If you are a side sleeper, you know what a challenge it can be to find a comfortable pillow. A standard run-of-the-mill pillow isn’t ergonomically ideal for any sleeping posture, but it can pose particular problems for side sleepers.
Your shoulder may be crushed under you as you sleep. There can be painful pressure on your ear. The pillow can suffocate your nose.
So you might go out to buy a pillow to provide better ergonomic support—only to find a lot of neck pillows which are designed for back sleepers more than side sleepers. A neck roll, for example, is designed to support the natural C-curve of the neck when lying on your back—but if you are lying on your side, all it is going to do is give you a headache.
I am both a side sleeper and a back sleeper, so I am intimately familiar with the difficulties faced by both. In fact, I tend to fall asleep on my side and then wake up on my back. So I had to go shopping for a pillow which would allow me to do both comfortably.
While shopping for side sleeper pillows, you will notice that they come in a variety of shapes, some of them quite unusual at first glance:
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Now that you know what to look for in a side sleeper pillow, here are some options.
This pillow has a basic rectangle shape, except that there is a concave curve at the base which leaves room for your shoulder.
While this pillow does not provide the extra support needed for back sleeping, it is ideal if you sleep mainly or entirely on your side. It is not too far off from a traditional pillow shape, which may make for a smooth transition if that is what you like.
This pillow should be about the right thickness to keep most spines aligned, but the adjustability feature is fantastic since you can customize it to your needs. Unfortunately, there is no way to add filling, but if you need to remove some, you can.
Another option which is even closer to a traditional pillow is this one from Coop Home Goods. There are more than 13,000 customer ratings for this pillow online, so it is a big seller in the marketplace.
This pillow is a kind of hybrid between a traditional down pillow and a memory foam pillow, providing a balance of softness and support. You can open it up and remove some of the fillings if you need to flatten it.
The adjustability of this pillow is of course fantastic. Quite a few buyers have mentioned that it is excellent for reducing neck pain. Some, however, have said that it is a bit flatter than what they need. So if you prefer a flatter pillow, it may be an ideal choice, but for a thicker pad, you may prefer some other options on this list.
Consider this memory foam pillow if you are a side sleeper in a warm climate looking for something with a cooling effect. This pillow also has a traditional rectangle shape.
One side of this memory foam pillow features ice fabric and polyester, while the other is of polyester and Tencel. The ice fabric and polyester side are designed for summertime use, as it can keep your head cool. Polyester and Tencel retains its heat, making one side of the pillow perfect for the winter. The contoured memory foam design provides support for comfortable side sleeping.
According to buyers, this comfortable pillow does a great job holding its shape and maintaining proper support throughout the night. Just note that you cannot use a standard pillowcase for it, or you will eliminate the cooling, ventilating effect. Of course, this is only a drawback if you are determined to use a regular pillowcase.
I would more readily recommend this for back sleepers, but it is a suitable option for side sleepers as well (indeed, the manufacturer recommends it for side sleepers). If you sleep in hot climate conditions, this is a good option.
You will notice that this pillow is contoured all along the lower edge to provide extra neck support. For this reason, I think it would be best for those who spend significant time sleeping on their backs, but who also sleep on their sides. Usually, I would not recommend a pillow with this kind of contouring for side sleepers, but the extra support here doesn’t appear to be overkill, so I think the neck would stay aligned in either position.
The Nakital Contour Memory Foam Pillow maintains its shape and offers a fresh, breathable sleeping surface. On the downside, it may have an unpleasant chemical smell when you first unpack it. You will notice this with other memory foam pillows as well. After a short period, the scent should fade away.
This pillow is similar in design to the one above. It has a cervical curve to support the neck while sleeping on one’s back, but it is recommended for side sleeping as well.
Quite a few buyers of this pillow mentioned that they sleep on their sides or their sides and backs. So it is a fantastic option if you want to enjoy firm, comfortable support in both positions, alleviating tension throughout the night.
The mild contouring on this pillow is one of the drawbacks for some customers, who would have preferred more of a curve. I would say this makes sense if you were sleeping exclusively on your back. For a back/side sleeper, however, I would say the mildness of the contouring is an advantage, as too much contouring would misalign the neck while lying on one’s side. In short, the CR Sleep Memory Foam Contour Pillow offers a good compromise, which is what you need if you sleep in both positions.
Back and side sleepers will love this pillow. The manufacturer suggests flipping it upside-down if you are a side sleeper and resting your shoulder under the curve. What works just as well would be keeping it right-side up. Flipping it around so that you are sleeping your neck on the smaller curve.
You can choose from either of two contours on the same pillow for comfort, and you can also pick between the thicker or thinner pad when you make your purchase. So this pillow offers excellent versatility. Aside from sizing issues (which may be present with any pillow), it is hard to spot any possible significant detractors.
This smart pillow was designed to provide zones for back and side sleeping. That way you can choose what you need for optimal support.
You should think about this pillow if you want one which provides cervical support for your neck when you are on your back, but which also includes non-contoured sections for lying comfortably on your side without deforming your neck.
