Best Mattress for Side Sleepers
Your Guide to Getting the Best Mattress for a Side Sleeper
For side sleepers, choosing a proper mattress is essential, and you often can’t trust the advice of a salesperson in a mattress shop. Most have little background in the industry, no in-depth knowledge, and are motivated to get the best commission, not help you get the best bed for your needs. The best consumer is an educated one and this guide will prepare you to buy your next mattress.
Buying your next bed isn’t a decision you should rush. After all, you’ll spend one-third of your life sleeping on it plus the time you spend lounging to watch TV, read, and relax. It’s one of the most important pieces of furniture in your life and has a direct impact on your health and quality of life. It’s isn’t a decision to take lightly!
A study by UK clothing retailer Marks & Spencer found that women spend an average of 16 minutes a day deciding what to wear and men average 13 minutes. That means about 8 hours a month are spent staring at your closet pondering your choices. Surely choosing a mattress is equally important and deserves some thoughtful consideration.
Let’s get started by looking at the pros and cons of side sleeping then we’ll dig into the shopping guide.
Pros and Cons of Side Sleeping
Side sleeping is the most common and is comfortable for many people because it keeps your hips in a neutral position, and your spine relaxed and supported, assuming you’re on a good bed. There are three versions of this sleeping posture.
- Fetal position: This position has you on your side and bent slightly inward, curling up too much can be hard on your back.
- Log position: In this position, you’re straight with your legs fully extended and your arms at your side with little or no spinal curl.
- Reaching position: This position has you lying mostly straight but with your arms reaching out to your side.
In addition to the version of side sleeping, you can choose left lateral or right lateral sleeping. Sleeping on your left side can reduce acid reflux but may put pressure on some of your organs. You may benefit from shifting sides as you sleep to get the advantages of both.
Pros of Side Sleeping
- Reduces pressure on the spine
- Reduces snoring
- May benefits sleep apnea
- Helps with acid reflux and gastrointestinal problems
Cons of Side Sleeping
- Can increase pressure on the neck and shoulders
- May contribute to wrinkling and breakouts
- Arm numbness if you don’t shift positions
- May cause discomfort with pressure points
Roughly 70% of people side sleep in one form or another, and studies show it’s generally healthy and more beneficial if you alternate sides during the night. If your mattress offers inadequate support or cushion, you might get some aches and pains from side sleeping, so making a wise choice of bed is critical.
Take a glimpse at our top five picks for best mattress for side sleepers then let’s dig into the sleep guide starting with mattress firmness.
Top 5 Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers
|Cocoon Classic by Sealy||Foam||4 or 8||$799|
|GhostBed||Latex and Memory Foam||6.5||$895|
|Novosbed||Foam||3, 5, and 7||$1,099|
|Tomorrow Sleep||Foam Hybrid||4 or 6||$890|
|Zenhaven||Latex||4-5 or 7-8||$1,899|
*All prices are for a queen-sized bed.
How Firm Should A Bed Be for Side Sleepers?
When buying a mattress as a side sleeper, both support and comfort are important, and these are unique concepts. Your new bed should maintain your spine in a neutral position as you sleep and that’s the function of the support core. The softness of the bed relieves pressure and lets you sink in so that you are contoured and cushioned – and that comes from the comfort layer(s).
Mattresses are rated on a scale of 1 to 10 for firmness. The very softest beds are rated 1, and the very firmest are rated 10. Most people won’t enjoy a very soft or very firm bed and sleep better on medium-soft to medium-firm depending on their unique needs and preferences. If you have lower back pain, research from Harvard shows opting for medium-firm is beneficial.
As a side sleeper, proper firmness is vital. Keeping your spine well aligned all night long can reduce or prevent lower back pain, but it’s also important that the comfort layers let you sink in enough to relieve pressure on your shoulders, hips, and neck. In addition to your sleep position, you should consider any other health concerns. Here’s what the numbers mean:
- (1) Very soft beds let you sink in deeply but may not offer enough support.
