The Best Editor-Tested Pillows for Side Sleepers

updated Oct 31, 2023
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Woman sleeping in bed with phone nearby.
Credit: Adam Kuylenstierna / EyeEm/Getty Images

A good night’s sleep is a true kickstart to your day, and having every bedding essential to assist is part of the recipe to success. Without it, you’ll be operating at half capacity, and no one wants to endure that if they can help it. For me, this starts with the perfect pillow. I suffer from neck and back pain, and I’m an avid side sleeper, so having tailored support is a must if I don’t want to wake up with my body feeling like it’s out of commission. 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.

We know that not every pillow is created for the same needs (back-sleepers and side sleepers are completely opposite), so we started 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 back sleeper pillows, but what about those best suited for the most popular sleep position? Hint: It’s side sleepers.

These are best of the best pillows we tested specifically for the side sleeper in the household. From cooling to top-level firmness, you’ll be able to confidently sleep well with these editor-tested picks. 

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.


  • CertiPUR-US: Ensures the foam is free from harmful chemicals, flame retardants, heavy metals, and more.
  • GREENGUARD: Ensures the foam has low chemical emissions.
  • Responsible Down Standard (RDS): Confirms that the down used comes from animals not subjected to any harm.
  • Downmark: Ensures the authenticity and high quality of down-labeled products.
  • GOTS: Confirms the ecological and social responsibility with which textile products are made.
  • MADE SAFE: Ensures everyday products are non-toxic, made with safe ingredients and materials, and are family-safe.
  • OEKO-TEX Standard 100: Ensures every component of a product has been tested and is free of harmful chemicals.
  • CPSIA: Ensures a product is safe for children and meets general consumer product safety rules.

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?

Don’t give up support or comfort with this top choice. The popular Indulgence by Isotonic Side Sleeper Pillow offers a cushy feel while also giving quality support, so it’s a great option to provide in a guest bedroom or take with you while traveling. The pillow comes with a removable cover, and usually, that means only the cover is washable. However, that’s not the case for the Isotonic Side Sleeper Pillow — both pillow and cover can be thrown into the washing machine for convenience without compromising their luxurious feel. Many reviewers report that they’ve repurchased these pillows time and time again just because of how much they love them!

“I am prone to a painful neck if sleeping with pillows that are too firm or too flat, but this pillow is at the perfect intersection of puffy and supportive that has led to many lovely nights of slumber,” says AT social media manager Sam. “It’s also held up its shape over many nights, which was great since many don’t.” The pillow easily fluffs right back up after a night of sleep, so it will feel brand new each time you crawl into bed.


  • 100% cotton cover with synthetic down fiber fill 
  • Available in 2 sizes
  • Medium firmness 
  • Machine washable 
  • 3-year limited warranty 

Who It’s Best For: Those who need extra neck and shoulder support but don’t want a firm, high-density option. 

Good to Know: Macy’s has an extended holiday season return window for those who want to give these pillows as gifts.

Commerce SEO editor Sarah began her quest for a new place to rest her head when she “looked down at my pancaked pillow and I thought to myself, ‘Ouch — it may be time for an upgrade.’” Fern & Willow’s Premium Down Alternative Pillow Set became her “new go-to that was just right.” The pillow conveniently comes in a set of two and has adjustable filling to cater to the varied preferences of sleepers, regardless of sleeping position. Just remember to give the pillow a good massage to ensure all the fill is evenly distributed after customizing it to your personal sleeping habits.

“As a side sleeper, I knew I needed to find something with an ample amount of support for my neck,” Sarah says. “Not only did they provide outstanding neck support, but I was floored by how well they kept their shape. After a couple of 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.” Additionally, this pillow bundle costs under $100, even when it’s not on sale.

Read our full review of the Fern & Willow Premium Down Alternative Pillow.


  • 100% cotton cover with poly-gel fiber fill
  • Available in 3 sizes
  • Adjustable firmness
  • Machine washable; air dry
  • 100-night trial
  • 3-year warranty

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.

