From Memory Foam to a Down Alternative, These Are the Best Pillows for Side Sleepers
Material matters, folks.
Published Jun 12, 2022 1:40 AM
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Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.
At first glance, the mechanics of a pillow might not seem so important: Rectangle, stuffed for support, all good to go. But side, stomach, and back sleepers require different styles of pillows, and height, shape, and material factor heavily when it comes to the best pillows for side sleepers. “The job of a pillow should be to support your head and neck in a neutral position,” says physical therapist and health coach Jessica McManus. “Many side sleepers choose a pillow to support just their head, and their neck ends up in an off-center position as the night progresses, leading to stiffness.” And even if they are funky shapes or quirky colors, decorator Magdalena Mendez says that the key to incorporating pillows is letting them stand out. “Buying a separate pillowcase color (from your bedding) can help the aesthetic of the room,” she explains. Ready to lie down? Us too. Here are the best pillows for side sleepers.
- Best overall: Coop Home Goods Original Loft Pillow
- Best value: Beckham Hotel Collection Bed Pillows
- Best memory foam: Pillow Cube Side Sleeper Pro
- Best cooling: Purple Pillow
- Best down: Parachute Down Side Sleeper Pillow
- Best down alternative: Saatva Down Alternative Pillow
Best Overall: Coop Home Goods Original Loft Pillow
Sizes: Queen, king | Fill material: Memory foam, microfiber | Shell material: Rayon
What we like:
- Washable cover
- Comes with extra fill
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- Foam is shredded
Why we chose it: A fully customizable, easy-to-maintain pillow made for long-term comfort and support.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the best pillows for side sleepers. Thankfully, brands know this, and many, like Coop Home Goods, offer customizable options. When the Original Loft pillow arrives at your doorstep, you get an extra half-pound bag of memory foam and microfiber fill with it. Stuff in or remove the fill to your preference to get that just-right firmness. The pillow is made with high-quality materials, including the cover’s breathable Lulltra rayon fabric, and fill that has been rigorously tested for harmful chemicals and meet the top product safety standards. Samantha Weiss-Hills, Domino’s deputy editor (and a side sleeper), has been snoozing on one for two years and would happily continue to do so for many years to come. “I like how you can adjust it to suit your preferences, and you can easily move the fill around to support your neck and head at the same time,” she says. “And the cozy cover can go in the wash—I love that.”
Best Value: Beckham Hotel Collection Bed Pillows
Sizes: Standard, king | Fill material: Down alternative | Shell material: Sateen cotton
What we like:
- Set of 2
- Machine washable
- Plush feel
- Not firm
Why we chose it: Hotel-grade pillows to prop up against your headboard, and without a steep price tag.
If you’re looking for quality pillows that won’t drain your bedding budget, the Beckham Hotel Collection is the perfect choice. The 250-thread-count sateen cotton cover makes them feel resort-luxe, and the down-alternative fill is breathable, helping to deter overheating. The bounce-back design should shape itself to your body so you won’t wake up stiff due to sleeping at an uncomfortable angle. Maintaining the pillows couldn’t be easier; just toss in the wash and tumble dry on low; the shape will bounce back pronto thanks to its plush fill and be at the ready to contour to your specific sleep position. And unlike any of the other options on this list, these come in a set of two.
Best Memory Foam: Pillow Cube Side Sleeper Pro
Sizes: Twin, queen, king | Fill material: Memory foam | Shell material: Polyester, spandex
What we like:
- Customizable thickness
- Versatile for different heights
- Removable pillow cover
- Rectangular shape
Why we chose it: A cult pillow side sleepers love, despite its goofy, blocklike shape.
“Imagine how your neck would feel if you walked around all day with your head bent down toward one shoulder,” says McManus. “Likely, you would feel stiff and sore after only a couple of hours.” She recommends choosing a pillow with an appropriate firmness to support your head and neck in a neutral position. Pillow Cube’s side sleeper comes in standard, thin, and thick sizing for people of all heights—the product’s firm memory foam and different sizes fit a variety of bodies, and the design means that your spine will stay in alignment and you’ll sleep more comfortably. (Entrepreneur Alyssa Coscarelli doesn’t leave home without her Pillow Cube pillow for exactly that reason.)
Domino’s deputy photo editor, Andie Diemer, says the Pillow Cube has excelled for her where other memory foam, contour, or water-based pillows fell short. “I struggle with jaw issues, so getting enough neck support while I sleep is essential so I don’t wake up with a tension headache,” she explains. “This pillow won’t let your neck sink throughout the night, allowing the jaw to stay aligned.” She notes that it’s truly meant for side sleepers, so if you spend a significant amount of time on your back or stomach, this probably isn’t the right fit for you.
Best Cooling: Purple Pillow
Sizes: One size | Fill material: GelFlex grid hyper-elastic polymer | Shell material: Polyester
What we like:
- 1-year warranty
- Customizable height
- 1 unique size available; might not fit a standard 20-by-26-inch pillowcase
Why we chose it: The “cool side of the pillow” is both sides of this highly breathable option.
