We value a good night’s rest here at Reviewed and want to find everything from the best mattresses in a box to the best bed sheets. Pillows are essential in maximizing your nightly snooze, so we wanted to give them the Reviewed treatment as well.
Because your sleep position is the most important consideration when it comes to shopping for and buying the ideal pillow, we specifically tested a range of pillows for side sleepers (as well as for stomach sleepers and back sleepers).
After several months of intensive review, including at-home sleep trials (I have a tough job, I know!) and heat-retention and washing tests in our labs, we honed in on the best pillows for side sleepers. Our top pick is the Coop Home Goods Original(available at Amazon for $59.99), for its adjustable shredded foam fill that offers supportive comfort and is fully washable. We also found several other great selections for different preferences and budgets—including the Beckham Hotel Gel Pillows (available at Amazon), our Best Value pick, which come in a two-pack and provide comfort at a reasonable price.
Here are the best pillows for side sleepers we tested ranked, in order:
Brooklinen Firm Down Pillow
Coop Home Goods Original Pillow
Original Casper Pillow
Tuft & Needle Original Foam Pillow
Tempur-Cloud Dual Breeze Pillow
Beckham Hotel Gel Pillow
Nectar Memory Foam Pillow
Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
Target Room Essentials Plush Pillow
AmazonBasics Down Alternative Pillow Firm Density
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
Coop Home Goods Original Pillow
Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow - 2 Pack
Original Casper Pillow
Brooklinen Down Pillow - Firm
Tuft & Needle Original Foam Pillow
How We Tested
What You Should Know About Pillows for Side Sleepers
The Coop Home Goods Original Pillow is our top pick for side sleepers for one key reason: You can remove or add the shredded-foam fill to find the ideal loft and support for cradling your head while bolstering your neck and shoulder, putting to bed that eternal side-sleeper struggle once and for all. I thought the pillow was overfilled when it arrived, and it even comes with a bag of additional stuffing, which almost seemed excessive. Nonetheless, it ensures it will have broad appeal, from those who like to sleep on thin puffs of loft to people who prefer pillows that border on brick-like support. The packaging provides recommendations on fill level based on sleep position and suggests side sleepers try the pillow straight from the box and add or remove a small amount of fill as needed.
This was the first pillow I tried, and for the first few nights I had it, I didn’t get the fill level quite right which, as it turns out, is a learning curve. I circled back to try it again later in testing, got the fill to my exact preference, and slept through the entire night with none of my usual stirrings each subsequent night I used it. The Coop quickly became my dream pillow, both for sleeping as well as lying in bed awake and watching Netflix (bad sleep hygiene, I know). No matter how much time I spent resting on it, the pillow provided great support and never left my neck feeling sore from over-extending or drooping down, both issues side sleepers may experience from either overabundant or inadequate loft and support.
The pillow needs a few days to air out as the foam is a little smelly at first. It's covered in a tightly woven rayon-polyester fabric, and the whole thing is machine-washable and -dryable, which many fills and foams are not. That said, the company recommends only washing the whole thing once a year, so we'd recommend using a protective cover, especially if you suffer from allergies. And though it can be finicky to adjust the pillow's fill, the initial potentially uncomfortable adjustment period has major payoffs. Plus, with its 100-night sleep trial, the company gives you plenty of time to fuss—and fall in love—with your perfect fit.
The Beckham Hotel down-alternative pillows, sold in a bundle of two, offer surprising comfort for a low price. They are not my top pick for supportiveness, but for something like a guest room, or for those who prefer to replace pillows more frequently, they’re a solid option.
When it comes to pillows, we think you generally get what you pay for. However, the two-pack of Beckham Hotel pillows is a bargain, and unlike other low-cost pillows we tested, they didn’t show any signs of wear from testing. But, similar to other cheaper options in our roundup, they lean toward being flatter, while our pricier picks provided more depth, loft, support, and overall substance. This makes the Beckham Hotel set less than ideal for people with broad shoulders. The manufacturer claims the pillows are filled with a gel that provides cooling, but I didn’t notice a difference in the nights I slept on the pillow. On the plus side, these pillows fluffed up quickly after being unrolled, and hardly smelled in comparison to other pillows we tested. They also easily passed our cleaning tests, emerging from the laundry looking and feeling as good as they did when they went in.
For anyone on a budget or people looking for pillows that provide quality and comfort without a high price, we think these are a great choice. Plus, if you give them a shot and find they really aren't working for you, the company has a 30-day satisfaction guarantee within which the pillows can be returned for a full refund.