- (2-3) Soft mattresses let you “sink in” significantly but not excessively.
- (4-6) Medium and medium-firm beds are firm and supportive yet conform.
- (7-9) Firm mattresses offer greater support with some contour and cushion.
- (10) Very firm beds feel rigid with little padding or pressure relief.
Consider All Your Sleep Factors
Your side sleeping positions should factor into your best mattress decision, but there is more nuance to it than that. You’re not just a side sleeper – you’re someone with a whole sleep style that is determined by your age, overall health, specific health concerns, and aches and pains. Plus, if you sleep with a partner, their sleep needs must also be factored. Consider these issues:
What is your body weight?
If you’re lighter weight, you will need a plusher comfort layer that lets you sink in. Conversely, if you’re heavier, you will need to consider a slightly firmer mattress to get adequate support. The heavier you are, the more durable your mattress materials need to be.
Do you have low back pain?
If you have low back pain, you might assume a firm mattress is better, but researchers from Harvard found that medium-firm is best for those with achy backs. Your spine should stay in a neutral, aligned position while you side sleep and you may want to try a pillow between your knees.
Do you live with joint pain?
Joint pain sufferers may want a plusher comfort layer to ease pressure on sensitive spots. A mattress that’s too firm can push on pressure points of shoulders, neck, and hips, so you wake up achy and sore. Latex and memory foam are excellent choices for those with joint issues.
Do you co-sleep with someone?
When you sleep with a partner, you must take their needs into account. If one of you is heavy and the other light or you have drastically different sleep styles, you might need to consider a dual design mattress where each half of the bed is customized. Otherwise, compromise is key.
Are you an active sleeper?
The more you move around at night, the greater the chance that you’ll wake yourself or your co-sleeper unless your mattress is designed to prevent motion transfer, the energy displaced when you shift position. Memory foam and latex are the best materials to quell motion transfer.
Next, we’ll look at mattress materials that are best for side sleepers.
Best Mattress Materials for Side Sleepers
There’s a lot of sales lingo and hype in the industry, particularly when you go into brick and mortar mattress stores. Manufacturers sell the same models under different names at different stores to create confusion and make it hard to comparison shop. What you must know is that there are only three basic mattress materials in beds you’ll look at in-store and online.
Beds can be innerspring, foam, latex, or a blend of materials if the mattress is a hybrid. Mattresses have two basic parts: a support core and a comfort layer. A mattress might have more than one support element, such as dual spring layers and many have more than one comfort layer. Any mattress material can be soft or firm – it’s all about the design.
Here’s a look at the types of mattresses and what to expect from these materials:
Innerspring beds are the oldest type of mattress and the least costly as a rule. Innersprings are coils of wire that are attached to each other. These serve as the support core of an innerspring bed, and another material such as foam or latex goes on top as the comfort layer(s). Traditionally, innerspring beds were noisier, bouncier, and had excessive motion transfer.
Today’s most evolved innersprings are pocket coils. These are coils of wire sleeved in fabric usually sewn or glued to each other. For side sleepers, innerspring mattresses are a viable choice if the comfort layer is good quality so that it relieves pressure on your hips and shoulders. If you co-sleep with a partner, look for a comfort layer of latex or memory foam for minimal motion transfer.
Foam is a synthetic product and of two types: memory foam and polyurethane foam (also called polyfoam). Memory foam is denser and thicker than polyfoam and lets you sink in for a nice contour. However, traditional memory foam can sleep hot. Newer memory foams are infused with gel or copper and promise to offer cooler sleep. Memory foams offer excellent pressure relief.
Polyfoam can be regular, high density (HD), or high resiliency (HR). Regular foam isn’t something you want in your bed because it’s not durable, is cheap, and low quality. Look for only HD and HR foams in beds you consider. If you’re heavier, an all-foam bed might not be supportive enough. Look for quality foam designed for air flow since foam tends to sleep hotter than other materials.
