Why You Should Trust Us
When it comes to choosing the right bed for a good night’s sleep, you can trust our sleep experts’ years of industry experience. Our team of product analysts personally tests each mattress we review, paying attention to issues of specific concern to different kinds of sleepers, such as firmness, durability, and pressure relief.
Since our team includes individuals with different weights and preferred sleep positions, we gather both scientific and firsthand insight into how each model performs.
What Do Side Sleepers Need for a Good Night’s Sleep?
Side sleepers generally need a mattress that promotes spinal alignment and relieves pressure points. We’ll review some of the key mattress features for side sleepers to keep in mind.
Find the Type of Mattress That Works for You
Shoppers can choose from a variety of mattress types, including foam, innerspring, latex, hybrid, and airbed models. Each construction offers potential benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to choose the style that meets your specific needs.
Pick the Right Mattress Firmness
We rate mattress firmness on a 10-point scale. We’ve found that side sleepers tend to prefer medium soft (4) to medium firm (6) mattresses, though preferences can vary based on body type. Our tests have shown that side sleepers under 130 pounds usually prefer a softer model, while those over 230 pounds typically benefit from the extra support of a firmer mattress.
Keep Your Spine Aligned
Mattresses that are too soft or too firm can cause the spine to become misaligned. To achieve good sleep posture, side sleepers usually need their hips and shoulders to sink into the mattress without sagging.
Best Mattress Types for Side Sleepers
Side sleepers generally look for a mattress that combines pressure relief and spinal support. Several mattress types offer this contouring and support in different ways.
Foam mattresses typically contain several layers of foam, such as memory foam and polyfoam. Most foam models we test have notable cradling. While soft to medium firm options are most common, firmer models are also available.
Either memory foam or polyfoam can offer significant pressure relief. However, some side sleepers prefer mattresses with memory foam comfort layers because of the material’s especially close conforming. Exceptional contouring can redistribute a side sleeper’s weight and ease pressure around their hips and shoulders.
Hybrid mattresses usually contain either foam or latex comfort layers combined with a coil support core. This design tends to fair well with side sleepers in our evaluations. While the comfort system contours to relieve pressure, the coils add bounce, responsiveness, and breathability.
What About Innerspring Beds?
In the past, innerspring mattresses had few or no comfort layers covering the coil core. However, some manufacturers now use the terms innerspring and hybrid interchangeably. If you’re considering a hybrid or innerspring bed, we recommend choosing a model with enough contouring to support the spine and prevent pressure buildup.
While some latex mattresses use synthetic latex made from petrochemicals, most models use natural latex processed from the sap of rubber trees. The material has a slightly conforming feel that has more bounce than memory foam.
Latex models tend to cradle a side sleeper’s body without hugging it. Since the material also springs back quickly when the sleeper moves, our testers often give latex mattresses exceptional marks in ease of movement. Additionally, latex’s open-cell structure increases airflow to promote cooler sleep.
What’s the Best Mattress Firmness for Side Sleepers?
While side sleepers tend to prefer softer mattresses than back or stomach sleepers, mattress firmness is subjective, and the ideal firmness for a side sleeper also depends on their body type.
Our Firmness Scale and the Ideal Range for Side Sleepers
We rate all the beds we test on a 10-point firmness scale, with 1 being the softest and 10 the firmest. Based on our scale, the ideal firmness for side sleepers is generally between 3 and 7, with most side sleepers preferring a medium soft (4) to medium firm (6) mattress.
The side sleepers on our testing team who weigh under 130 pounds usually favor models on the softer end of this range. Firmer models often do not mold to their hips and shoulders enough to relieve pressure or promote good posture.
Side sleepers between 130 and 230 pounds tend to get the best balance of cradling and support from models close to the center of the range, while most of our team members who weigh over 230 pounds prefer firmer options to prevent their hips and shoulders from sagging.
Are Firm Mattresses Bad for Side Sleepers?
Firm mattresses are not ideal for most side sleepers. They generally don’t compress enough under the hips and shoulders to relieve pressure and promote a neutral spine position, which can lead to discomfort. However, a firmer mattress may be appropriate for individuals over 230 pounds who need extra support.
Side Sleeping and Keeping Your Spine Aligned
It’s important to keep your spine properly aligned as you sleep. This means the spine should be fairly straight. Typically, mattresses with a medium soft to medium firm feel provide appropriate spinal support to side sleepers.
Mattresses that are too soft can allow the hips and shoulders to sag, putting pressure on the lower back. On the other hand, mattresses that are too firm push back against these wider body parts, creating pressure points and preventing the spine from staying straight. Improper spinal alignment can disturb your sleep and may also contribute to back pain.
As you shop, you may see models with zoned layers. These layers are designed to provide extra support for the heavier midsection of the body, which helps keep the back in a straighter line.
What Kind of Mattress Can Help With Back Pain?
Our in-house testers who sleep on their side often report experiencing less back pain when lying on memory foam models. This type of foam conforms closely to the body, easing pressure points and distributing weight across the bed. However, the best mattress for back pain also depends on your body size. The right mattress should contour to your body without sagging excessively under your weight.
Tips to Help Keep Your Spine Aligned
In addition to a mattress that balances support and cradling, we recommend that side sleepers select pillows that support their spinal alignment.
Head Pillow: A pillow for your head should have enough loft to fill the space between your head, your shoulder, and the mattress. This can help keep your head, neck, and spine in alignment. Most side sleepers prefer a medium- to high-loft pillow with a midrange firmness
Leg or Knee Pillow: Some side sleepers also place a pillow between their knees to help prevent hip rotation, relieve pressure on the hips and lower back, and improve spinal alignment.