Didn't smell after opening
May not provide sufficient loft for some side sleepers
I was excited about the Original Casper Pillow from the moment I opened the package. I liked how plush it felt when I pushed a hand into it, but also noticed that it struck a good balance between floppy and stiff—it wasn’t just a big squishy marshmallow, nor was it a rigid plank.
This down-alternative fiberfill pillow is composed of two pieces—it’s almost a pillow within a pillow. The inner and outer layers are made with the same fill, but the inner core is more densely packed to provide support. The outer layer, in contrast, gives the pillow softness and cushion. Casper claims the structure helps prevent the pillow from falling flat over time. It also claims the unique design improves air circulation, ensuring it doesn’t get hot as you snooze.
The jury’s still out on whether down or down alternative is best for people who suffer allergies (see “What to Know About Choosing Pillows,” below)—but the Casper pillow's unique construction lends users different ways to wash it, which may make it easier to keep clean over time. Washing helps flush out allergens, making it a key feature. The outer shell of the pillow can be washed separately from the inner core—and as the core is already buffered by the shell, it may need less washing. You can also wash the entire pillow, though Casper notes you should remove the core from the outer section even if you run both pieces in the same load. What's more, the pillow's case is made with a tight percale weave, likely 300 thread count according to a company rep, which may make it better at blocking out allergens.
Overall, I thought this pillow would provide enough support and plushness for most side sleepers. Unlike our top pick, this pillow isn’t adjustable, which is a downside given personal preferences and the individual needs of people with different-sized frames when it comes to side sleeping. However, with the clever construction and a 100-night sleep trial, we think this is a great bet for folks who like the feel and washability of down alternative.
For side sleepers who prefer a natural material and enjoy the lofty and luxurious feel down provides, the Brooklinen Firm down pillow is the way to go. In our testing, it outscored other pillows, but down isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and the options to clean it are far more limited.
When Brooklinen says firm, the company means it. Don’t expect the super-cushy sensation you might associate with fluffy feathers—this pillow provides serious support. I loved it, noting it was pleasantly firm but also had a nice amount of surface give. As a life-long down devotee, I found it as comfortable as our top-pick Coop Home Goods Original Pillow and far more comfortable than the other pillows we tested.
But down pillows aren’t without flaws. On top of generally being pricier, one major downside of this fill material is that it’s often dry-clean only. Brooklinen down pillows are no exception. You can spot-clean the surface of the fabric, but you can’t throw the whole thing in the wash like the Coop Home Goods Original and other synthetic-fill pillows we tested. For what it's worth, Brooklinen's pillows are treated with “antimicrobials,” to help inhibit the growth of bacteria. Like down alternative, down may have a decreased ability to spring back over time as the feathers compress from regular use and repeated pressure in the same place. In our testing, this pillow readily bounced back when weighed down—but we can't speak to how long that spring-back lasts. If you've ever had down pillows, you may know that feathers can poke out—but the 400 thread-count fabric used on Brooklinen's pillows should keep any rogue fluff contained. A customer service rep said they rarely receive complaints of feathers piercing the fabric, and in any case it would be covered by the manufacturer warranty.
Overall, we’re confident that for people who enjoy the feeling of down, are diligent about using machine-washable pillow protectors to keep allergens and dust out, and who replace their pillows on the recommended approximately biannual basis, the Brooklinen will be a great fit. And if you decide to buy it, you have a generous 365 days to decide to keep it or your money back.
As you might expect from a solid-foam pillow, the Tuft & Needle is extremely supportive. This one doesn’t provide the same sinking feeling you get when sleeping on memory foam, but rather a slight give that's springier overall. The material will likely provide better long-term support for your neck and head than a pillow made with down or down alternative, which may compress with use.
During the nights I slept on this pillow, I woke up just a couple of times to adjust it, but that’s likely because I generally sleep on down pillows, as I prefer the squishier sensation of that material. That said, this was my favorite solid-foam pillow from the side sleeper line-up by far, even though it's just a skosh too lofty for my personal preferences—my shoulders are on the narrow side, but I think the vast majority of people will find the pillow's depth just fine.
The Tuft & Needle is encased in a washable, microfiber cover, but the foam insert can't be thrown in the laundry. Microfiber covers tend to be tightly woven, which can provide extra protection for allergy sufferers, another added bonus of this pillow. (Though there's certainly no harm in covering it with an allergy encasement to be extra hygienic.) Tuft & Needle offers a 100-night trial, so you can see if the pillow suits you worry-free. (If you purchase the pillow through Amazon, the trial is shortened to 30 nights.)
