Side sleeping always rates as the most common sleep option on popular surveys. That means side sleepers also make up the largest proportion of mattress shoppers out there.

While scientists say side sleeping is one of the healthiest positions available, side sleepers still need to take a few considerations into account when they shop for a mattress. Typically, side sleeping puts the most strain on the hips and shoulders, so side sleepers may look for particular support in those areas. It’s also common for side sleepers to spend more time near the edge of the bed, so they may need a mattress that will keep them there. If you’re a side sleeper who likes to swap sides during the night, you may also need a quiet mattress with strong motion isolation.

In this guide, we take a look at the facts about side sleeping and how it will affect your choice of mattress. We’ll also give you our top picks for the best mattresses for side sleepers of 2019.

Our Top Picks: Summary

The Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers: Our Top Picks 

Best Overall: Saatva
Saatva

The perfect all-rounder combining luxury construction and great value.

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Why We Picked It

The Saatva mattress is an innerspring, coil-on-coil mattress available in 11.5-inch or 14.5-inch thicknesses. It features a Euro pillow top layer on top of two coil layers. The first is a wrapped coil layer to promote airflow and provide motion isolation, supported by the base coil layer.

There are three firmness options available for the Saatva: soft, medium, and firm. Side sleepers are likely to want the medium option.

We chose the Saatva for its luxury construction and value, particularly for side sleepers. The two layers of coils offer excellent support, finished with a pillow top that will help to relieve pressure points for side sleepers. The extra edge support is perfect for side sleepers who overhang or those who move around often in the night.

The Saatva comes with a 120-night trial, free white glove delivery, and a 15-year warranty.

Keep in Mind

Innersprings may have a shorter lifespan than mattresses of other materials, though the additional airflow and excellent support makes up for it. Innersprings may also produce more noise if you’re a mobile side sleeper.

In a Nutshell

  • Excellent edge support thanks to dual edge support system
  • Coil-on-coil structure gives support for side sleepers
  • Range of firmness options
Best Value: Nectar
Nectar

It’s hard to find a cheaper mattress with this kind of material quality.

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Why We Picked It

The Nectar mattress is a 4-layer, 11-inch memory foam bed. The quilted gel memory foam top layer provides comfort around the hips and shoulders, which is ideal for side sleepers, with the deeper memory foam layers providing strong support. The medium firmness is perfect for side sleepers—it’s supportive and cushions the body without sinking too much.

The materials used in the Nectar are impressive at this price point, and you aren’t likely to find similar materials available at a cheaper price.

We picked the Nectar for its excellent value for money. For its price point, the Nectar offers unparalleled quality no matter how you sleep. What truly makes the Nectar shine is its “Forever” warranty. There aren’t many brands that offer a similar level of coverage. Nectar also offers free delivery within the contiguous US.

Keep in Mind

The Nectar does lack some of the hug factor usually associated with memory foam mattresses, but it’s hard to hold that against it at such a competitive price point.

In a Nutshell

  • Lifetime warranty
  • Extraordinary value for money
  • Perfect firmness level for side sleepers
Most Luxurious: Casper Wave
Casper Wave

Luxury materials almost guarantee a good night’s sleep.

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Why We Picked It

The Casper Wave mattress is a 5-layer, 13-inch foam mattress. The top layer is a velvety soft foam supported by a layer of breathable latex foam. Beneath that is a pressure-relieving memory foam layer and gel pods to support the hips and core. The base is a high-resistance polyfoam on which the other layers rest.

The latex foam helps to keep sleepers cool, while the top velvet foam layer provides incomparable comfort. But the bed is supportive as well as comfortable thanks to its gel pods in key pressure areas. The core support isn’t as vital for side sleepers, but they’ll be glad for the hip support.

Casper offers free setup, a 100-night sleep trial, and a 10-year warranty.

The Casper is our pick for the luxury category thanks to its multi-layered foam design, which offers ample support and excellent temperature regulation. It’s also nearly silent and does an excellent job at motion isolation, which makes for an excellent night’s sleep.

Keep in Mind

You can expect to pay a little more for the luxury on offer here, though it justifies the price.

In a Nutshell

  • Nearly silent
  • Excellent motion isolation
  • Great support for the hips, ideal for side sleepers
Best Hybrid: Casper Hybrid
Casper Hybrid

The perfect all-rounder combining luxury construction and great value.

