The Complete Side Sleeper Guide

What is a side sleeper and the Types of Side Sleeper?

Sleeping on your side is one of the most common positions to sleep in, and that’s not just because of the comfort it brings. Side sleeping has numerous health benefits that can lead you to a better night’s sleep.


So how can you tell if you’re a side sleeper? Maybe you’re the yearner and sleep with your arms stretched out across the bed. Or you might prefer the fetal position where you tuck your knees and arms to your chest. Maybe you just like the log position where you lay on your side and keep your body straight.  Regardless of how you arrange your limbs as a side sleeper, there’s a lot more to sleep positions than you might think


Side sleeper and personality


Your sleeping position can reveal a lot more about you than just your body alignment preference. Side-sleepers have often been identified as social creatures; they are accepting and outgoing, unlike stomach sleepers who lay on the shy side of the social scale.


These open-minded sleepers are a lot less likely to experience snoring compared to other sleepers and because their spine remains aligned overnight, they don’t experience back and neck pain that often.


You may be skeptical about the relationship between personality and sleeping position but there’s actually science behind this idea. Our daily body language communicates a lot about who we are, why should it be any different when we sleep?


Sleeping Positions for Side Sleepers to Avoid Back Pain/Neck Pain


Though it’s not as common as it is with other sleepers, side-sleepers can suffer from neck and back pain from time to time. If you experience this kind of pain, don’t worry, you don’t have to go and change your sleeping position, sell your belongings, run town and change your name. Before that, you should try using strategically placed pillows to get your neck and spine properly aligned and stop that aching pain once and for all.


I don’t know if you’ve heard, but sleeping with a pillow under your head is important (it was in the newspapers). But not some lousy canvas sack filled with straw; go for long-lasting, firm support. You need to consider both size and material when shopping for the right pillow. As a general sleep rule, your ear should not be touching your shoulder, this will cause your neck to stretch your muscles causing discomfort overnight. Your head should be elevated so that your spine remains straight as an arrow. Test out different pillows with different densities and materials until you find the right combination of comfort and support.


Dr. Philippe Gailloud says “If humans tried to rotate our heads so rapidly or far, we’d tear the lining of our arteries, which would cause clots to form and lead to a stroke.” Although he doesn’t explicitly state it, I think Dr. Gailloud is a huge advocate of proper pillow usage. He studies owls so my guess is that he’s basically a neck expert. To avoid this unlikely neck injury, pillows shouldn’t just be a place to rest your head, your neck must be supported too. Any space between your neck and the mattress will cause muscle strain so be sure to find a nice thick pillow to prevent this pain.


Heading south, if you place a pillow between your knees you can save yourself from a lot of potential discomfort. Your upper leg can actually pull your spine out of alignment if it’s too close to your other leg. This misalignment can cause a lot of unwelcome back and thigh pain so give it a try, you have nothing to lose (and better sleep to gain!).


So you know all about head and neck support but now let’s talk about body support. Though some get close, most mattresses aren’t always created to fit a perfect mold of your unique body shape. This means that some parts of you won’t always get the proper support they need. If you find your waist, back or leg sinking too far or not far enough, place pillows where needed to ensure your body stays the way it’s meant to be; comfortable and uninjured.


These are all little changes you can make to your sleeping pattern that have huge paybacks.


Choosing a Mattress for Side Sleepers


While choosing the best mattress for side sleepers, there a lot of things to consider, but don’t worry, we’ve done all the research for you!


While the amount of different mattresses can seem overwhelming, the choice isn’t all that difficult when you know what you’re looking for. Keep in mind that as a side sleeper, you’re looking for a mattress that reduces pressure on your hips and shoulders since these are primarily the points where all your weight will be focused. Let’s get into it.


The ever-popular memory foam mattress is great for side sleepers due to the ultra dense support that can relieve pressure point pain from light to heavy body types. Memory foam fits your body like a glove offering superior body alignment and comfort. One drawback you could run into would be that these mattresses tend to retain heat really well so if you’re already a hot sleeper than you might be in for some sizzling sleep sessions.


If you find memory foam has you feeling trapped in a bed of coals then you can try a hybrid mattress which often has a memory foam layer combined with latex and coils. This will give you a more natural bouncy feeling along with that familiar foam cushioning. This comfortable blend of materials is a good choice for side sleepers who need a mattress with advanced contouring qualities.