I’m Lindsey Vickers, the sleep writer here at Reviewed. I cover everything from meditation apps to resort-like bed sheets. I’m a hybrid sleeper and alternate between side and stomach sleeping depending on the day, so I was excited to get my hands on a variety of pillows to try for nights when I land in a lateral position.
For two months I had a rotating cast of pillows in and out of my apartment and bedroom. I slept on each pillow for at least two nights, and considered fundamental questions, including whether the pillow was comfortable and sufficiently supportive from the moment my head touched down on the fluff until my alarm went off; how customizable it was (and if the process of removing layers or stuffing was easy); if it got hot overnight; how well the pillow’s performance matched company claims; whether the fill felt lumpy and if the lumps could be smoothed away ... you get the idea.
Afterward, the pillows were sent to our lab in Cambridge, Mass., where senior scientist Julia MacDougall put them through the wringer. She tested them for heat retention with temperature sensors and a heated blanket; weighted them down overnight to check how well the material responded and sprung back the next day; and washed them, per label instructions, to see if the pillows lost shape or loft, shrunk, or the filling clumped.
What You Should Know About Pillows for Side Sleepers
Pillows are perhaps the second most important piece of bedding after your mattress, even though they should have a much higher rate of turnover. In fact, you should replace your pillow every one to two years, says John McKeon, CEO of Allergy Standards Limited speaking for The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Some pillow companies offer as long as 10-year warranties, which is a nice vote of confidence in their products, but even a 5-year warranty will amply cover a pillow's recommended lifespan.
For people who sleep on their side—by some estimates, at least 50% of the population—pillows are integral for keeping the spine aligned throughout the night so that they don’t wake up with a sore neck or pain in their joints and back. The best pillows for side sleeping will provide the right amount of thickness to just fill the space created between the head, shoulders, and mattress, with enough firmness to keep spinal alignment in place, and sufficient surface plushness that it doesn’t feel like your ear is resting on a brick. While some pillows are marketed for all sleep positions, it often isn’t true. Side sleepers should be particularly wary of pillows that claim to be suitable for stomach sleepers, whose needs are often the polar opposite and who can sometimes get by with something as lofty as a pancake.
When shopping for a pillow, it’s important to consider the materials, shape, and construction. Side sleepers should keep an eye out for a few specific terms and features while pillow shopping. First and foremost, they need firm pillows. Here’s the other information you need to know about pillow materials and construction for side sleeping.
Pillow Fill, Material, and Construction
Different pillow fills have unique and distinct benefits and create different sensations when they cradle your head as you rest.
Down fill has long dominated the pillow industry as a filling and it can lend a more plush surface that is responsive to pressure. Some consider it less durable over time because the delicate feathers become permanently compressed after a year or so of use. Down pillows also frequently fall on the pricier side. Down is less structured than foam or even down-alternative fills, and can leave side sleepers’ head and neck unsupported—unless you are diligent about keeping them fluffed. Opting for firm density is a must, but still may not provide sufficient support. These pillows are usually dry-clean only, making their care a bother.
Down-alternative fill is most often made from polyester or a rayon-polyester blend. Pillows with down-alternative filling aim to replicate the feel of a down pillow, often without the high price tag. While down-alternative products are thought to be better for people with allergies, research has shown that they may actually trap more allergens than down bedding, McKeon says, though further research is needed. One possible explanation for greater allergen accumulation is the manufacturers’ use of looser weave encasements as compared to traditional down pillows, which are encased in tightly woven fabric to prevent the feathers from escaping. Using an allergy-protective encasement can help, as does regular washing of covers and pillows, which are generally machine-washable.
Solid foam pillows are made of one thick piece of foam, or several layers of it fused together. Often they look like a giant sponge, though sometimes they’re molded into a contoured shape. In our testing, solid-foam pillows often emitted a chemical odor for the first few days after being opened—likely due to off-gassing of the foam itself. Once the air is clear, foam can be a great material for side sleepers, as it provides support and shape but still offers some give. Plus, these pillows tend to have more longevity than down and down alternative, which can compress over time.
Shredded foam feels more like a down or down-alternative pillow, as opposed to pillows made of solid foam. These pillows often come super filled and with extra stuffing, with the idea that you can add or take away to find your perfect loft and feel. For that reason, they will appeal to a wider audience—anyone ranging from petite to broad-shouldered can find a way to set this type of pillow to meet their needs.