Say yes to a luxury worth the splurge. Cozy Earth’s Silk Pillow is buttery soft to the touch and keeps you cool at night, so you won’t be tossing or continually flipping it over to the cool side. It’s made with the brand’s signature cooling bamboo cover and has a mulberry silk fill that’s just as luxurious as it sounds. However, those aren’t the only benefits of this pillow. The bamboo and silk help to give the pillow optimal breathability so it maintains a constant temperature and keeps you from overheating. Therefore, you get more restful sleep at night. The filling also stays consistent for comfort; however, if it does shift, Cozy Earth has you covered with a warranty.

Senior commerce editor Alicia found the best of both worlds when she tried it out for herself. “I love this pillow’s density,” she says. “It’s not so soft that I can feel the mattress through the pillow and not so hard that it feels like I am sleeping on a foam-covered block. It strikes the perfect balance for a side sleeper.”

Read our full review of Cozy Earth Silk Pillow.


  • Premium viscose from bamboo fabric cover with mulberry silk fill 
  • Available in 2 sizes
  • Medium firmness 
  • Spot clean or dry clean only 
  • 10-year warranty

Who It’s Best For: Those who sleep hot; those who need additional neck support. 

Good to Know: To keep the pillow fresh, it’s recommended to air it out in the sunlight occasionally. 

The Easy Breather Pillow arrives at its firmest,” says Best List editor Britt. “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.

Read our full review of the Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow.


  • Polyester, icecore, and spandex cover with non-toxic foam and polyester fiber fill
  • Available in 3 sizes
  • Adjustable firmness, and comes with a complimentary fill bag
  • Removable cover is machine washable in cold water on gentle cycle; tumble dry low
  • CertiPUR-US-certified
  • 2-year warranty
  • 30-night trial

Who It’s Best For: Those with neck pain; those who sleep on their stomach and back in addition to their side; those who want the ability to customize support levels. 

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.”

With the hotel experience in mind, FluffCo designed their Down Alternative Pillow that replicates the luxurious feel of down and feather with all-vegan materials. Tencel, a cooling fabric derived from eucalyptus, will also keep you cool in addition to comfortable. The pillow can be ordered in a soft or firm feel, making it a good fit for nearly any type of sleeper. It’s also machine washable, too, so you can easily keep it fresh all year long.

Sarah tested and confirmed that this pillow really is worth it. “The second I laid down, I knew I was in for a treat as I let out an audible, ‘ooooh,'” she says. “This pillow was different in the best ways. The support was amazing; I slept soundly, cool, and didn’t wake up with any neck pain — a sign of a good pillow.” If you’re planning on purchasing more than one, bundle and save 20 percent on two pillows and a pillowcase set.

Read our full review of the FluffCo Down Alternative Pillow.


  • Cotton cover with microfiber fill 
  • Available in 2 sizes
  • Available in Soft Fluff or Firm Fluff
  • Machine wash cold with gentle detergent; tumble dry low 
  • 30-day trial

Who It’s Best For: Those who sleep hot; those who experience neck pain. 

Good to Know: If you’re unsure if this pillow is right for you, FluffCo offers a quiz that will narrow down which pillows are the best fit.

*Honorable Mention: While it didn’t secure the top spot for cooling, the Coop Home Eden Cool+ was certainly close. Made with advanced cooling technology, down alternative, and memory foam, the pillow consistently ventilates and delivers that relieving cool feeling well into the sticky summer nights.  

Best Foam: Earthfoam Pillow

Crafted with a natural foam rubber at its core, the overall feel of this pillow is meant to feel much softer and springier for the utmost head support. Despite the lack of memory foam, the specially designed foam rubber also conforms to your body as you sleep and won’t lose shape over time. “If someone were to tell me to imagine what a cozy pillow would feel like off the top of my head, the Earthfoam Pillow would be it,” says Britt. “I have at least five pillows on my bed, nearly all made with different materials, and Earthfoam’s is nothing like them, which makes it stand out from the bunch.” If you don’t like to fold or fluff your pillow, you won’t have to worry, as it holds the shape all on its own. 

