We value a good night’s rest here at Reviewed. We’re always searching for 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, too.
After several months of intensive review, including some at-home sleep trials and lab tests, we found some of the best pillows for side sleepers. Our top pick is the Coop Home Goods Original (available at Amazon) , for its adjustable shredded foam fill. It offers supportive comfort and is fully washable.
We also found several other great selections for all kinds of preferences and budgets—including the Beckham Hotel Gel Pillows (available at Amazon), our Best Value pick, which come in a two-pack and provide side sleeper comfort at a reasonable price.
Coop Home Goods Original Pillow
The Coop Home Goods Original Pillow is our top pick for side sleepers.You can remove or add the shredded-foam fill to find the ideal loft and support. With a little work, the pillow will cradle your head, bolster your neck and shoulder, and put that eternal side-sleeper struggle to bed, once and for all.
The pillow seemed overfilled on arrival, and came with a bag of additional stuffing. Italmost felt excessive. But this abundance of fill ensures it will have broad appeal. Those who like to sleep on thin pillows sleepers who enjoy a medium firmness, and even people who want a firm pillow can all get what they want.
The packaging provides recommendations on fill level based on sleep position. It suggests side sleepers try the pillow straight from the box, adding or removing fill in small amounts as needed.
This was the first pillow I tried. For the first few nights I had it, I didn’t get the fill level quite right. It turns out there’s an expected learning curve. I circled back to it later in testing, got the fill to my preference, and slept through the entire night with none of my usual stirrings each subsequent night I used it.
The Coop became my dream pillow, for sleeping and for lying in bed watching Netflix. (Bad sleep hygiene, I know). No matter how much time I spent resting on it, the pillow provided great support. It never left my neck feeling sore from over-extending or drooping down, which are both common issues when side-sleeper pillows have the wrong amount of fill.
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. 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. e'd recommend using a protective cover, especially if you have allergies. While it can be finicky to adjust the pillow's fill, powering through the potential discomfort of an 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, whether you’re a side sleeper or not, we think you 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 when they went in.
For anyone looking for pillows that provide quality and comfort without a high price, these are a great option. 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. 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 two 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 keeps the pillow from falling flat over time. They also claim the unique design improves air circulation, ensuring hot sleepers can peacefully 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 we do know that washing pillows is more helpful than anything else. The Casper pillow's unique construction offers users different ways to wash it, which may make it easier to keep clean over time.
The outer shell of the pillow can be washed on its own. Since 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, this pillow should provide enough support and plushness for most side sleepers. Unlike our top pick, this pillow isn’t adjustable, which is a downside since people have different-sized frames and different preferences when it comes to side sleeping. However, with the clever construction and a 100-night sleep trial, 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, 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, they mean 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 down is also usually 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 many of the 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 lose its ability to spring back over time as the feathers compress from regular use and repeated pressure. 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.
Brooklinen is a great fit for people who enjoy the feeling of down. Just be sure to be diligent about using machine-washable pillow protectors to keep allergens and dust out, and replace your pillows on the recommended basis. If you do choose Brooklinen, you have a generous 365 days to decide to keep it or get 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 support your head and neck better over time 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. That’s likely just because I am used to the squishier sensation of my usual down pillows. That said, this was my favorite solid-foam pillow from the side sleeper line-up by far. It's just a skosh too lofty for my personal preferences—my shoulders are on the narrow side—but 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 a hybrid sleeper, alternating between side sleeping and stomach sleeping, depending on the day. I was excited to get my hands on a variety of bed 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. I slept on each pillow for at least two nights, testing and asking questions.
Is the pillow comfortable and supportive from the moment my head touches down on the fluff until my alarm goes off? How customizable is it? (And is the process of removing fill easy?) Does it get hot overnight? How well does the pillow’s performance match company claims? Does the fill feel lumpy and if so, could the lumps be smoothed away...you get the idea.
Afterward, the pillows were sent to our lab in Cambridge, Mass., where our senior scientist put them through the wringer. She tested them for heat retention with temperature sensors and a heated blanket. She also 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 suffered any negative effects.
What You Should Know About Pillows for Side Sleepers
Pillows are perhaps the second most important piece of bedding after your mattress, and should have a much higher rate of turnover than most people give them. 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, pillows are integral for keeping the neck spine properly aligned throughout the night. This can keep the estimated 50% of us who slide-sleep from waking up with a sore neck, shoulder pain, or other aches in their joints and back.
Side sleepers will generally need a supportive pillow that can provide the right amount of thickness to fill the space created between the head, shoulders, and mattress. There should be a sufficient firmness level to keep spinal alignment in place, and enough surface plushness that it doesn’t feel like your ear is resting on a brick.
While some companies market their pillows as working 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 benefits and create different sensations when they cradle your head as you rest.
Down fill has long been one of the most popular fills, creating a plush surface that’s responsive to pressure. It can have a shorter lifespan, as 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. It can leave side sleepers’ head and neck unsupported—unless you’re 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 compared to traditional down pillows. Down pillows are usually 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 either one thick piece of foam, or several layers of it fused together. They often 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. This is likely due to the foam off-gassing.
Once the air is clear, foam can be a great material for side sleepers, providing support and shape while still offering 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, compared to pillows made of solid foam. These pillows often come super filled and with extra stuffing included separately. The idea is that you can add or remove fill 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 offer you the option to add or remove fill, and 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 that it’s more important to 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. 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. Later, our lab testing confirmed it diffused heat noticeably faster than the other pillows we tested.
Caring for and Cleaning Your Pillow
Experts recommend getting a new bed pillow every one to two years, depending on the material and a handful of other factors. But during that time, 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!)
McKeon says that people with allergies should wash their pillows every four weeks. 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 extra steps to protect it with a good pillow cover. Look for tightly woven fabrics to prevent dust mites and dust build-up in pillows. Microfiber is one option, because the weave is inherently tight given the tiny circumference of the yarn.
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 a firm, supportive feel. Nonetheless, even with my smaller frame and fairly narrow shoulders, I didn’t find it was too thick or too firm. It gave a sensation similar to memory foam, adapting to the pressure of my head and letting it sink in just enough.
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 we tested claimed to be "cooling pillows," but didn’t perform—yet this pillow came through. In sleep tests, this pillow was remarkably cooling even through a protector and pillowcase. 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 its 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. If you use it, you keep it. There’s no trial period, and used pillows can only be returned if they have manufacturer defects.
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 had a 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. If you want a very lofty or firmly stuffed pillow, look elsewhere. The Nectar Pillow has a 50-night trial period, which is plenty of time to decide if it works for you.
The Xtreme Comforts pillow was our previous pillow guide's top pick, mainly for its adjustable fill. However, upon receiving a new test pillow, we had some difficulties. It was unbelievably smelly after I freed it from the plastic wrapping. Many of the pillows on this list aired out for just 24 hours. This one took nearly a week.
When I finally resigned myself to sleeping on it, I popped it on my bed hours before retiring. It even made the t-shirt I sleep in—which I store under my pillow during the day—reek.
Despite the stench, I ultimately found the pillow comfortable for sleeping. I liked the adjustability of the foam, but found it more difficult to remove 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 the fill’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. We tried calling to confirm Xtreme Comfort’s return policy for Amazon purchases, and customer service didn't reply to our requests for comment.
The Target Room Essentials Plush Pillow held up well in my at-home experience. But for those like firm pillows or who have particularly broad shoulders, it may not rise to the occasion. The pillow was comfortable (especially for the low price). It also 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’s heat retention testing involves covering pillows with a heated blanket beneath a mug to keep the temperature sensor in place. This test 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.
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.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.