The 7 Best Orthopedic Pillows for Side Sleepers [2021 Reviews]

Is your pillow really that important when you sleep on your side?

What kind of orthopedic pillow do side sleepers need?

You’ll find all the answers you need – right now.

orthopedic pillows for side sleepers

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In a hurry?

Some people may feel a bit ridiculous paying an above-average price on a pillow.

However:

Whether you are sleeping on your back, your side, or your stomach – the wrong pillow can aggravate or even lead to extreme neck and shoulder pain, headaches, arm numbness, and even sneezing and wheezing.

Plus, your pillow impacts the quality of your sleep and how healthfully you’ll rest and recharge.

Why Should You Use an Orthopedic Pillow for Side Sleeping?

The goal of using an orthopedic side sleeper pillow is to keep your head in neutral alignment, meaning your head is sitting squarely on your shoulders without bending back or reaching forward. Side sleepers suffering from neck and shoulder pain need a firmer and higher pillow to fill the gap between the ear and outside shoulder.

Sleeping with a too-soft or too-thin pillow will make your head lie too low, creating a downward bend in your neck. A too-thick pillow will create an upward bend.

how to choose the best orthopedic side sleeper pillow

The ideal neck pain side sleeper pillow provides enough height to keep your spine aligned, but is not too thick to bend your neck upwards out of alignment.

A study conducted by the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine has shown that a cradle pillow with neck support (like the Therapeutica pillow) combines the benefits of standard, cervical, and shoulder pillows, and is most comfortable in terms of head, neck, shoulder, height, and overall comfort.

The 7 Best Orthopedic Side Sleeper Pillows (Buyging Guide)

Here are the best side sleeper pillows for neck pain, how to pick a side sleeper pillow, and our detailed reviews (with pros & cons) below: 

 Bottom LinePrice
Therapeutica Pillow
πŸ₯‡Best Overall
Orthopedic
Cervical traction
Promotes back sleeping
βœ…$83 - $104 at HPFY
Comfy Sleep
Best Buckwheat pillow for side sleepers
Customizable
Keeps proper neck height
βœ…Check Price on Amazon
Sleep & Beyond
MyDual Side Pillow
Best Eco-Friendly
100% wool & sateen cover
βœ…$119 - $129 at Sleep & Beyond
Organic Textiles
Best Latex
Organic cover
βœ…Check Price on Amazon
Coop Home Goods
coop home goods pillow
Best Shredded Memory Foam
Non-contoured
βœ…Best Price on Amazon

1. Memory Foam Contour Pillows for Side Sleepers

contour memory foam pillow for side sleepers

SleepBetter Iso-Cool Memory Foam PillowCheck today’s price

Memory foam contour pillows (also known as cervical traction pillows) are usually made with synthetic foam, which is firm and durable (though not a natural material).

Memory foam consists of millions of spherical open cells made from polyurethane with additional chemicals added to increase density.

Contour pillows are “orthopedic” pillows, designed to keep your neck and spine aligned, made with heat-sensitive foam that acquires the shape of the head sleeping on it.

They are also very helpful for sleep Apnea sufferers, people who tend to snore, and who suffer from lower back pain and insomnia.

RELATED: 6 Ways to Do Neck Traction at Home

👉 Memory Foam Pillows Pros

1. Supportive yet soft.

2. High neck pain-relieving potential.

3. Contoured support.

4. Quiet under all conditions.

5. Won’t clump or shift

6. Low maintenance.

7. Relatively lower price than Buckwheat and latex.

8. Resistance to allergens, anti-microbial

Cons

1. Loft/Thickness may not suit individual needs, not adjustable.

2. Initial off-gassing, synthetic ingredients.

3. Tend to heat through the night.

4. Average longevity/durability

5.  Not “cuddly”

Through our research, we found that the Sleep Better Iso-Cool Memory Foam Pillow is one is the best contour pillows for side sleepers, and here’s why:

1. It has microscopic beads that absorb heat (a common problem with Memory Foam Pillows) and feels cool all through the night.

2. 100% cotton cover, 300 thread-count, zippered

3. Available in two supportive fills: spiral-spun polyester and visco-elastic foam – a good balance between support and comfort.

4. Size – 23 x 17 x 2 – the height is comfortable.

5. Good for back sleeping too

6. A reasonable price and a 15-year warranty!

8. 15-year warranty. You can contact the manufacturer and replace the pillow when needed.