If you’re someone who gets steamy at night regardless of the weather, sleeping on breathable fabrics is a must. And even if you’re not prone to overheating at night, it’s refreshing to sleep on any material that stays cool. Purple’s pillow is made with its patented GelFlex Grid, which is soft while remaining supportive. The material holds its shape well and the open-air channels make it breathable. The pillow also allows you to mix and match boosters to customize the height. The extra removable fabric will increase the loft to your preference. To note: There is just one size available, so if you sleep in a king or California king bed, it might look tiny. But you can just toss it in a basket or slide it under the bed in that case.
Best Down: Parachute Down Side Sleeper Pillow
Sizes: Standard, king | Fill material: Down | Shell material: Sateen cotton
What we like:
- Machine washable
- Has a double-stitched piping seam to prevent loose feathers
- 3-year warranty
- Medium density
Why we chose it: Say goodbye to stray feathers (and flipping and fluffing) with this side sleeper–specific pillow.
Stray feathers littering your bed are a buzzkill come morning. It’s frustrating to see a product you use every night lose its fill, not knowing where it’s sneaking out or having much control to stop it. Parachute’s European white down pillow doesn’t have that problem, thanks to its tightly woven, 100 percent sateen cotton shell. Its medium density is supported with a 3.5-inch gusset, and the whole thing is stuffed with plush, luxe fill. And cleaning it is so easy: You can machine wash this pillow on a delicate cycle using mild liquid laundry detergent without worrying that it will lose its shape. Psst: We also love Parachute’s silk pillowcases; they claim to improve skin and hair health.
Best Down Alternative: Saatva Down Alternative Pillow
Sizes: Queen, king | Fill material: Down alternative | Shell material: Organic cotton
What we like:
- 45-day free return
- Not machine washable
Why we chose it: A vegan alternative that mimics the cloudlike feeling of down.
If you’re used to sleeping on down pillows but are searching for a vegan or more sustainable option, Saatva’s down alternative was designed to feel just like one. We love that this option works for all types (combination sleepers, tipping our hat to you), so if you fall asleep on your back but find yourself waking up on your side, it’s the right pick. The pillow stays light and airy while retaining more springiness than traditional fiberfill. The brand claims that it’s especially good for people who like to cuddle with their pillow.
How We Chose These Products
We spend almost a third of our days asleep—that’s a lot of time for our necks and back to potentially be in the wrong position. And it’s easy to go down the wrong path, because pillows are often labeled in only two ways: “soft” or “firm.” The important information can be difficult to find, and there are a lot of options on the market that make lofty claims. So we relied on physical therapists to lend their expert advice when it comes to finding the best pillows for side sleepers. We prioritized breathable fabric, a range of support, customization, and reasonable price points. But remember: A pillow should be an investment. Spending $100 on one (one time!) is much better than waking up sore or going back to the drawing board again and again.
Our Shopping Checklist
Pillows for side sleepers are usually made with memory foam, down, down-alternative fill, microfiber, or a blend. If you’re especially sensitive to allergens, steer clear of down options, since they’re derived from bird feathers; stick to a down alternative or memory foam.
A pillow’s supportive qualities are just as important as its fill material—that’s why one of the most important factors in our research was finding firm, plush, or softer pillows to fit different preferences. McManus says she usually recommends having a couple of options on your bed, with at least one that can be molded to fill in space under your neck.
Side sleepers should prioritize keeping their neck straight while sleeping. But physical therapist Dr. Sam Kelokates says the most important aspect of your search should be to find a pillow that you are most comfortable with. “If you aren’t comfortable, you probably won’t get a quality night of sleep,” he explains. “When looking for a pillow, you should take into account how high your head is off the bed and if you feel like your head is well supported by the pillow.”
Don’t discount a good return policy either—you might not find the perfect pillow on the first try. For example, a person who is 5-feet-4 will need a significantly different loft than someone who is a foot taller.
Care and Maintenance
Pillows aren’t always machine washable, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and confirm if only the cover can be tossed in. Spot cleaning might also be advised, depending on material and fill. In general, though, you’ll want to wash a removable shell every few weeks—just add it in with your pillowcases and sheets and it will become habit.
Q: Should a side sleeper use a firm pillow?
We aren’t doctors, but experts we talked with said that a firmer pillow is helpful to maintain alignment for your neck and therefore better for a side sleeper. If a pillow is too soft, then it might lose its shape and your head will fall closer to your mattress. However, if something firm isn’t comfortable for you, try choosing a thicker pillow to ensure you stay in a neutral position.
The Last Word
If you’re a natural side sleeper, that’s actually a great position to remain in at night. “There are no inherent risks of being a side sleeper,” adds Kelokates. With that in mind, Coop Home Goods Original Loft Pillow came in as our best overall pick—it usually ships quickly, is customizable, provides support, and sells at a hard-to-beat price. And remember: A pillow is just one aspect of achieving restful sleep. Kelokates says it’s important to develop a bedtime routine that minimizes screens (sorry, Netflix) and cuts out distractions. He adds: “Your bedroom should create a sense of calm and relaxation.” Now go catch some z’s.