You might prefer a firm mattress but still feel pain at night. A mattress topper could provide you with an additional layer of comfort while still giving you that firm feeling. These usually come in foam or gel materials and prevent you from that sinking feeling you might experience without one.


Choosing pillow for Side Sleeper 


Hopefully, by now you know how pillows can aid the sleep effort, but what kind of pillows should you be using? We’re glad you asked; we love pillow talk.


It’s true, pillow pets are adorable and softly connect you to wildlife, but they can’t provide you with the true support of a luxurious adult pillow. The best side sleeper pillow is firm and won’t allow the head to sag too deep and overstretch the neck muscles. A thicker pillow would also work to eliminate strain on your muscles by filling any open space between your neck and mattress.


Much like the mattresses, memory foam pillows provide excellent support which is just what side sleepers need. They are also durable and provide contoured support which means they won’t lose their form overnight and cause your neck to sag and ache.


You might also want to experiment with a latex pillow. These pillows are soft and supportive, perfect for preventing neck and back pain. They also are a lot more breathable than memory foam pillows ensuring your pillow will always feel like it’s on the “cold side”.


Side Sleeper and top Health Issues

Fetal Position-Mattress for Side Sleepers


It’s true that sleeping on your side can be a lot better for you than sleeping on your back or stomach, but you still face some potential health risks.


Neck pain occurs when the head isn’t properly aligned and stretches out the muscles and tendons. After a long night of this, you could wake up feeling major neck pain that could last throughout the day. Keep your neck in a neutral position where it can’t twist or bend and you’ll be able to prevent this undue strain.


Snoring happens when the muscles in the throat relax and vibrate rapidly. Back sleepers are more commonly identified as snorers more than other sleepers but that doesn’t mean side sleepers are in the clear. Sometimes obese sleepers will snore no matter what position they sleep in due to narrowed breathing passages caused by the additional weight in the neck area.

With your body weight focusing a lot of pressure on your thigh area, it’s common for side sleepers to experience some manner of hip pain. An extra firm mattress with less support will worsen this experience so it’s key to find a mattress that relieves additional pressure and discomfort on your body.

Tips for Side Sleepers For a Good Night’s Sleep


Find a mattress that supports your body, you won’t be doing yourself any favors on a mattress that doesn’t conform to your unique body shape and size. You wouldn’t wear shoes that don’t fit the shape of your feet so why would you settle for a misshapen mattress?

The best mattress for side sleepers is gentle on the shoulder, if your weight is causing your shoulders to crunch then you need to consider a mattress with more “give”.


Get the right pillow for side sleepers. Remember thick and firm. Eliminate the space between your neck, head and bed and you’ll be a happy dreamer.

Test out pillows until it’s perfect. Seriously, pretend you’re at a pillow buffet and don’t stop trying until you’ve got a favorite that’s the perfect blend of ingredients, find your “comfort food”.

Use a thin pillow between your knees when sleeping. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes with the additional space between your legs. Both your spine and the stars will align for a perfect night’s sleep.


Side Sleeper FAQ


Q: What mattress firmness is best for side sleepers?

A: Side sleepers are looking for something around 2-5 on the firmness scale depending on their body type.


Q: Are memory foam mattresses good for side sleepers?

A: Memory foam is a great choice for side sleepers who don’t mind the feeling of being “hugged” or a warmer sleeping experience. Memory foam is made of dense material that has good support but might leave you feeling like you’re stuck.

Q: Is a firm mattress good for side sleepers?

A: Mattresses that are too firm will generally cause side sleepers more discomfort because they don’t allow the shoulders or thighs to properly sink. Mattresses that are less firm will fit the body shape better and keep the back, neck and head perfectly aligned which will prevent prolonged discomfort.


Q: Is a firm mattress good for a bad back?

A: If you are experiencing back pain, it is likely due to spine misalignment from using the incorrect mattress or pillow. Firmer mattresses won’t always give your hips and shoulders the contour they need. If you have a firm mattress and a bad back, try putting a pillow under your side so your back stays straight.


Q: What is the best type of mattress for side sleepers?

A: Side sleepers sleep best in a mattress that perfectly contours their body and is on 2-5 of the firmness scale. Softer mattresses that relieve pressure such as a latex or memory foam work wonders for side sleepers.

Q: What is the best pillow for a side sleeper?

A: The best side sleeper pillow is firm, thick and creates a perfect neck to spine alignment and fills up the space between the neck and the bed.