The BEST Memory Foam (Non-Contoured) Pillow for Side Sleepers

coop good home shredded memory foam pillow

Coop Home Goods – PREMIUM Memory Foam Pillowbest price on Amazon

The Coop Home Goods Shredded Memory Foam Pillow is possibly the best memory foam (non-contoured) pillow for side sleepers, and here’s why:

1. Though this pillow is made with memory foam, it is shredded so you can fully adjust the height of your pillow, just like with a Buckwheat pillow. It feels like a lumpy flour bag but is not too firm.

2. Contoured memory foam pillows tend to act as heat traps. This pillow allows for greater ventilation and can be custom shaped for all sleeping positions.

4. Made with CertiPur-US Certified visco-elastic Memory Foam.

6. It is hypoallergenic and anti-microbial

7. Guaranteed to not flatten with 5 years warranty

9. It is machine washable.

10. It is made in the US

Simply put, this shredded memory foam pillow provides the shapeability and breathability of a down pillow, with the support of Memory Foam.

2. Latex Pillows  – Best for Side Sleepers with Shoulder Pain

latex pillows

All Natural Latex Pillow With Organic Cotton OuterCheck today’s price on Amazon

If you don’t like the beanbag feel of the Buckwheat pillow, then an all-natural Latex pillow is a good alternative.

Latex pillows tend to be soft yet supportive enough to relieve neck and shoulder pain at night.  

Latex does not clump, shift, or develop hollow spots. They maintain their shape and support for 5 years on average with normal use.

Latex Pillows Pros

1. Highly supportive yet soft.

2. Maintain shape, do not clump, lump, or develop hollow spots.

3. A high-quality latex pillow is made with 100% natural Latex and organic cotton cover – no off-gassing and odors.

4. Most have medium to high loft.

5. Hypoallergenic, anti-microbial.

6. They have small holes and interconnecting channels that create a natural ventilation system, allowing heat and moisture to disperse.

7. They are quiet under all conditions.

8. Low maintenance – no need to be shaken or fluffed.

Cons

1. Are too dense and heavy to be “cuddly”.

2. May feel like resting your head on a balloon or a big rubber ball.

3. They are not very moldable, maybe too high or firm for some people.

4. Lower quality pillows may have a rubbery/chemical smell, which goes away after a few days (Or faster if you let it air outside)

5. Height is not adjustable.

The BEST Latex Pillow 

organic latex pillow for side sleepers

Organic Textiles 100% natural Latex pillowcheck today’s price

Our research has found Organic Textiles standard size natural Latex pillow (6″ deep in the center) deep to be the best one, and here’s why:

1. It is made with 100% natural (renewable and eco-friendly) Latex β€“ it is made of Dunlop process to make sure it’s 100% natural (Talalay pillows usually have 20-50% synthetic latex).

2. Removable and washable zippered organic cotton cover.

3. Hypoallergenic and anti-microbial

4. Free airflow – No hot flashes, no moisture.

5. Comes in 3 sizes – Standard (25 x 16 x 5), queen (30 x 16 x 5) and king (34 x 16 x 5.5).

6. Made by Organic Textiles LLC in California

3. Buckwheat Pillows

buckwheat pillow side sleepers

ComfySleep Buckwheat pillowsee all sizes & check today’s price

The Buckwheat pillows’ most important benefit is adjustability.

Good buckwheat pillows have a zipper, which allows adding or reducing the amount of fill in the pillow.

We all have different gaps between our neck and shoulders and this allows you to perfectly adjust the height of your pillow – whether you sleep on your side, your back, or your stomach.

The Buckwheat pillow is made of all-natural ingredients, which is important for natural living enthusiasts.

The curved shape of buckwheat hulls creates airspace within your pillow providing air circulation and breathability. This results in a cool, dry pillow – all night long.

Buckwheat Pillow Pros

1. Generally supportive and contouring
2. High potential for neck pain relief.
3. Adjustable height by adding/removing hulls
4. Good airflow

Cons

1. Some noise
2. Too small for some people
3. Too firm for some people, not very cuddly
4. A bit heavy
5. Need experimenting to determine fill quantity.

The BEST Buckwheat Pillow 

buckwheat pillow

ComfySleep Buckwheat Pillowcheck today’s price

Through our research, we’ve found the ComfySleep Buckwheat Pillow (family-owned USA product) to be a good choice for a buckwheat side sleeping pillow.

