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What Is a Side Sleeping Pillow?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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A side sleeping pillow is in theory, a pillow that keeps your neck neutrally aligned while your head rests on its side on the pillow. To achieve this, the side sleeping pillow typically features a raised contour on the bottom edge, where your neck should rest, while your head is on the flatter part of the pillow. Many of these pillows use memory foam or visco-elastic foam since it tends to fit well with the contours of the neck and head.

Some people assert with great surety that side sleeping pillows are the best choice if you’re habitually a side sleeper. Others claim they don’t see much benefit in these pillows. Side sleeping is advocated for people who snore or who have apnea, as it does tend to reduce incidence of apnea and may make snoring lighter. It’s also the best choice for women in the later stages of their pregnancy, and anyone who has digestive issues may be served slightly by sleeping on their left side.

The trouble is, the side sleeping pillow is typically a one size fits all pillow, though some are made in more than one size. The raised contour where the neck fits may feel too high to some people and not high enough to others. A good way to check this is to hold the pillow up to your head when you are standing up, then try it when you’re lying down. If the foam pushes against your neck when you’re standing, of if your head has to drop to the side when you’re lying down, that particular side sleeping pillow may not be the right fit for you.

Another difficulty may be using a side sleeping pillow if you don’t stay in one position in the night. If you switch from back to side, or even to stomach, the contouring of the pillow may prove frustrating. On the other hand, it may encourage you to stay on your side if no other position is comfortable.

On the plus side, many feel that if they use regular pillows they wake up with their necks and shoulders aching, and a side sleeping pillow may be of some help in remedying this. There are a number of different types on the market, and it’s recommended you do some research before choosing one. A little Internet research at companies like Amazon.com can be helpful because customers may offer reviews of each pillow, which are independent of the company manufacturing them. But you may want to try out a few pillows in a store, instead of purchasing one from the Internet, to see if the pillows do conform physically to your neck and head shape.

PillowGuide is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PillowGuide contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Andrade — On May 29, 2011

I snore unless I'm sleeping on my side. My wife bought two body pillows (those pregnancy sleeping pillows) and I sleep between them. When I sleep I wrap my legs around one and the other holds my back. These are the best side sleeping pillows I've found for my snoring.

By otatop — On May 26, 2011

@Othilia- We bought a SleepRight side sleeping pillow for my husband for the same reason. His snoring has always been bad but it's getting worse as he gets older. Unfortunately, it didn't work for him. He said he felt like he couldn't breathe. He also said the pillow smelled. Of course your husband might do better with it.

By Othilia — On May 24, 2011

I'm considering buy one of these for my husband. He snores unless he's sleeping on his side. Has anyone had any luck with a side sleeper or pillow wedge for snoring?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PillowGuide contributor, Tricia...
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