If, like Britt, you sleep on your stomach, take note: “The brand mentioned that their pillow might not be a good fit for stomach sleepers who enjoy pillows that can be ‘molded for comfort,’” she says. “However, as a stomach-favoring combination sleeper, I haven’t had trouble achieving comfortable, deep sleep with this pillow.” Nearly a year later, it still holds true.

Read our full review of the Earthfoam Pillow.


  • Cotton cover with natural foam rubber fill 
  • Firm feel 
  • Removable cover is machine washable
  • GOTS, Global Organic Latex Standard, Fair Trade, and OEKO-TEX Standard 100-certified 
  • 5-year warranty 

Who It’s Best For: Those who want a firm feel; those seeking additional head support. 

Good to Know: You can use the pillow straight out of the packaging because it doesn’t require fluffing to uphold its shape. 

Memory Foam: Marlow Pillow

Once you unbox the Marlow Pillow, you’ll soon understand why it secured a spot on the list. No matter which way you turn at night, you’ll always feel supported and cool at every angle with gel-infused memory foam. Also contributing to the Marlow’s temperature-regulating capabilities is the pillow’s shell, which has a sateen weave that assists with breathability. If you find that the pillow feels too firm, all you have to do is unzip the sides to make it softer. You can also choose to zip or unzip either side, however you see fit, to make the Marlow Pillow suitable for your sleeping habits.

“Whether firm or soft, I found the Marlow to be super comfy!” says Britt. “For the first week, I slept with it fully zipped, not realizing the zipper had a special purpose. At its firmest, it was just the right density for lounging while sitting up in bed or laying down while reading or scrolling on my phone.”

Read our full review of the Marlow Pillow.


  • Cotton cover with polyurethane foam and polyester fiber fill 
  • Available in 2 sizes
  • Adjustable firmness 
  • Spot clean only
  • 2-year warranty 

Who It’s Best For: Combination sleepers; those who want customized comfort.

Good to Know: Save up to 30 percent off if you bundle your purchase.

Best Pillow with Arm Space: Honeydew Side Sleeper Pillow

Family-owned and made in the USA for over 30 years, this successful business strives to bring comfort in every pillow they create. Designed with cooling copper gel memory, the Honeydew Scrumptious Side Pillow not only works to cool you down at night, but it also adds softness to the overall feel. The fill is fully adjustable to your firmness needs, too, with help from the pillow’s hidden zipper.

“From my neck to my shoulders and even my back, I could instantly feel my body being aligned,” says Sarah. “Needless to say, I was excited to get to bed. That night I got what I can only describe as the best sleep of my life.” However, the proof is really in how she felt afterward. “The next morning, I woke up with no pain whatsoever, and more than four months later, I’m still sleeping the same. If I had to sum up my thoughts on this pillow in two words, it would be this: miracle worker.”

Read our full review of Honeydew Side Sleeper Pillow.


  • Cotton and tencel cover with gel memory foam, microfiber, and down alternative fill 
  • Available in 2 sizes
  • Adjustable firmness
  • Removable cover is machine washable 
  • Certi-PUR US and OEKO-TEX Standard 100-certified 
  • 3-year warranty

Who It’s Best For: Those who sleep hot; those who have neck pain.

Good to Know: When you first unbox the pillow, you can toss it in the dryer on low to have it fluff up more quickly  

*Honorable Mention: With a unique U-shape engineered specifically for the side sleeper in mind, the Eli & Elm Side Sleeper Pillow has the ideal setup to support your neck and align the spine. “I wasn’t sure about sleeping on a pillow of this shape; however, I was surprised to find how much I liked having the space built-in to accommodate shoulder placement,” says Britt. “I think this pillow would be best suited for a dedicated side sleeper, but it’s really comfortable.” You can also customize the filling if it initially feels too firm. 

Additional reporting by Britt Frankin and Kendall Cornish.