Updated: September 2018
If you’re a side sleeper (along with almost 70% of the population), it may come to you as a surprise, but there are actually a variety of pillow types for side sleepers available. The amount and locations of support needed can be quite different than for someone who sleeps on their back.
Ideally, you want to use two pillows: one for your head, and one for between your knees. While you need to be picky about the type of pillow to use under your head, the pillow to keep between your knees can be anything from a secondary side sleeper pillow to a throw pillow. It’s main purpose is to keep some separation between your knees to keep your hips properly aligned and reduce hip pain at night.
For head and neck support, the best pillow for side sleepers is one which has firmness and loft (height). However, the pillow must have enough give to allow you to change positions without losing comfort. Many different kinds of filling are used, including memory foam, buckwheat, down, and latex, although memory foam (especially the shredded variety) tends to be the most popular.
The following is what I believe to be the top four choices for a side sleeper pillow, each the best representative for their individual type of filling.
Known more for their excellent copper infused mattress with “flippable” firmness, Layla also manufactures an excellent pillow for side sleepers (and back sleepers). There are two main differences with this pillow over the popular shredded memory foam pillows out there.
For starters, the filling is actually a Kapok and shredded memory foam combo. This means that along with the excellent moldable support and softness of shredded memory foam, the fluffy, hypoallergenic, cotton-like Kapok is noticeably softer than typical memory foam pillow yet offers similar support. It also doesn’t require as much re-fluffing like other shredded foam pillows after a few nights.
Second, a Layla pillow review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the unique copper infused quilted cover. It dissipates body heat better than expected so you won’t be waking up in the middle of the night to switch to the cool side of the pillow. The copper fabric is also believed to release positive ions that offer a variety of health and wellness benefits. Although this actual benefit may be debatable, you’ll most likely agree the Layla pillow is one of the most comfortable pillows available on the market.
Available in both Standard (18″ x 24″ x 4″) and King (18″ x 32″ x 4″) sizes, this is a true “premium” pillow and the quality shows. Made in the USA, it comes with a 5-year warranty and a 120-night trial. If for some reason you don’t think the Layla pillow is right for you, they’ll give you 100% of your money back. I love companies that stand by their product like that.
Since the pillow does use some shredded memory foam, expect a slight chemically smell for a couple days. Some may not even notice the smell but just wanted to point that out. While the height of the pillow will be good for most side sleepers, it would have been nice to have a zipper to allow you to remove some of the filling if you prefer a flatter pillow.
Relief Mart’s Snuggle-Pedic bamboo pillow features a shredded memory foam filler which holds its shape even after multiple washings and extended use. The covering uses a Kool-Flow® micro-vented bamboo blend cover that prevents the pillow from heating up during use. If you’re one of those people who like to constantly flip their pillow over to get the cool side, this pillow will all but eliminate that necessity.
The combination of just the right amount of firmness/height and vented cover have proven popular with people suffering a wide variety of upper and lower back ailments and injuries. It also doesn’t hurt that the Snuggle-Pedic is made in the USA, hypoallergenic, bio-friendly, and resistant to dust mites. The pillow is available in three sizes.
Memory foam is generally considered the best material for side sleeping pillows in Western culture (buckwheat, the main competitor, is more common in the Far East and has only recently gained popularity in the US), but has some disadvantages due partly to its weight. By using a shredded blend of memory foam and CertiPUR-US® certified foam, this pillow keeps all of the advantages of solid memory foam while being both lighter and fluffier.
This makes it an excellent choice for supporting your head, neck, and shoulders. The shredded foam’s moldability also appeals to back sleepers, so this is an excellent choice if you alternate sleeping habits. Stomach sleepers on the other hand, should look elsewhere for a flatter pillow.
Perhaps the biggest initial complaint made by consumers is the hefty price tag. After all, most of us are accustomed simply buying a generic $15 pillow at Target or Walmart. If you really consider how many hours you use a pillow over its lifetime, you’ll realize it’s actually a great deal. Also, customers frequently comment on how Relief Mart’s customer service is top notch.
The company knows that everyone’s needs are unique and makes every effort to ensure customers are happy with their new pillow by providing a no-hassle 90-day money back guarantee, 20 year warranty, and even customize (add or remove filler) the pillow twice at no cost (they mail you a prepaid label for return shipping). As a result, it is generally agreed that this rare level of quality control and lack of fine print more than make up for the initial cost.
As with any pillow that using synthetic materials, you will probably notice a slight chemical smell when you first use the pillow. Keep in mind that this is only temporary and goes away on its own. The best way to get rid of the smell faster is tossing it in the dryer for 20 minutes on low heat along with a scented dryer sheet or few drops of your favorite essential oil. Additionally, leave it outside for a few hours if weather permits.
If you’ve never tried a buckwheat pillow and memory foam is not your thing, do yourself a favor and give this one a try. Sleeping on a buckwheat hulls is unlike any other material. The pillow will feel very firm yet surprisingly comfortable. The buckwheat husks do a fantastic job of conforming to your head, neck, and shoulders to give excellent support.
Also, no other pillow type will stay cooler throughout the night. If you prefer soft pillows, the ComfySleep might be a bit too firm to get used to. Either the Snuggle-Pedic (above) or MALOUF (below) would most likely be better options for you.
Based upon traditional Japanese design, the Comfy Sleep pillow is shipped with an extra pound of buckwheat hulls to allow home customization. It is a little hefty in both price and weight, but these are made up for in durability and versatility. For example, consumers often use the pillow as a prop for sitting, and the weight helps it keep position during sleep.
The only downside to this weight is that it does not work well as a leg pillow but that’s not the reason for purchasing it. Buckwheat filling is also hypoallergenic and malleable, allowing you to mold it before going to sleep without worrying about the shape changing in the middle of the night.
MALOUF’s Z series Zoned Talalay Latex pillow is also one of the best side sleeping latex pillows on the market. Specially designed to keep its shape after years of use, the pillow is resistant to dust mites; made using sustainable, eco-friendly materials; and naturally mildew proof.
In addition, this pillow offers customization that others don’t offer including combinations of high/low loft and firm/plush firmness so you can truly make it the perfect pillow. While the price of the pillow is high compared to others, you are getting ultra premium quality.
When purchasing for side sleeping use, be sure to choose the firm model and not the plush, which is better suited for other positions. In addition, while the pillow is considered hypoallergenic, it may be best to test the pillow first if you suffer from a latex allergy.