Here’s why:

1. The Husks inside this pillow conform to your head and neck and give you just the right amount of support.

2. It has 4 different sizes (15″X21″ / 15″X23″ / 15″X26″ / 20″X26″) and comes with 1 lb extra buckwheat to customize.

3. It’s filled with clean (chemical-free and fumigants-free) buckwheat, grown in the USA, and is handmade.

4. Made with organic cotton twill, with an invisible zipper.

5. Good customer service.

6. The pillow stays cool all night

8. Good shoulder support

Though the pillow can make some noise while you toss and turn, the noise doesn’t wake you up and we find it quite soothing actually. Once your head is in position, you won’t move much around anyway.

👉 Cons – We would say that this pillow may feel too small for some people, and the price is not so low. But, if you check this page you may find a good sale price right now.

** Important note: Buckwheat is a type of grass, so if you’re allergic to grass, this may not be the right pillow for you.

Buckwheat Alternative – Wool Puffs

contoured side sleeper pillow filled with wool

The Sleep & Beyond Dual Side Pillow is filled with the highly adjustable pearl-sized puffs of soft and springy 100% natural Shropshire wool, encased in 100% natural cotton sateen cover.

This 100% natural side sleeper pillow is fully adjustable to any loft you’d like and is ergonomically contoured to align the spine while you sleep.

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The Complete Guide to Low Back Pain Relief – at Home!

How to Sleep on Your Side Without Hurting Your Shoulder

The compression of your shoulder into a firm, unforgiving mattress, combined with a pillow that is not high enough to align your spine –  can restrict blood flow to your arm, resulting in a pins-and-needles feeling and often – shoulder pain or soreness.

To prevent shoulder pain from sleeping on your side you’ll need an orthopedic side sleeper pillow and a memory foam mattress (or a hybrid mattress) that will align your spine and relieve pressure off your shoulder – throughout the night.

RELATED: the Best Hybrid Mattresses for Back Pain Sufferers

What Is The Best Orthopedic Side Sleeper Pillow? 

Through our research, the best pillows for side sleepers with neck and shoulder pain would be cervical traction pillows (also known as neck traction pillows), and especially the Therapeutica pillow, which combines standard, cervical, and shoulder pillow – in one full-supporting pillow.

This orthopedic neck pillow gently stretches your neck while you sleep, and keeps your upper spine aligned – no matter your sleep position. It can even help reduce snoring, by keeping your air passages at the optimal height.

If you suffer from a military neck, herniated cervical disc, neck arthritis, or any neck problem – this cervical support pillow can help you ease the pain and even prevent it.

👉 Want to start sleeping on your back? see the best back sleeping pillow for neck pain!

Side Sleeper Pillows FAQ

Can a pillow cause neck pain?

Side sleepers can suffer from neck pain when they use a soft pillow because the pillow is not high and firm enough to keep the spine aligned.

What kind of pillow does a side sleeper need?

Side sleepers need extra support (height & firmness) for the neck, shoulders, and spine. The best pillow would be larger and contoured towards the shape of the body as well.

What’s the best pillow height for side sleepers?

Since people have different neck sizes, the best height would be the one that makes you feel completely comfortable and ache-free. Some pillows’ height is adjustable, like the Buckwheat pillow below, and some are firm and maintain the same height.

Conclusion

The incredible variety of side sleeping pillows can make your head spin, but now that you’ve seen the most important features of a high-quality side sleeper pillow, the choice is much easier.

The ideal pillows would be Buckwheat pillows (our #1 choice), or all-natural Dunlop-process latex pillows (if you don’t like the beanbag feel of the Buckwheat pillow).

Note: check out our post about the full body pillow, which is a great way to sleep on your side while keeping your spine aligned!)

We hope this side sleeper neck pillow guide and the reviews for the best-rated side sleeper pillows were helpful and wish you a calm and restful sleep every night.

What’s your experience with side sleeping pillows? do you have a pillow that you would recommend? we’d like to know! Share your thoughts in the comments below.

To your health and happiness,

The Back Pain Relief Products Team

Our team draws sources only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations.

Studies

Gordon SJ, Grimmer-Somers KA, Trott PH. Pillow use: the behavior of cervical stiffness, headache and scapular/arm pain. J Pain Res. 2010;3:137-145. Published 2010 Aug 11. doi:10.2147/jpr.s10880

Lee WH, Ko MS. Effect of sleep posture on neck muscle activity. J Phys Ther Sci. 2017;29(6):1021-1024. doi:10.1589/jpts.29.1021

Meital James
 

Meital James, Founder and CEO of 4 healthy living blogs, has a background in Naturopathic medicine, research, journalism, and nutrition. Her blogs are the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and experience and all the posts are verified by scientific findings.

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