If you’re a side-sleeper, you know that it can come with the unpleasant side effect of waking up with a stiff neck and other resulting aches and pains. Luckily, this can often be resolved simply by investing in one of the best pillows for side-sleepers.
Side-sleeping is common: A 2012 poll showed that 74 percent of Americans snooze on their sides, with stomach sleepers and back sleepers coming in close behind. As comfortable as side-sleeping can be, however, it can also cause issues in the neck and shoulder departments.
Side-sleeping has its pros and cons. On the plus side, there are many health benefits to reposing in this position. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it can help those suffering from sleep apnea, acid reflux, heartburn, GERD. Due to the positioning of certain organs, like the stomach, however, the latter statements are only true when sleeping on your left side.
On the other hand, given that sleeping on your side may require resting on one arm, this position can also result in numbness and neck pain — particularly if you also pull your chin down into a fetal position.
This position also means placing a good amount of your weight on one of your shoulders, which can lead to additional aching and straining over time.
As such, it’s very important to be conscious of the alignment of your head, neck, and spine, as well as the overall straightness of your legs and back when you sleep on your side. For added support with alignment, fit can help to place a body pillow between your knees to alleviate pressure on your hips and lower back.
What is the best pillow for side sleepers?
Grab a sleep mask and your favorite mattress topper and get ready to drift off in comfort, because we’ve rounded up the best-rated pillows for side sleepers with neck and shoulder pain. Keep scrolling to shop our picks!
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Best Pillow For Side and Stomach Sleepers
Where to buy: $99.95, Amazon
If you find that you sleep in a hybrid position — not quite on your stomach, but not quite on your side — this crescent-shaped pillow may be your new secret weapon against fatigue. Dubbed the Scrumptious Side Sleeper, this headrest features a unique curve, which supports your neck differently than a traditional pillow by getting up under your shoulders. It essentially acts as an extension of the body, properly aligning your neck to stop aches and pains in their tracks. It's also made with Certipur-US certified cooling gel foam, so you'll stay plenty cool at night, too.
But don't take it from us: With one customer calling it a "great pillow for active side or stomach-sleepers" and another claiming, "Yes, this pillow IS that good," the reviews speak for yourself.
Best Cooling Pillow For Side Sleepers
Where to buy: $49.99, Amazon
Looking for a pillow to help keep you cool and comfortable as you side-sleep? Snuggle-Pedic's ultra-luxury cooling pillow is a great bet. Made from a luscious bamboo blend, this memory foam design features a "Kool-Flow" micro-vented cover designed to help circulate air and lower your temp as you slumber. With shredded memory foam filling, this pillow will also contour to the shape of your spine, giving you orthopedic support for proper alignment throughout the night. Did we mention its also machine washable, hypoallergenic, and made in the US?
Best Pillow for Neck Pain for Side Sleepers
Where to buy: From $279.99, Amazon
One of the biggest issues side-sleepers face is arm pain that can come from placing their arms beneath pillows, creating issues such as numbness, soreness, and aches. MedCline's bed wedge is a full-length memory foam body pillow with a convenient arm pocket that works to relieve pressure from your arm and shoulder. What's more, this pillow's incline is not only for comfort, but helps with other health issues — especially digestive ones. Clinically shown to aid in proper overnight digestion, this is one of the best pillows for side sleepers with acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD looking to get their beauty zzzs.
Best Pillow for Headaches
Where to buy: $34.99, Amazon
Since side-sleeping can cause neck and shoulder pain, it's common for side sleepers to have frequent bouts of headaches. Proper neck support from a good pillow, like this one from Sable, can do wonders to help cure what ails you. Made from 100 percent hypoallergenic cotton, this soft and supportable goose down-alternative pillow features removable stuffing, so you can choose the perfect fill level support for you.
With reviews like, "I finally woke up without a headache," this pillow might just be the key to your sweet, sweet head pain relief.
Best Pillow for Sleep Apnea
Where to buy: $39.97 (Originally $69.99), Amazon
For those suffering from sleep apnea, getting a good night's rest can be a real challenge. But it doesn't have to be that way, thanks to this ergonomic cervical neck pillow from UTTU. Designed to cradle the neck with proper alignment — a practice the American Sleep Apnea Association calls "positional therapy" — this pillow ensures airways stay open (a chief issue with regard to sleep apnea) to help those living with the condition safely sleep through the night.
"With this pillow I'm able to sleep on my sides without a problem," one happy customer gushed. "It gives me the correct [alignment] height to avoid pain in my shoulders."
Best Side Sleeper Pillow for Pregnancy
Where to buy: $49.99, Amazon
According to the American Pregnancy Association, the best sleep position during pregnancy is on your side. Not only is it more comfortable for the mother's inevitable aches and pains, it's also healthier for the baby. The ASA also notes that side-sleeping, particularly left side-sleeping, can help boost the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and the baby.
The unique "U" shape of this premium pregnancy pillow from Queen Rose hugs the body for comfort while also encouraging proper side alignment for a long-lasting, impactful sleep. Best of all, this pillow is multi-functional, with the ability to work as a nursing pillow after birth.