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Why We Picked It

As it says in the name, the Casper Hybrid is a hybrid mattress combining features from other Casper mattresses with an added base of innersprings and stronger edge support.

The Casper Hybrid wins the hybrid category for all the same reasons as the Casper Wave, but with the added benefits that come from the extra support of the spring layer. For side sleepers, the edge support is the perfect addition, as many side sleepers find themselves sleeping toward the outside or even hanging over the edge of a mattress.

The individual coils of the spring layer also allow more air to circulate away from the body as you sleep, so the hybrid sleeps cooler than the Casper Wave.

Keep in Mind

More expensive than the non-hybrid Casper styles, as you’re paying for the added feature of the spring layer.

In a Nutshell

  • Spring layer is the cherry on the top of the excellent Casper beds
  • Stronger edge support is excellent for side sleepers
  • Individual springs create natural zones of support
Best for Hip/Shoulder Pain: Layla
Layla

Extra support for a pain-free night.

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Why We Picked It

The Layla mattress is a flippable, 10-inch memory foam mattress. Being flippable, sleepers have the option of a soft or medium-firm side. Both sides feature a ThermoGel memory foam top—which is designed to cool the body—supported by copper-gel infused memory foam beneath. Zoned support in the middle of the mattress offers support for the joints on whichever side you’re using.

Side sleepers sometimes struggle with hip and/or shoulder pain, as these are the two main pressure points for side sleepers. We included this category specifically to address that need, and the Layla won out for its multiple layers of support and reversible construction. By flipping the mattress, you can achieve two different levels of firmness. Varying your mattress firmness in this way can give your joints a break by mixing up your sleep surface.

Keep in Mind

While the choice between two firmness levels is a wonderful feature, you may need an extra pair of hands to help you flip the mattress.

In a Nutshell

  • Reversible design offers two firmness options
  • Zoned support relieves pressure on hips and shoulders
  • Copper-infused foam is antimicrobial

How We Chose the Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers

To choose our top mattress picks, we look at the key categories that help us put together an overall rating for the mattress. Here’s a quick look at the categories we use—you can find out more about our process here:

  • Material Quality
  • Durability
  • Conforming
  • Edge Support
  • Temperature Neutrality
  • Off-gassing
  • Motion Isolation

The Anatomy of Side Sleeping

Side sleeping is by far the most popular sleeping position out there. Around 63% of adults side sleep, which makes it more popular than the runners up by a wide margin. It may be humanity’s “natural” sleep position, given that it occurs often in other primates. It also resembles the medical recovery position, which is designed to keep the airways unobstructed in unconscious patients.

The National Sleep Foundation says that side sleeping is one of the healthiest positions for sleep. With the addition of a pillow under the head and between the knees, it creates an ideal spinal and neck alignment. In a neutral posture, our spines have three natural points of curvature that helps to distribute pressure and maintain spinal alignment.

Other sleeping positions tend to distort this neutral alignment. Back sleepers force the spine to align to the flat surface of a mattress while bringing the head forward through pillow support. Stomach sleepers typically force the head back, again distorting the natural curve.

Side sleeping keeps the airways free and limits stress on any one part of the body. High-pressure areas for side sleepers usually include the shoulders and hips.

Not every side sleeper sleeps the same way. The most common variations on side sleeping include:

  • Fetal: Curled up into a fetal ball. Some sleepers will scrunch themselves up more than others. This can restrict breathing, but it has a high degree of psychological comfort.
  • Reaching out: Legs extended, one or both arms “reaching” out.
  • Arms at side: Legs extended, arms by the sides. Also referred to as “the log.”
ProsCons
Good for snorers, eases sleep apneaCan put extra strain on the hips and shoulders
Neutral spine positionCan cause facial wrinkling through pillow contact
Prevents refluxMay lead to muscle tightness, particularly for fetal sleepers
Eases pressure on liver and provides better blood circulation to baby for pregnant women

Special Considerations for Side Sleepers

While side sleeping is a good, neutral sleeping position, side sleepers should still keep some considerations in mind when shopping for a mattress.

