The Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

updated Sep 9, 2022
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Making sure your bed and bedroom are primed for rest and relaxation is a vital part of making your home happy and healthy — all of which we take seriously at Apartment Therapy. As the unsung heroes of the bedroom, pillows are typically one of those bedding essentials you don’t really notice until something’s wrong. If something is, it’s probably because your pillow isn’t the best for your sleep position. So, we got to testing. We’ve determined the best mattresses for different sleep positions, have a whole list of the best cooling sheets for hot sleepers, and tested a ton of silk pillowcases to find out which ones are worth it. We’ve even got a round-up of the best editor-tested pillows, but what about those best suited for the most popular sleep position? Side sleepers, this Best List was made specifically for you. Of all the dozens of pillows we’ve tested, these are the very best for side sleepers, from firm and ergonomic to soft and cuddly.

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The Best Pillows for Side Sleepers

What to Consider When Buying a Pillow for Side Sleepers

As we mention in our complete guide to the best pillows, there are two main features to consider when shopping for one: firmness and fill. But when you narrow your search for the best pillow for you and you tend to sleep on your side — or even in multiple positions — shape becomes the third important aspect to consider. Altogether, a pillow’s shape, firmness, and fill contribute to its overall support, and for side sleepers, personalized support is key.

Types of Fill

For a breakdown of the most common types of pillow fill, you can reference our complete guide. Once you know the basics of memory foam, gel, down, down alternative, and latex fill types, it’s time to chat about their pros and cons for side sleepers.

Memory foam: This common fill type tends to allow the head to sink into it. Keep in mind, leveling up the firmness of a memory foam pillow could also mean experiencing extra warmth from heat trapped by its density. This said, memory foam pillows in contouring shapes can help counter these effects and provide the head and neck more tailored support for side sleepers.

Gel: Gel is a form of memory foam — its longer name is “gel-infused memory foam.” The main benefit of gel is that it makes the foam much more breathable, which is great for sweaty sleepers who need a cooling material. It’s also a bit denser than memory foam, so it offers greater support for side sleepers.

Down: Down, made from the natural material found under the feathers of geese or ducks, tends to flatten over time. A high-quality down pillow with a firm feel can combat this in the short term, but since side sleepers require support, you’ll see more synthetic fiber fills in our list than natural ones. Real down material can also trigger allergies and/or ethical concerns for some.

Down alternative: If you want the same luxurious feel as natural down, there are plenty of down alternative options that are nearly identical to the real thing. The added benefit here is that synthetic down fill has less of a tendency to flatten over time, so lack of support is less likely to creep up on side sleepers.

Latex: Latex comes from the rubber tree and is a chemical-free alternative to foam. Soft, bouncy, and durable, it’s a high-quality material that typically has a higher price tag. It’s also hypoallergenic and anti-fungal, and it doesn’t absorb heat like foam does. Most organic pillows are made from latex, and it’s an excellent, sustainable fill option for side sleepers.

Firmness and Height

Because they work in tandem, it makes sense to think about pillow firmness and height in relation to each other. For side sleepers, a pillow’s height is possibly one of the most important factors: It has to be able to raise your head enough to align your spine without letting it sink throughout the night (or over time, for that matter). That said, if you’ve got a pillow with plenty of height that lacks firmness, you may still not be sleeping with a level of support critical for side sleepers. Because the space between our shoulders, neck, and head differs from person to person, our ideal fits can vary from piling up multiple soft pillows to sleeping on a single firm pillow with a taller height. As with most things, a little experimentation might be called for.

Tip: If you sleep in multiple positions, consider two pillows of different firmness levels: one suited for the position you fall asleep in and another nearby in case you toss and turn and need more or less support in the position you wake up in.

What We Look for in a Pillow for Side Sleepers

We tested a wide range of pillows for our list, judging them on the following criteria:

  • Support: How tall is the pillow? Is it firm or soft? Is the firmness and height combination supportive? Do we sink into the pillow? Do we wake up feeling sore?
  • Longevity: What’s the fill material? What about the shell? Are they conducive to support for a side sleeper year after year?
  • Shape: Does the pillow fit into a standard-size pillowcase? Does it contour around the head, neck, and/or shoulders? Does the shape genuinely improve our sleep?