Mattresses can be natural or synthetic latex or a blend of both. Natural latex is processed from rubber tree sap. Both types of latex feel much the same. They sleep cool, contour well, hug your body, and offer a nice, low level of bounce. Latex is comfortable and supportive. However, all those benefits come with a higher price point.
Heavier people and those with back pain will appreciate latex. It also has low motion transfer, so it’s a good material for co-sleepers. Latex beds are the most durable of all mattress materials, so even though these beds cost more, they last much longer which can wind up saving you money because you won’t have to replace the mattress as frequently.
True hybrid mattresses are those with pocket coils as the support layer and foam or latex as the comfort layer(s). If the bed doesn’t have an innerspring support core, it’s not really a hybrid. Hybrid beds bring the benefits of all materials. Pocket coils offer excellent support and circulate air for a cooler night’s sleep and with high-quality materials, can be very durable.
The comfort layer(s) of a hybrid bed can be a blend of materials, and latex hybrids are some of the best out there. Hybrid mattresses support and contour, but also offer lower motion transfer thanks to the comfort layers. The price point of a hybrid is close to that of latex and will typically be costlier than innerspring or foam beds.
Reviews of Our Top 5 Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers
The most important factor in choosing the best bed for a side sleeper is personal preference. Research shows that a mattress that feels comfy in the store might be a bad choice once you get it home. That’s why sleep trials are so important. Pick the best bed based on your criteria and relevant reviews and then try it at home and if it doesn’t work, return it guilt-free. You deserve a good night’s sleep!
Cocoon by Sealy
Sealy’s Cocoon mattress is an all-foam bed with a support core that’s durable and resilient high-density foam. The transition foam layer is firmer or softer depending on the option you choose. The comfort layer is perfect-fit memory foam that’s adaptable and conforms to your body. The cover is durable, breathable stretch-knit for cooling and moisture-wicking.
There are two firmness options at medium-soft (4) or firm (8) for a very reasonable price point of $799. The softer option has a feeling of sinking-in while the firmer bed offers the feeling of “sleeping on” the bed. For side sleepers, the medium-soft is preferable because it relieves pressure points that might not be as well-cushioned on the firmer Cocoon model.
Because of the memory foam, Cocoon may sleep a little hotter. If you’re a hot sleeper, you might want to invest an extra $150 in the Cocoon Chill. The softer bed may be too plush for heavier people, and you might need to consider the firmer. The plush comfort layer in the softer version means the edge support is not as substantial in this bed.
Why Cocoon by Sealy Stands Out
Sealy put their 125+ years of experience behind this bed and spent two years in R&D developing the Cocoon before they came to market. Cocoon is not only an outstanding value but offers low motion isolation, a nice sink-in sensation, and superior pressure relief on shoulders and hips which is critical to the comfort of side sleepers.
The support core of GhostBed is a high-density foam that’s 7.5” thick. On top of that is a layer of proprietary large-cell memory foam for reactivity and cooling. The upper comfort layer is 1.5” of aerated latex to contour without heating and is designed for responsiveness. The stretchy cover is CertiPUR certified and removable for cleaning.
At just $895, it’s a great price point for quality materials including premium latex. The support core is high-grade foam, and the comfort layers are designed to contour without sinking-in excessively. For side sleepers, the bed should perform well with a good sink-in feel that still provides adequate support, but it’s not an overly plush feeling bed.
With just one firmness, at 6.5, this is not a super-soft bed. Some customers report that the bed feels too firm the first night. However, the bed conforms to your body after a few night’s sleep and gets more comfortable as you go and a 101-night sleep trial to test the bed and return it if you’re not happy. Some buyers reported mild off-gassing that dissipated quickly.
Why GhostBed Stands Out
The GhostBed mattress is affordable and made of high-quality materials. Side sleepers will appreciate the support and contour. If you’re heavier, this bed is durable and a solid choice. For those with low back pain, the extra support is a plus. It’s an all-around great fit for many types of side sleepers at a very reasonable price point.