Pressure Point Relief

Despite the neutrality of side sleeping, there will be inevitable contact points that bear the brunt of your body weight. For side sleepers, these pressure points are usually the shoulders and the hips. The best way to offset this is with a thick comfort layer that can create a soft barrier between your body and your mattress.

Support

A comfort layer can only do so much to relieve pressure. Side sleepers also need support from the bed’s deeper layers to find a comfortable night’s sleep. As a side sleeper’s body presses into the mattress at the hips and shoulders, an ideal bed will hold these areas up. This keeps pressure distributed evenly across the body, reducing discomfort.

Firmness

Side sleepers may need to be more careful about their mattress than stomach or back sleepers who sleep on a larger surface area. Softer mattresses can yield too much and will fail to provide support where it’s needed. Firm options may create uncomfortable pressure on the pressure points. That’s why side sleepers typically do best with medium or medium-firm mattresses. Choosing a flippable mattress can also help side sleepers achieve more variety, which will reduce the wear and tear on your pressure points.

Body Weight

Where stomach and back sleepers distribute their weight across the surface of their mattress, side sleepers stack all of their body weight onto their pressure points. This isn’t a problem for most of the body but can cause problems in the load-bearing areas at the hips and shoulders. Lighter side sleepers may prefer a softer mattress that will ease the burden on these pressure points. These sleepers also have a narrower profile, so they won’t need as much support beyond their core. Heaver side sleepers might opt for something firmer instead, to give a greater degree of all-over support in a wider sleeping area.

The Best Mattress Types for Side Sleepers

With so many options on the market, one of the most difficult parts of choosing a mattress is still finding the right type for you. Some of the most popular options include memory foam, latex and innerspring, with hybrid mattresses combining elements of multiple types.

Side sleepers should think about the special considerations we’ve talked about when choosing their mattress type. A typical side sleeper will prefer the way a memory foam mattress conforms to the body, for instance, creating a “cradle.” More resistant materials like latex or innerspring mattresses can aggravate the pressure points in the hips and shoulders.

However, other mattress types might present a broader range of firmness options (for example). To form a complete picture, it helps to know the pros and cons of the various types as they relate to side sleeping.

Here are some of the common mattress types and what they mean for side sleepers:

TypeProsCons
Memory FoamEasy on pressure points in hip and shoulder
Conforms to body
Good motion isolation for sleepers who like to alternate sides
May lack edge support
Some off-gassing may occur
LatexAvailable at a range of firmness levels
Good motion isolation for sleepers who like to alternate sides
Often lacks edge support
New mattress smell may take time to dissipate
InnerspringAvailable at a range of firmness levels
Familiar to most sleepers
Affordable
Springs can create discomfort at pressure points
Often heavy
HybridMay offset the disadvantages of other mattress types
Can provide an additional layer of comfort
May still prove too firm for some side sleepers
Can be heavy due to the inclusion of springs

Other Considerations When Choosing a Mattress

There are a few extra considerations to think about when choosing your mattress — ones that have nothing to do with your sleeping position.

Material Quality

It may be tempting to sacrifice material quality to lower the price, but better materials will often last longer. That makes settling for cheaper materials a case of false economy. Poor quality materials may also be more susceptible to other problems, like excessive off-gassing. When choosing your mattress, make sure that the materials are of a high enough quality to be durable, and check reviews for indications of the material failure rate.

Price

With mattresses representing such a large investment, it’s important to shop around for the best price. It can be hard to determine the value of a mattress with so many variables involved, but doing the research could save you a considerable amount of money. By doing the legwork, you can often buy cheaper without compromising on features.

Sleep Trial

Choosing the right mattress is a personal matter and every sleeper has different needs. A mattress that looks good on paper won’t always be sure to suit you in practice. A sleep trial helps you decide whether a mattress is right for you without any commitment. Many mattress vendors provide generous sleep trials, so you can be sure your investment will work for you.

Take note of whether the seller also offers free collection on their sleep trials, or you may have to cover the return postage.

Warranty

A quality mattress often comes with a large price tag. The best way to make sure you get your money’s worth is to choose a bed with a good warranty. If your mattress begins to show signs of failure before its lifespan is up, you’ll be able to get a replacement without investing in a new mattress.

Related Resources

While you’re here, take a look at some of our other in-depth guides for sleepers:

Daniel James