Our best overall pillow for side sleepers had a lot to achieve (not to mention some pretty particular editors to impress), and Cushion Lab’s Deep Sleep Pillow, with its gentle contouring and perfect medium-firm feel, comes out on the top of our list. Assistant shopping editor Britt says, “I was never really a sculpted-pillow person before, but the Deep Sleep Pillow has changed my mind. It has high and low neck supports and side-sleeper bolsters that create a cushioned cradle whether I turn to the left or right, as well as ample support when I am on my back. I’ve never before slept on a pillow that made me sigh in relief every time I change positions. I haven’t had any recent shoulder or neck aches, and I wake up feeling vacation-level rested. Deep sleep, indeed!”


  • 100% dual-density CloudSupport CertiPUR-US visco elastic memory foam fill; recycled polyester inner mesh cover, nylon and spandex anti-frizz/anti-wrinkle cover
  • 24″ width; 16″ length; 5.5″ height
  • Pillow not washable; cover machine-washable
  • 1-year limited warranty

Who It’s Best For: Those who want contouring without the obvious look of it; those who sleep in multiple positions.

Good to Know: Need several? When you shop multiple Deep Sleep pillows, you can save up to $20 off the total.

Commerce SEO editor Sarah began her quest for a new head rest when she “looked down at my pancaked pillow and I thought to myself, ‘Ouch — it may be time for an upgrade.’” Luckily for her, and for the rest of us, the upgrade comes in a pack of two and is available via Amazon for less than $50. “As a side sleeper, I knew I needed to find something with an ample amount of support for my neck,” Sarah says. Fern & Willow’s Premium Down Alternative Pillow Set became her “new go-to that was just right.”

“Not only did they provide outstanding neck support,” she continues, “but I was floored by how well they kept their shape. After a couple days, my neck pain was gone and I knew there was no turning back. In fact, when I went to visit my parents for a month, I ended up buying a set for their guest room. What can I say? I’m a ride or die when it comes to products that work for me.” And it’s pretty much what we’re all about at AT.


  • 100% poly-gel fiber fill; 100% cotton cover
  • Available in 3 sizes
  • Adjustable filling
  • Machine washable
  • 100-night trial

Who It’s Best For: Those who want the most bang for their buck; those who want a set of the same pillows.

Good to Know: Yep, these pillows are totally machine washable! Be sure to let them air dry for 72 hours before putting them back to use.

AT’s founder and CEO Maxwell can’t say enough great things about The PIllow Bar’s Down Alternative Side Sleeper Pillow. “I’m a side sleeper,” he says. “I chose four pillows from our list to get a sense of the differences, slept with each one, and came back very swiftly — spoiler alert — to liking the most luxurious, most expensive one.” Not only was Maxwell impressed by this luxe pillow, but two of his fellow testing editors also “joined me in this unanimous ruling, EVEN THOUGH we admitted that it would be hard to recommend this pillow to AT readers, since it would assuredly bring sticker shock. Nevertheless…” here we are recommending it. So, for side sleepers who are willing to invest, you’ve met your match.

It’s a quality down alternative pillow — points for price justification — that’s also shaped like a boomerang so “your head is aligned with your spine to keep your blood flowing freely all night long. Problems result when this is not the case,” Maxwell shares. “I found myself quickly adapting to the unique shape of the pillow and the fact that a down pillow was quite firm (better to keep the head up). The pillow sits under your neck, but then slopes into your body in front of you, giving you a really nice feeling of an embrace.”


  • Polyester fill; cotton sateen cover with 300-thread count
  • 13.75″ width; 45″ length; 5″ height
  • Available in 14 cover designs
  • Pillow not washable; cover machine-washable on gentle cycle

Who It’s Best For: Those who want something that fully contours around their head, neck, and shoulder; those who want something to help prevent excess movement.

Good to Know: The Pillow Bar recommends washing the cover once a week when you’re using it regularly.