Gussets, or the rectangular panels that are sewn around the perimeter of a pillow, are a feature side sleepers may want to consider. This construction provides additional loft and support for your neck, and may better fill the space between your ear, neck, shoulder, and the bed.
Adjustable or customizable pillows, which offer you the option to remove the shredded foam stuffing, layers of padding, or other types of fill, are a great way to ensure you can get just the right fit.
Temperature and Pillows
Temperature is a major factor in your sleep quality. In fact, there’s more substantial evidence supporting its role in quality rest than avoiding blue light before bed. Having the right pillow to keep your head cool can make a tremendous difference in your sleep. Wearing a cooling cap has even been shown to help insomniacs doze off, so if you run hot, prioritizing a pillow you can chill with may improve your sleep.
For the most part, the pillows we tested were about equally effective at diffusing heat in lab tests and generally didn’t heat up, whether or not they made claims about coolness. The exception: I noticed the cooling properties of the Tempur-Cloud Dual Breeze when I slept on it, and our lab testing confirmed it diffused heat noticeably faster than the other pillows that were tested.
Caring for and Cleaning Your Pillow
Experts recommend getting a new pillow every one to two years, depending on the material and a handful of other factors. But within the time you spend with your pillow, there are other things you should be doing to keep it in tip-top shape.
Regularly washing your pillows can help prevent the build-up of dust and allergens and may prolong the lifespan of your pillow. (Don’t feel bad if you haven’t been—even I, our sleep writer, don’t wash my pillow frequently enough!) In fact, people with allergies should wash their pillows every four weeks, McKeon says. For those who don't have allergies, aim to wash your pillows at least twice per year.
If your pillow isn’t washable (and even if it is), you should take protecting it into your own hands and shop for the best type of pillow cover. Look for tightly woven fabrics to prevent dust-mite and dust build-up in pillows. Microfiber is one option, because the weave is inherently tight given the tiny circumference of the yarn. You can also look out for products that specifically advertise providing allergy and dust-mite control. The American Allergy and Asthma Foundation certifies products and offers a database to find pillow protectors to keep your sneezes at bay.
Other Pillows For Side Sleepers We Tested
Tempur-Cloud Breeze Pillow
The Tempur-Cloud Breeze is a hefty, solid-foam pillow that offers a lot of loft and support. It’s dense, making it a great pick for people who prefer the firm and supportive sensation. Nonetheless, even with my smaller frame and fairly narrow shoulders, I didn’t find it was too thick or too firm—maybe because it lends a sensation similar to memory foam, adapting to the pressure of my head and allowing it to sink in just enough each night.
The cooling abilities of this pillow can’t be glossed over. I've been skeptical of "cooling" products since testing the Tempur-Cloud foam mattress, which cooked me overnight, so my expectations for this pillow were virtually nonexistent. Other pillows in our testing that claimed to have cooling properties also didn’t perform—yet this pillow came through. In sleep tests, I found that even though a protector and pillowcase the pillow was remarkably cooling. In the lab, it diffused heat better than any of the other pillows we tested. The performance lives up to the high expectations its $100-plus price sets.
It ranked lower on our list due to its high price and limited washing options. And while the cooling is impressive, it’s not a feature that everyone wants or needs in a pillow. Plus, Tempur-Pedic has one of the strictest return policies on our list: You use it, you keep it—there is no trial period, and used pillows can only be returned if they have manufacturer defects.
I felt the Nectar Pillow wasn’t memorable or terrible, it just kind of was. It was comfortable enough, though I had to take out a good portion of the stuffing to make it work for my frame and preference for softer pillows, even when sleeping on my side. Still, the adjustable stuffing makes this pillow versatile for a number of sleep positions, and customizability is always a plus.
When this pillow arrived, I hard time even figuring out which one it was, because the online images were so different from the color of the pillow I received. Unlike other adjustable shredded-foam pillows we tested, the Nectar didn’t come with a bag of additional foam and it wasn’t as overstuffed, so for someone who wants a very lofty or firmly stuffed pillow, look elsewhere. The Nectar Pillow has a 50-night trial period, which is plenty of time to fuss and futz and decide if it's a winner for you.
The Target Room Essentials Plush Pillow held up well in my at-home experience, but for side sleepers who like firm pillows or those who have particularly broad shoulders, it may not rise to the occasion to fill the space between the neck, shoulders, and bed. The pillow was comfortable (especially for the cheap price) and it provided sufficient loft and support for my preferences and body size, but I have reservations about its longevity.
