Shopping for the best mattress for side sleepers can feel like hunting for a cryptid—long and full of missteps, all while you fight the feeling that what you seek might not even exist. “There is no one type of mattress that’s best for everyone,” Naimish Baxi, MD, physiatrist at Hospital for Special Surgery, tells SELF. He adds that it may, indeed, take some trial and error to find the right mattress for your needs as a side sleeper, but there are a few features you can look out for that’ll make your search easier—and your nights much more restful.
What firmness level should side sleepers look for in a mattress?
Unlike stomach sleepers and back sleepers, side sleepers need a mattress that will accommodate the added weight placed on their shoulders, hips, and knees. “For side sleepers, mattresses with some amount of give can be optimal to alleviate pressure through the hip and shoulder,” Dr. Baxi says, echoing SELF’s reporting on the importance of firmness options and pressure relief if you want to avoid waking up to back pain. “The right mattress should make you feel like you are floating on air,” Steve Zhou, MD, previously told SELF. In other words, you don’t want to sink and you don’t want to feel like your body is pushing against the mattress, either. Finding a bed that strikes that balance will come down to personal preference, but, as Gerard Girasole, MD, previously told SELF, a medium-firm mattress is a good place to start for side sleepers.
A too-firm mattress that doesn’t conform to your body can create uncomfortable pressure points, while a too-soft mattress can affect spinal alignment and put pressure on your lower back, hips, and shoulders. In case you’re upgrading all of your bedding, in addition to getting a new mattress, the right pillow can also enable healthy spine alignment and prevent shoulder pain, as SELF has previously reported. The best pillows for side sleepers are firmer and higher-loft, and provide space for their head and neck to stay aligned over their shoulder.
What materials are best for mattresses for side sleepers?
dr Baxi says either all-foam or hybrid mattresses can work for side sleepers, providing their firmness suits you. Where the former consists solely of layers of memory foam, the latter features both foam and a system of innerspring coils. Naturally, they’ll have a different feel from each other. Memory foam mattresses usually feel softer than mattresses with springs. They help with motion isolation, which is great if you share your bed with someone, but they also tend to trap body heat, which is not so great if you share your bed with someone (hot sleepers who love foam, look for a mattress made with cooling gel memory foam).
Hybrid mattresses, particularly ones with pocketed coils, contour to your body weight without letting you sink into the bed, which is great if you’re looking for cushioning other pressure point relief. They also have a little more to offer in the way of temperature regulation.
With these general recommendations in mind, we’ve highlighted some of the highest-quality mattresses for side sleepers on the market right now, from luxurious retailers like Saatva and beloved bed-in-a-box brands like Casper, Nolah, and DreamCloud ( many of which come with generous, risk-free trial periods). Read on to find a good mattress for a good night’s sleep—zero joint pain or lower back pain included.