Designed for side sleepers, the Pillow Cube has a wide range of unique, angular, and editor-loved pillows. Tack on the breathable poly-fiber fill that gives it such great support and noticeable temperature regulation, and it’s no surprise that the Ice Cube Cooling Pillow PRO wins our best cooling category. “I can lay on my side for way longer than I was able to before,” says Britt, “because the unique shape of the pillow fits in the curve between my neck and shoulder, relieving the pressure that would typically prompt me to roll over.” A wannabe side sleeper turned stomach sleeper, Britt could never get quite comfortable enough on her side. Now, after using the Ice Cube, she sleeps on her side more often. But this pillow doesn’t just live in her bedroom: “When I’m relaxing on the couch, I like to lay down on my side and watch TV, so I’ve been using the Ice Cube instead of the (less-than-ideal) sofa arm. I never thought I’d use a square pillow ever, but this is definitely a find that makes me so happy that I let my curiosity get the best of me.”


  • Viscoelastic polyurethane and carbon fiber fill; polyester and hydrocarbon fiber blend cover
  • Available in 5 sizes
  • Pillow not washable; cover hand-washable
  • 5-year warranty
  • 60-night trial

Who It’s Best For: Those who sleep hot and on their sides; those who want something supportive while lounging.

Good to Know: Pillow Cube recommends using a pillowcase on top of the Ice Cube’s cooling cover to protect it from possible pilling.

*Honorable Mention: The Layla Kapok Pillow. “Like the mattress, the pillow does NOT disappoint,” says AT contributor Emily. “I’ve tried other cooling pillows in the past, but none have this medium-firm density and are able to keep cooling through thick pillowcases! Definitely a 10/10.”

The Easy Breather Pillow arrives at its firmest,” Britt says of our best adjustable pillow for side sleepers. “It’s packed with a mix of memory foam and polyester fiber, and it comes overstuffed on purpose. The point of the pillow is for you to adjust it to your liking by removing the fill, and it even comes with a complimentary cloth bag to hold any removed fill in case you want to add it back in later.” So far, so good. Not only is the pillow height and firmness adjustable, but its cover is cooling and machine washable, “so you end up with a versatile pillow that won’t need to be replaced as quickly as others,” Britt says, “which saves money in the long run.” Even better.

Britt adds that she’s impressed with the shape of the Easy Breather Pillow. “I’ve become more of a combination sleeper these days, alternating between my stomach and side, so a firm-but-not-too-firm pillow is perfect for me. To accomplish that with the Easy Breather Pillow, it just meant taking out a fraction of the fill to make it softer while preserving a supportive level of firmness.” Easy Breather, easy peasy.


  • 70% non-toxic CertiPUR foam and 30% polyester fill; patented Icecore, polyester and spandex cover
  • Available in 4 sizes
  • Pillow not washable; cover machine-washable in cold water on gentle
  • 2-year warranty
  • 30-night trial

Who It’s Best For: Those who change sleep positions; those who want the ability to change firmness and height as needed.

Good to Know: Nest Bedding advises making your Easy Breather “very soft first by removing a lot of fill… then add some back as you test to reach your optimal firmness.

When searching for the best ergonomic pillow for side sleepers, we hoped for something with a subtle shape that we could keep discreetly on our beds when they’re made and fit easily into the standard-size pillowcases we already love. Ultimately, though, it had to perform in terms of spine alignment throughout the night and allowing us to wake up pain-free. News & culture director Tara “likes that the Sleep Number Comfortfit Curved Pillow keeps its shape, is firm but not uncomfortable, and feels supportive no matter what position I am sleeping in. The curved shape creates a little pocket for your shoulder,” which is ideal if you’re a side sleeper and can prevent unnecessary tossing and turning. In fact, “my boyfriend said that he felt that he tossed and turned less frequently when he used it,” Tara says. “It was comfortable when I put my arm underneath the pillow as well.” It’s a uniquely shaped pillow that can still be used a number of ways — but we especially love that it maintains its unique shape night after night.


  • Non-toxic memory foam fill; hypoallergenic Lyocell cover
  • Available in 2 sizes and 3 shapes
  • Spot-clean pillow; cover machine-washable
  • 1-year warranty

Who It’s Best For: Those who primarily sleep on their sides; those who want to prevent as much flattening over time as possible.

Good to Know: Not convinced this one’s for you? Sleep Number also has a Pillow Quiz that’ll help you land on the right one.