medium Plush Memory Foam Mattress. If you’re looking for a good deal on the perfect side sleeper mattress, be sure to check out the clearance section online or at your local Mattress Firm store.

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