Guide: Best Pillow for Side Sleepers

Last Updated on May 20, 2023

by Marc Werner, Founder - GhostBed

Getting great night’s sleep is imperative for living through productive days taking care of business and family. Along with a comfortable mattress it is a must to have a pillow that will fit your body and sleeping position in order to aid in a peaceful dreamy sleep. With a world of back, stomach, and side sleepers, a whopping 63 percent of people choose the side position to sleep in, according to Web MD. If you are one of the many sleepers preferring to sleep on the side, it is important to find a best pillow to go with your best mattress for side sleepers.

I: Comfort Level

II: Different Types Of Pillows

III: Specialty Pillows

IV: The Perfect Pillow for You

I: Comfort Level

Just as one should shop for a mattress, it is important to determine the comfort level of a pillow that is required to achieve the best sleep possible. Side sleepers require a different pillow firmness than back or stomach sleepers. Sleeping on the side means resting on your shoulder. This keeps the head higher than it would when sleeping on the back and stomach.

The pillow for a side sleeper must be firmer to hold the head in the proper position. Best pillows for side sleepers must be able to fill the space above the shoulder. This allows for the head to have a resting position that keeps it from bending awkwardly creating aches and pains.

II: Types Of Pillows

There are now numerous types of pillows designed specifically for one’s sleep position and distinct needs. Side sleepers all need added neck support but there are other factors to add in as well when seeking the type of pillow that will be the best. Allergies, noise, expense are all features that will help you to determine exactly what type of pillow will be the best fit for the side sleeper’s ultimate comfort.

Memory Foam

Great dense pillow that molds with one’s contours allowing for the perfect comfort and support level needed to prevent aches.

Pros cons
Best combination of support with comfort. Memory foam can sometimes run hot for sleepers.
Reacts to the body, continuously shaping to the sleeper’s needs as he or she is moving throughout dream time. When first unwrapped from packaging an unpleasant odor is often noticed.
Memory foam pillows (Like the GhostPillow) come in different shapes to specifically support the neck.
Cooling gel can be combined with memory foam to reduce heat in order to provide a cool sleep.


The foam pillow is often confused with memory foam. Unlike the memory foam pillow, these pillows are created by using shredded or chopped up pieces of foam, often leftovers from solid memory foam mattresses and pillows.

Pros cons
Less expensive option to the memory foam pillow These pillows can be comfortable to begin with but may break down a quick faster causing the head to fall in an uncomfortable position.
Can be molded and formed to provide support for the head and neck.


Rubber trees produce the substance that is used to make latex pillows. This is another type of pillow that is dense and can be manufactured as a contour pillow for neck support.

Pros cons
The firmest of pillows that also molds to contours of head and neck. Can be very costly.
Natural and biodegradable.
Naturally protects against insects.
Helps allergy sufferers with its natural resistance to dust mites, and mold.
Is manufactured without the use of harmful chemicals.


Cotton is a totally natural product commonly used for pillow production.

Pros cons
Naturally hypoallergenic, resisting mold and dust mites. These pillows can be so firm that they flatten out to a hardened feel that is not so supportive.
Firm pillow Poor contouring for the head and neck.
Soaks in moisture and night sweats becoming possible breeding ground for dust mites, and mold.


Wool is a natural and breathable option for pillows.

Pros cons
Wool plays double duty keeping you cool in the heat and warm in the cold. Flattens with use.
Unlike cotton, wool will not soak in moisture from night sweats. Does not contour well to provide needed support.


Down pillows are literally like sleeping on a cloud of the softest feathers. These fluffy feathers come from the soft belly of a bird and do not have sharp quills.

Pros cons
Down is natural and breathable allowing for a cooler sleep. Need to be constantly shaked and fluffed to keep maintained.
Can be fluffed into position for sleep comfort. Expensive so can be cost prohibitive.


Feather pillows are a more affordable alternative to Down pillows. The difference is that Down pillow feathers come from the birds outside. These are feathers with quills that protect the birds.

Pros cons
Flexible and easily molded to fill in contours for support. Quills can poke through pillow casing and create discomfort.
Very durable. Must shake and fluff consistently.
Feathers can flatten out during sleep.
May cause allergic reaction.


The buckwheat pillow is crafted from using buckwheat hulls as stuffing. Once kernels are removed the hulls are roasted so that all dust is cleaned from them. They are then used to fashion into pillows.

Pros cons
Natural and long lasting. Buckwheat hulls can make noise when shifting through sleep time.
Inexpensive Some people may be allergic.
Easily maliable to form into the contours of the neck and weight of head. Can be heavier than other pillows.
Keeps an optimal temperature for a cool sleep.


This is a newer pillow type using the polystyrene beads as fill commonly used to fill bean bags.

Pros cons
Easily maliable to adapt to neck and head needs. Can be overly firm.
Promotes air flow. May have odor from beads.
If outer covering rips tiny beads can possibly be inhaled and cause breathing issues

III: Specialty Pillows

Along with the standard pillow used to rest the head on, side sleepers can gain additional comfort by adding specialty pillows to help aid in peaceful dreams.

Body Pillow

The body pillow is a head and specialty pillow all in one. Just like it sounds it wraps around the entire body to cradle it in comfort. This is the perfect pillow to hold the body comfortably in place as you sleep. It works wonderfully as an aid for pregnant woman to help have a more peaceful sleep.

Knee Pillow

Those sleeping on their sides will have knee upon knee. This causes the spine to be out of natural alignment. By placing a pillow between the knees, it raises the upper leg to a more natural position. The specialty knee pillows support the hip and spine reducing pressure, promoting better sleep, and less aches and pains.

Arm Rest Pillow

Much like the knee pillow keeps knees in their proper position for spine alignment, the arm rest pillow allows for the upper arm to be raised in place in a more natural position. This prevents from the shoulder dropping down and slouching. By supporting the upper arm the shoulder stays in its proper position and the spine is kept straight, allowing for less aches when rising from sleep.

IV: Ultimate Pillow For You

The type of pillow required for a side sleeper is more than just its fill. The pillow must be built in a way to fill in contours and work to act as a cradle for the neck. Side sleeper pillows often have panels sewn in to allow for needed support to keep the head aligned with the body.

The best pillows for side sleepers will be ultimately determined on individual needs and wants. With the many choices memory foam takes the lead as it retains its shape while also providing optimal support for the neck and head.

Keep in mind that experts suggest buying a new pillow every one to two years. Along with the fill of foam, or a cotton or wool batting becoming lumpy and out of shape, pillows also soak in the skin’s oils and dead hair. Non-allergenic pillows gather dust mites over time as well. With these things in mind it is important to maintain and replace pillows on a regular basis.

Marc Werner - Founder, GhostBed

Marc Werner

Founder - GhostBed

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Marc has spent the last two decades designing & manufacturing mattresses and other sleep products, drawing on a lifetime of experience working with the material sciences. With several patents to his name, he works closely with the GhostBed team to create products with the perfect balance of comfort & support. Learn More

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