The unbeatable price shows through in its quality. Our lab heat retention testing, which involves covering pillows with a heated blanket beneath a mug to keep the temperature sensor in place, did a number on the pillow’s encasement. After removing the blanket, the fabric cover looked puckered and the filling’s loft didn’t recover as quickly as other pillows we tested. Additionally, our senior scientist was skeptical about its ability to spring back to shape after being weighed down but was pleasantly surprised when it gradually returned to its original shape.
The Xtreme Comforts pillow was our previous pillow guide's top pick, mainly for its adjustable fill. However, upon receiving a new test pillow, I found it unbelievably smelly after I freed it from the plastic wrapping. Many of the pillows on this list aired out for just 24 hours. I let this pillow air out for nearly a week. When I finally resigned to sleeping on it, I popped in my on bed hours before retiring and it even made the t-shirt I sleep in—which I store under my pillow during the day—reek.
Despite the stench, I inevitably found the pillow comfortable for sleeping. I liked the adjustability of the foam but found it more difficult to remove foam than other pillows because the fill pieces were so small. Moreover, after adding or removing stuffing, I had to thoroughly shake and pat down the pillow to redistribute the foam and eliminate lumps. Once it’s at the right level, and if you can get past the smell, this pillow may be a dream. But if you have regrets, we're not sure if there's anything you can do: Customer service didn't reply to requests for comment to confirm Xtreme Comfort's return policy when the product is purchased via Amazon.
The Purple Harmony is one of Purple’s newer pillow designs and is designed to cater to side sleepers. The pillow has a resilient latex core that’s sandwiched between two layers of the company’s signature honeycomb grid.
Unfortunately, I barely made it through a single night on this pillow, because it was just so thick. It had little superficial give, and the height of it pushed my head up uncomfortably. Given the thickness, I was disappointed that it wasn’t customizable, with layers to be removed or adjusted. I don’t think this pillow would be sufficiently versatile for most people. The company claims the pillow “never falls flat,” which may be true—but in our testing, it couldn’t rise to the occasion. The company offers a generous 100-night sleep trial, though, so you can try it for a while to see if it's actually just an acquired taste.
The Amazon Basics firm pillows are good for what they are—a budget-minded option for those who can make do with lower quality. I was initially concerned when I opened the package because they didn’t fluff up as much as many of the other compressed pillows. Indeed, they weren’t quite lofty enough for side sleeping, even for my small frame. They also didn’t really feel like a true “down alternative”—rather than lending the lofty cushion associated with down, they felt more like pillows filled with super-thick sheets of quilt batting (the flat layers of stuffing used to fill quilts). In lab testing, these pillows also retained more heat than others we tested, which is a key consideration for anyone who tends to sleep hot. They’re fine to stuff decorative or extra pillowcases, but we wouldn’t recommend them for people actually hoping to sleep on them night after night.
This pillow is actually labeled and marketed for stomach and back sleepers, according to the Tempur-Pedic website. We originally selected it for those positions, but I found that it was good for side sleeping with one caveat: It's best suited to people with smaller frames like mine.
The pillow has more give than most of the other foam pillows I slept on. It has a lower profile (again, because it's designed for other sleep positions, and it performed well for our back sleeper), so for women who are petite or folks with narrow shoulders that like to sleep on their side and back, it could work out fine. Unfortunately, there's little room for error if you buy it and determine it isn't the right fit for you. Tempur doesn't have a return policy, so if you use it, it's yours.
The first thing I noticed about the My Pillow was how sad it looked—and that was straight from the package. It was floppy and soft, but not in a good way, and those attributes manifested overnight. The My Pillow failed to provide anywhere near sufficient support for sleeping on my side, due to its lack of substance and clumps of fluff that seemed to migrate away from my head. I found that the thickness and plushness were better suited to stomach sleeping, and even then I found way better options.
On the upside? The My Pillow was among the least smelly pillows I received. Unlike many of the foam pillows, which had to air out before I could sleep on them, I was able to plop this on my bed immediately after it was opened. My Pillow offers a 30-night trial, but customers are saddled with a $9.99 return shipping cost if they opt-out.
Lindsey writes about sleep, lifestyle, and more for Reviewed. In her waking hours, she likes to spend time outside, read, cook, and bake. She holds a master’s in journalism from Boston University and bachelors' degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from the University of Utah.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.