The Novosbed design varies depending on whether you choose the soft, medium, or firm option. The support core is premium foam. Above that is a layer of plush memory foam for transition. On top of that is airflow memory foam for comfort but the soft model has airflow gel foam instead. All models come with a washable, moisture-wicking, Tencel® cover.
Novosbed has been around for almost a decade, so there’s an established track record with the brand. The memory foam is of good density and motion transfer is minimal. The cooling foam keeps you cooler while offering excellent relief on pressure points and the $1,099 price point is a value for quality materials. Side sleepers will likely prefer the soft and medium options.
There is slight off-gassing aroma observed by some buyers but it fades quickly. The bed comes with a 120-night sleep trial, but you can’t request a refund until you sleep on the bed for 60 days. The edge support is not as firm as you’d get with innerspring or latex and is common with memory foam. It doesn’t sleep as cool as latex or innerspring.
Why Novosbed Stands Out
One of the best features of Novosbed is its Comfort+ program. After a 30-night break-in period, if your bed isn’t as firm or soft as you want, Novosbed sends you a free kit to fine-tune your mattress. If the Comfort+ kit doesn’t give you the sleep experience you need, you can return the bed for a full refund. The bed has a track record for durability and is well-reviewed by buyers.
The hybrid design of Tomorrow Sleep varies by the two firmness options (4 and 6). The plusher version has three comfort layers of memory foam gel, gel polyfoam, and polyfoam. The firmer bed has two layers of memory foam and gel polyfoam. The support core is pocket coils on a polyfoam base encased in firm polyfoam for edge support. The custom cover is phase-change material to regulate temperature.
The price for this bed is remarkable at just $890 which is a good price point for a quality hybrid. This bed has much better edge support than other memory foam beds because of the encasement. The phase-change cover is moisture-wicking and works with the air-circulating comfort foam and side rails for enhanced cooling. The sensation of motion transfer is minimal, and the contour is nice.
Some buyers noticed a slight off-gassing aroma when unboxing the bed, but it didn’t linger. Decompression takes a few hours, so you can’t unroll it and go right to sleep. The bed is heavy and not easily moved. Plus, Tomorrow Sleep is a very new company and has been around a little more than a year, so they’re still establishing their track record.
Why Tomorrow Sleep Stands Out
Although it’s new to the market, Tomorrow Sleep’s parent company is mattress legacy firm Serta. It speaks well to the staying ability of this brand. There is an incredible 365-night sleep trial for you to see if Tomorrow Sleep works for you. This hybrid brings the comfort and sink-in of memory foam without the heat and weak edges and should perform well for side sleepers.
Zenhaven is a 100% natural latex bed sourced from sustainable materials. There are five layers in its design, and the bed is meant to be flippable with one side firmer (7-8) and the other plusher at (4-5). There are two 3” thick latex support cores in the center of the bed and two outer comfort layers, one on each side. The bed has a thick wool layer, and an organic cotton cover encases the mattress.
If you’re not certain whether a firmer or softer bed is what you want, the flippable design offers you options to customize your sleep experience with one mattress. If you don’t want any synthetic materials as part of your sleep experience, Zenhaven delivers with its all-natural, organic materials. Latex is durable, so you can feel confident that this bed should last for many years.
The price point of Zenhaven is $1,899 for a queen, and that might be too steep for some budgets. However, for a latex bed of this quality, the mattress is a deal. Zenhaven’s maker, Saatva, has been around for several years and has a solid reputation, but this mattress is newer and is still establishing a history of durability, but things look good so far.
Why Zenhaven Stands Out
The Zenhaven support core is designed with five zones to optimize your sleep experience. Zones provide more support where your body is heavier and plusher where there are sensitive pressure points. The cover design is patented, detects heat, and cools you as needed. It’s durable premium latex that hugs, contours, and sleeps cool, so it’s an excellent bed for side sleepers.