What Is The Best Mattress for Side Sleepers? - A 2018 Review

Sleeping on the side is the most popular sleeping position out there. In fact, a whopping 74% of people sleep on their side! With such a big percentage, have side sleepers been getting the mattress they really need?

Side Sleepers Often Prefer Softer Mattresses

Generally speaking, side sleepers need a slightly softer mattress than back or stomach sleepers do. This is because their hips and shoulders directly hit the mattress - creating potentially painful pressure points. 

In reality, the softness or firmness of a side sleeper’s mattress boils down to their body weight. This determines how much you’re going to sink in or stay atop a mattress. 

Finding A Firmness Level Determined by Your Weight

Imagine being a heavyweight side sleeper on a soft mattress; you’re only bound to sink and be hugged by the mattress - which may not be the most comfortable scenario. Conversely, if you’re a lightweight sleeper on a firm mattress, it can only lead to pain on your shoulders or hips. 

Below is a general weight guideline for side sleepers. 

Weight Firmness Level
Below 90 kilograms* Medium-soft to Medium
Above 90 kilograms*

Medium-firm to Firm

*Rounded-up estimate from the Australian average weight of 85.9kg for males and 71.1kg for females.

Not All Mattresses Are Made The Same 

The flaw in the body weight guideline is that mattresses can sometimes be unsupportive regardless of their firmness level. A badly-made medium-firm mattress, for instance, still won’t be helpful to you. This is why other factors are important to look at when buying a mattress - not just firmness. 

READ MORE: How to Pick A Mattress for Yourself 

At this point, it’s important to understand a side sleeper’s most common pressure points to help them choose the best mattress for themselves. 

A Side Sleeper’s Pressure Points 

Pressure points are sensitive parts of the body that can be directly hit by an external pressure or force (e.g., a mattress). While all sleeping positions have their fair share of affected pressure points, side sleeping has the most. This position tends to concentrate weight and pressure in one area - leading to sleep discomfort.  

Shoulder Pain

The shoulders are a common area of discomfort for side sleepers. A very firm mattress can push against the shoulder - limiting blood circulation around the area. On the other hand, a very soft mattress can make the shoulder/arm areas sag (especially for broad-shouldered sleepers). 

Aim for a mattress that offers comfort by cradling the shoulder. It should feel like a hand catching the socket of your shoulder without squeezing nor suffocating it.

QUICK FIX: You can prop a slightly higher pillow to reduce pressure on your shoulder. 

Hip Pain

A person’s middle section is the heaviest area of the body. An unsupportive mattress will allow the midsection to sink more than other areas of the body would. 

This is especially a challenge for pregnant women who sleep mostly on their side. They need a mattress that can support them from all angles to avoid any pregnancy discomfort. 

QUICK FIX: Since hip pain is mostly a spine misalignment issue, you may place a pillow in between your legs to correct this. By doing this, the pressure is reduced from the other leg to the body’s midsection. 

Back Pain

Back pain is often related to hip pain. When your midsection sinks, your spine alignment gets compromised as well.

A soft mattress can cause some sections of the body to collapse, while a firm mattress may feel uncomfortable. Find the midpoint between the two: a mattress both comfortable and supportive! 

QUICK FIX: Like hip pain, back pain is a misalignment issue. In this case, placing a pillow between the legs may still work. We do advise that you seek the long-term option - a new mattress.  

Neck Pain 

A misaligned spine affects even the neck. It is, after all, a part of your spine! So remember that when your back gets compromised, your neck may soon follow suit. 

Sleeping on your side may concentrate the weight too much on your neck - creating stiffness and discomfort. In this case, getting an appropriate pillow can be of help. 

QUICK FIX: Side-sleepers generally need thicker pillows to keep the head and neck in-between the shoulders. Prop yourself up with a thick pillow to keep the spine elongated and the air passages open while sleeping. 

RELATED ARTICLE: How to Sleep With Neck Pain

Which Mattress Type is Best for Side Sleepers? (Ranked from worst to best)

Innerspring

Despite innerspring mattresses being the most traditional and popular of the bunch, they are not the best for side sleepers. Spring is known for concentrating weight on certain areas that can worsen uneven sinking. 

Spring is great for breathability and airflow because there are spaces in between the coils. However, the coil system is unable to mould to a person’s unique contours and cannot distribute weight evenly on the mattress.

Latex 

Like innerspring mattresses, latex mattresses are great for air flow. They are often perforated (with holes) to maximise breathability. 

Latex, however, does not have any conforming properties. While it is bouncy and quick to respond, it does not have the same pressure-relieving properties that foam has. 

Memory Foam 

Memory foam’s pressure-relief and body-contouring properties make it the best option for side sleepers. The makeup of a memory foam mattress allows it to evenly distribute weight - giving side sleepers the right amount of sinkage they need. It lets the midsection and shoulders sink a little while keeping the rest of the body atop the mattress. 

This is also the mattress that can gently hold or cradle your shoulders. Memory foam is notorious for sleeping hot. Rest assured, this has been remedied by many mattress engineers over the years. There are various cooling mechanisms that are employed on mattresses to prevent it from sleeping hot. 

Our Pick: A Slightly Soft or Medium-Firm Memory Foam Mattress

Memory foam creates a balanced feel for all side sleepers - offering both support and comfort. It contours to the body’s shape while letting sensitive areas sink a little. This is vital to avoid shoulder, hip, neck, and back pain. 

Still unsure? Don’t fall for 10-minute trials on an in-store mattress. Instead, choose a mattress-in-a-box with three firmness layers in one. It leaves you with more chances of winning at your preferred firmness level with free shipping and free returns.