Not all sleepers aren’t the same, so why do all pillows seem to be the same? Some people are back-sleepers, a few special individuals are stomach sleepers, while others (myself included) are dedicated side-sleepers. More often than not, however, side-sleepers find that normal pillows simply don’t provide enough support, being either too soft or too flat to properly hold up one’s head and end up causing chronic neck pain.
It’s not hard to see why this can be a problem: When sleeping on your side, your head is naturally going to be higher up off of the bed than it would be if you were lying on your back. If your pillow isn’t holding your noggin up high enough, your head and neck will be lying at an awkward angle relative to your spine, which is uncomfortable at best (resulting in poor sleep and a stiff neck) and can cause lasting neck pain problems at worst.
If you’ve tried doubling up on pillows or buying larger ones to no avail, then it might just be time for the right pillow one made specifically for sleeping on your side. We’ve rounded up the best pillows for side-sleepers that comfortably give you good neck and head support, and if you’re a hot sleeper, also be sure to check out these great cooling pillows for some additional options.
This queen-sized model from Wamsutta features an extra-firm filling that offers great head and neck support when your favorite sleep position is your side. Customer reviews say that the “extra-firm” label is not mere marketing the Wamsutta pillow is densely built for serious side sleepers and doesn’t sag or let your head “sink” in, which can be a factor that leads to neck pain. The polyester filling sits inside a 300 thread-count cotton cover and the pillow comes with a generous three-year warranty from Wamsutta. It’s also the cheapest side sleeper pillow on our list at just $24 from Amazon.
If you’re looking for the ultimate neck pillow, then a contour pillow is the way to go. These memory foam pillows were made to handle neck pain by providing therapeutic support right where you need it. The ergonomic design of the contour itself adapts to your head, neck, and shoulders to provide the enhanced support and gentle alignment you’ve been missing. Spinal alignment is the most important factor of any pillow that claims to alleviate neck pain, so if neck pain is your biggest reason for wanting a better head rest on your mattress, this contour memory foam pillow is an excellent option. Normally priced at $60 on Amazon. Other comparable Tempur-Pedic options can go for as much as $129, so $36 is a great price for a cervical pillow.
With a dense down-like polyester filling, the Premier pillows from National Sleep Products give you the plushy feeling of down along with the firmness and head support needed for side-sleeping. The down-like interior is also covered by a soft 230 thread-count sateen cotton case. Although the Wamsutta pillow is the cheapest single item on our roundup, the National Sleep Products pillows are the best value overall at just $35 for a two-pack from Amazon. Though these large pillows are great for head support, neck pain, and shoulder pain, their size and shape make them an aesthetically pleasing addition to any type of bedding.
We featured the Xtreme Comforts Kool-Flow in our cooling pillows roundup, and it gets another mention here because it’s also one of the best pillows for side sleepers. Not only will the firm neck-contouring memory foam support your head, but the aptly named Kool-Flow features a ventilated bamboo-derived cover that breathes so you don’t get all sweaty if you’re a side sleeper who runs a bit hot, this is the pillow for you. Its hypoallergenic, mite-resistant design offers protection from dust mites and other allergens so you can get a good night sleep without worrying about anything going on within your pillow. Better still: These pillows are made right here in the USA. The Kool-Flow bamboo cover pillow rings in at $50 for the standard size, $55 for the queen, and $60 for the hypoallergenic king.
In contrast to most side-sleeper pillows, which typically use shredded memory foam as filling, the Brookstone BioSense features a large memory foam pad that’s designed to contour to your head and neck. Also unlike most other pillows made for side sleeping, the BioSenses’s large shoulder divot lets you get your head higher up on the pillow, which can aid with neck pain. The BioSense foam is ventilated as well, making it great for hot sleepers, and contains ingredients like charcoal and green tea extracts to neutralize bacteria and odors. You can grab the BioSense shoulder pillow for $75 from Amazon and add on a Coop Home Goods memory foam body pillow for the complete experience.
This down pillow from Parachute Home is constructed with premium European white down contained in a smooth sateen cotton shell. You can choose between soft and firm density depending on your preference, which also come in multiple pillow sizes depending on what bed you have. Though the comfort aspect is the most important factor, a 60-day trial and a 3-year warranty makes that initial purchase that much more painless. If you decide within that 60-day trial period that you still have neck pain, or that you and this pillow are not a good fit, you can return it for your money back.
If you’re looking for a truly custom side-sleeping experience, check out the Pancake Pillow. The 300 thread-count cotton cover contains six inner layers that you can add or remove to dial in the perfect loft and firmness for you. Do you want medium firm, extra firm, or just some light firmness to help resolve you neck pain? With this great pillow, you can test each level to find out what’s right for you. The Pancake Pillow is available from Amazon for $70 for the queen size (or $140 for a two-pack) and $90 for the king. It’s fairly pricey compared to other pillows for side sleepers, but happy customers say it’s more than worth it especially if you’ve been struggling for years to find the best pillow for side-sleeping.
Perhaps you’ve tried other side-sleeper pillows maybe even a few that are on this list and found them wanting. If so, then we’ve saved the best for last: The Leesa hybrid pillow does double duty as a pillow for side sleepers and as a cooling pillow, with an additional inner layer that can be removed to help you find the best level of support for your head and shoulders. At $135 for a queen size, the Leesa hybrid pillow is one of the most expensive pick on our roundup, but it’s not bad considering you’re effectively getting two pillows in one (and it might prove to be the last you’ll ever need to buy).
When it comes to memory foam, Tempur-Pedic has really carved out a name for itself. Designed with side-sleepers in mind, this contour pillow gently cradles your head, neck, and shoulders to provide the support you need to get through the night. It’s also designed with cooling gel top to help you avoid overheating. At $159, this is the most expensive pillow on our list, and for good reason. This memory foam side-sleeper pillow is the ultimate blend of firm and soft, and it was designed specifically with neck and shoulder pain in mind.