What's the Best Mattress for Side Sleepers?

November 3, 2020 | Casper Editorial Team

Almost three-quarters of the population are side sleepers. If your jam is spooning a pillow or sprawling out on your side, it’s probably hard to imagine sleeping any other way. 

While side sleeping can be a healthy, sustainable sleep position, it also comes with some unique postural challenges. Have you ever woken up with a crick in your neck or a sore lower back? Your side sleeping may be to blame.

However, choosing the right mattress can ensure you’re well-supported throughout the night.

So what mattress type should side sleepers purchase? This is your guide to customizing your bed for your sleep posture.

The Strains of Side Sleeping

Before getting to the details of mattresses, first let’s get clear on the specific challenges faced by side sleepers. Ideally, you should sleep with your spine in a straight line. This helps to ensure you don’t develop muscular imbalances as a result of your sleep. Spinal misalignment while snoozing can affect your posture, compress your organs, and even cause acid reflux!

While sleeping with a straight spine is no big deal for back sleepers, side sleepers’ spines can be misaligned in myriad ways. Making sure you’re sleeping in a comfortable position is essential to getting better sleep.

No matter your unique side sleeping position, you may face the following issues:

  • Shoulder pain – Depending on your mattress, your shoulder may jut up towards your neck. Your shoulder could also collapse into a very soft mattress, exacerbating the issue. The constriction between your neck and spine can cause shoulder pain, as well as imbalances on the two sides of your body.
  • Tingling arm or hand – Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and realize that your arm is asleep? The pins-and-needles sensation isn’t just annoying—it’s a sign that a nerve somewhere in your shoulder or arm is compressed. If you tend to sleep in the same position all night long with your shoulder squashed between the pressure of your body and a very firm mattress, it may affect your nerves over time.
  • Neck pain – Ideally, you’ll sleep with your neck in line with your spine. If your pillow raises your head too far off the mattress, your neck will tilt upwards in a flexed position. If it’s too flat, your neck may not have adequate support. Either issue can lead to a creaky neck. 
  • Hip pain – How can side sleeping affect your hips? When you habitually sleep on one side, your top leg can slope downward, resting on the bottom leg. Alternately, your bottom hip may collapse into a very soft mattress. Over time, these positions can create a tilt in the pelvis. As you walk, sit, and go about your daily life with this muscular imbalance, you may begin to experience pain or discomfort in the hips.
  • Back pain – As your back tries to compensate for postural imbalances in the shoulders, neck, and hips, your lumbar spine may begin to hurt, too.
  • Digestive issues – If your digestive organs are compressed, you can experience indigestion or heartburn. For these reasons, it’s often better to sleep on your side, or to switch sides throughout your slumber.

All of this can be alarming if you’re only able to sleep on your sides. Do you need to start trying a different sleep position?

There are numerous health benefits to getting sufficient rest, and if sleeping on your side is the best way to get shut-eye, there’s no reason to panic. Instead, you should look for a mattress whose firmness level helps support your spine.

Find a Mattress that Solves Strain

We’ve already covered some common mattress pitfalls. Finding the right mattress might seem like a bit of a goldilocks situation:

  • Your hips and shoulders may collapse into a soft mattress
  • A firm mattress might compress your limbs between the mattress and your body

How can you find a mattress that’s just right? 

By purchasing a memory foam mattress, or a hybrid mattress with a memory foam layer.

How Memory Foam Works

The type of support you need depends on your individual body. 

For example, if you have wide hips, you may want a softer mattress that allows your pelvis to sink in so that your spine remains in better alignment (rather than laterally flexed). At the same time, you don’t want your shoulder to sink in, too! A soft mattress alone won’t work, but memory foam will. The heavy weight of your pelvis sinks further into the memory foam, while your lighter shoulder girdle experiences firmer support.

Since memory foam conforms to the shape of your individual body, it provides more support where you need it most. This maximizes the chances of maintaining a healthy, straight spine.

Memory Foam vs. Hybrid Mattresses

Which is best for side sleepers: a memory foam mattress, or a hybrid mattress? 