Whether you love or hate this pillow will probably depend on your sleeping preferences. If you need a large area for neck support while lying on your side, you might find it confining. If however you sleep near the edge of your pillow anyway on your side (like I do, as I feel stifled otherwise), you will probably find this pillow to be ideal.
Note that changing the pillow’s orientation might help you out. Try turning the pillow 180 degrees from the direction you use for back sleeping. Which in turn, provides some extra room for side sleeping.
Suffer from ear pain while you are sleeping on your side? One pillow you might want to think about is the unusually-shaped Womfy. Its unique design provides radial support, and there are holes for your ears.
While this pillow is odd to look at, the design was carefully thought out to keep side sleepers’ spines aligned and relieve pressure on the face and ears.
The most significant benefit of this pillow is that it does provide the support you need as a side sleeper while keeping pressure off your ears. The added support means you can lie comfortably on the same side for much longer. On the downside, there are a few customers who have reported that the pillow suffers from a lack of longevity owing to a breakdown of the foam.
This pillow is U-shaped which creates a place for your head to relieve pressure on the ear. The U-shape provides space for your shoulder.
This side sleeper pillow is excellent for a couple of applications. The first is relieving ear pain, while the second is travel. Nonetheless, you do not have to use this as a travel pillow; it works perfectly well as your first pillow for home use as well.
According to buyers, this pillow is incredibly comfortable whether you are a side or back sleeper. It does a great job relieving pressure on the ear, and you can comfortably sleep on either side. It also has a removable, washable cover, which is essential, as you will have a hard time finding a pillowcase to fit this product. On the downside, it does not contain memory foam, so some buyers may not feel it provides the support that they are looking for in a pillow.
This pillow has a very unusual shape. At first glance, you may not even know how you are supposed to sleep on it. It is, however, the perfect size and shapes for side sleeping, particularly during pregnancy.
This side sleeper pillow is mainly ideal for women who are pregnant. Even if you are not pregnant, however, you may find it very comfortable, particularly if you suffer from lower back pain or sciatica.
The pillow is fluffy and provides plenty of support for your entire body. The few buyers who did complain about it seemed primarily overwhelmed by its size. Just make sure that a full body pillow is something you want before you make your purchase.
This side sleeper pillow is an excellent choice for alleviating shoulder pain. The L-shaped design provides a convenient space for your shoulder to rest.
The cover is made out of soft rayon derived from bamboo. It is removable, washable, and hypoallergenic.
Your purchase is protected by a 5-year warranty.
You should consider this pillow if you are looking for a way to reduce shoulder pain while you are sleeping. Additionally, it is a good option in general if you need to rest in a warm climate and want something breathable.
This pillow is quite firm, but it has enough firmness to it that it is not overwhelming. It also maintains its durability well through use and time, so it is an excellent choice for longevity. I should mention that some buyers reported that the pillow split after a short time. Thankfully this flaw seems pretty rare.
Are you looking for a side sleeper pillow with an armrest? One option from Sleep Yoga is this ergonomic pillow. It has a unique shape designed to provide optimal support for your neck, shoulders, and back.
Stomach sleepers who are trying to transition into sleeping on their sides are often well served by armrest pillows like this one. Having something to rest your arm on can help to simulate the familiar feeling of stomach sleeping. This pillow also is an excellent option for those who need to prevent shoulder tension and pain.
This pillow is incredibly comfortable and features an ingenious, unique design. It does a fantastic job relieving shoulder pain; even buyers with shoulder injuries mentioned it was helpful. As to drawbacks, a few buyers said they found it a bit firm. Whether this is a drawback or not depends on your needs.
This is an supplementary pillow, as opposed to a main pillow for your head. It is designed to serve exclusively as an armrest while you are sleeping on your side. So you cannot buy it to serve as your one and only pillow—but you may find it helpful in conjunction with another pillow from this list for cozy side sleeping.
Think about purchasing this pillow to raise up your arm while you sleep. If you used to be a stomach sleeper, this could help you assume a posture that feels more natural. It may also be useful for those with shoulder, wrist, or elbow injuries.
Sleep Yoga is a comfortable pillow which can potentially reduce pain in your shoulder, neck, arm or wrist. Most customers who didn’t like it felt they were sleeping in an unnatural position, so only buy this if it makes sense for your needs.
Whatever position(s) you sleep in and whatever types of pain you need to alleviate, there is a pillow out there which is ideal for your needs. With the right support for your neck and the right ergonomic features for your ear and shoulders, you can get a deep, restful night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and pain-free each morning. It may be more of an expense than a traditional pillow, but as a long-time sufferer of neck and shoulder pain who is now feeling much better, I can tell you it is worth it.
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Peekaboo! Barbara speaking. I'm currently the Chief Editor at Sleep Titan and my job is to make sure that the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed on all of our amazing content! The lovely people here at Sleep Titan often tell me that my Friendly Superpowers come out after a glass of wine, but personally, I prefer a strong IPA. The sort of strength that screams alpha all the way! Maybe that's the reason why everyone wants me to have a drink around here. Right?!