It all comes down to individual preferences and needs.

Memory Foam

Dense, durable memory foam has a soft to medium texture. It conforms to your body to provide support where you need it most, without compressing your limbs. There are several kinds of memory foam:

  • Traditional
  • Open-cell
  • Foam with gel pods

While all three conform to your body, open-cell and gel memory foam have additional cooling properties that bring comfort to hot sleepers.

Whatever your choice, your memory foam mattress can provide support to your hips, shoulders, and spine. There are a few additional pros and cons:

  • Memory foam is slow moving and reduces motion transfer. That’s why you won’t feel your partner tossing and turning next to you as much as you would with a spring mattress.
  • Memory foam lacks the “bounce” of a spring mattress.
  • Memory foam traps fewer allergens than traditional spring counterparts.

Hybrid Mattresses

Thanks to spring support, hybrid mattresses are medium firm (and somewhat firmer than memory foam). Many people find these mattresses more supportive than their memory-foam-only counterparts.

They come with a few other benefits:

  • Soft and supportive
  • Cooler than traditional foam mattresses

If you tend to switch between different sleep positions, a hybrid mattress supports you on your back and on your sides. Likewise, it can be ideal for couples with different sleep positions and firmness needs. 

Finally, if you don’t like the feeling that you’re sinking into your memory foam mattress, you may enjoy the feel of a hybrid mattress.

Other Sleep Props

Choosing the perfect mattress is only part of the side sleeping equation. Don’t forget to finish outfitting your bed with the other sleep accessories you need.

Neck Support

How can you make sure your neck stays in an optimal position during sleep? Choose from the following options:

  • Memory foam – Many side sleepers benefit from memory foam pillows, which flatten under the skull while providing plush support to the neck. This makes it easier to keep your head in alignment with your spine.  
  • Down or down alternative – If you don’t like the feel of memory foam, a plush down or down alternative pillow can provide plenty of support. Wash and fluff your pillow regularly. If it starts to lose volume, go ahead and get a replacement.

Other Items

Depending on your individual needs, you may also want to sleep holding a pillow, or with a pillow placed between your knees. Don’t be shy—use all the pillows you need to get comfy!

Since side sleepers rest with their face close to the mattress, it’s imperative you keep your mattress clean and free of allergens, which can negatively impact your sleep quality. 

Finally, if you find yourself tossing and turning all night, consider other ways to get cozy. Natural fiber sheets can help you keep cool, while weighted blankets can help you calm your body and, with it, your mind.

Invest in Your Mattress Along With Your Health

Do you really need a new mattress just because you’re a side sleeper?

The short answer is that it depends. If you regularly get eight hours of sleep and rarely wake up feeling sore or fatigued, your current setup may work fine. 

However, keep in mind that our resilience diminishes over time. The muscular imbalances we develop as young people may be imperceptible until later on in life, when wear and tear begins to show itself more fully. Your sleep habits now can definitely have an impact on how you’ll feel in five years (and beyond).

If you’re looking to make small changes in your sleep habits, use pillows to improve your spinal alignment. Notice any small imbalances if you’re stretching or doing yoga, and make a note of any aches and pains that arise in the night. Adjust your sleep setup as needed.

When you’re ready to buy your next mattress, do a little research on the best time of year to buy. Then, purchase the perfect memory foam or hybrid mattress for your side sleeping needs.

Support Your Sleep With Casper

In the end, the best mattress for side sleepers is one that supports its user. Are you looking for a hybrid or memory foam mattress to support your spinal alignment? Casper’s mattresses utilize state-of-the-art sleep technology including zoned support. All of our mattresses feature at least three zones of density so that your shoulders, back, and hips have the support they need.

Experience relief for sore joints and other injuries thanks to additional ergonomic zones on our hybrid mattresses.

With free U.S. shipping and a 100 day trial period, we’re on your side as a side sleeper. 


Cleveland Clinic. Is Your Sleep Position Causing You Back Pain? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/sleep-position-causing-back-pain/

Harvard Health Publishing. Say ‘Good Night’ to Neck Pain. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/say-good-night-to-neck-pain