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The right mattress can help ease back pain in side sleepers. While firmness preferences differ, medium mattresses are more comfortable for side sleepers, as they balance support and comfort. Here, we discuss 12 options to consider.

Medical News Today has tested some of the products below. Reviewers may have received some products from the manufacturers for free, which does not influence their review. All opinions are the reviewers’ own.

The table below compares key features of each of the mattresses in this article.

FirmnessSizesTypeSleep trialWarrantyPrice
Nolahplush, firm, or luxury firmtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, CA king, split kinghybrid120
Leesamediumtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, CA kingmemory foam100
10 years$1,999
Helixmediumtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California (CA) kinghybrid100
10 years$1,373
Nectarmedium-firmtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, CA king, split kingmemory foam365
Dreammediumtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California (CA) king, split kinghybrid365
Saatvaplush soft, luxury firm, firmtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, split king, CA king, split CA kinginnerspring365
Sertamedium, medium pillowtop, extra firmtwin XL, queen, king, CA kinghybrid120
10 years$2,999
Winkbedssoft, medium, firmtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, CA kingmemory foam120
Birchmediumtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, CA kinglatex hybrid100
25 years$2,123.80
Puffymedium-plushtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, split king, CA kinghybrid101
Laylamedium-soft and medium-firmtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, CA kinghybrid120
10 years$1,699
Purplemediumtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, CA king, split kinghybrid100
10 years$1,899

Medical News Today chooses mattresses, sheets, pillows, and other bedding that meet the following criteria:

  • Certifications: MNT will choose products that have CertiPUR-US or other certifications. This means the products are low in pollutants and free from heavy metals and volatile organic compounds.
  • Size: MNT chooses products that are available in various sizes.
  • Materials and fill: MNT selects products made from different materials and fills, such as memory foam and latex, to suit a range of sleep and lifestyles.
  • Budget: MNT features products to suit a wide range of budgets.
  • Firmness: MNT selects mattresses that are available in a range of firmness options to suit most people’s sleeping styles.
  • Sleep trials: MNT chooses companies that offer a sleep trial.
  • Shipping: Where possible, MNT will include shipping information, such as where the company delivers to and whether shipping is free.
  • Warranties and return policies: MNT will include products with warranties and clear returns policies.
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While a side sleeper with back pain should look for a supportive and comfortable mattress, they may also want to consider other important features to find the best mattress for them, such as:

  • Mattress type: Memory foam mattresses may relieve extra pressure on pain points such as the hips and shoulders, while hybrid mattresses can offer more bounce and cooler sleep. People should also check they are not allergic to any of the materials in a mattress.
  • Firmness: Medium-firm mattresses are usually suitable for all sleeping positions. However, the sensation of firmness is subjective, and a person should choose a mattress that best supports their body in a side sleeping position.
  • The height: If a person has back pain, getting in and out of a tall mattress may be difficult. Some mattresses provide over five layers, which may make the mattress more appealing in terms of support and comfort, but may make it hard to get in and out of.
  • Pressure distribution: A study into pressure injuries from foam mattresses found that a mattress that adequately distributes pressure can reduce the risk of pressure injuries, which are also known as bedsores. If a person has severe back pain and spends a lot of time in bed, this will be an important feature to consider.
  • Edge support: Extra support around the edge of the mattress may also be important for side sleepers with back pain. Preventing side sleepers from rolling off the mattress and making getting in and out of bed easier are two benefits extra edge support can provide.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Sleep trial: The majority of companies offer sleep trials to allow their customers to try their mattresses before making their final decision. This means people can be more certain their chosen mattress will benefit their back pain and suit their preferred sleeping position.
  • Warranty: A person may wish to purchase a mattress from a company that offers a lengthy warranty.

Research shows that medium-firm mattresses are best for comfort, sleep quality, and spinal alignment. However, firmness is subjective: what might be medium-firm for one may be soft for another.

A person’s body weight may be a factor in how comfortable a mattress is. Generally, people with a lighter body weight who sleep on their sides will sleep easier on a softer mattress, whereas people with a heavier body weight may prefer a firm one.

The table below compares body weight and which mattress firmness may be most comfortable

Body weightFirmness
Lightersoft or medium
Averagemedium or medium-firm
Heaviermedium-firm or firm

Side sleeping may not be comfortable for everyone. Some people may prefer sleeping on their stomachs or resting on their backs.

The following tips may help people adjust to sleeping on their side:

  • Additional pillows to provide extra support: People may find that placing a pillow between the legs helps alleviate back pain, as it encourages spinal alignment and may prevent the knees and hips from collapsing into the mattress. Additionally, people may wish to purchase a contoured pillow for additional neck support or a body or pregnancy pillow to stop them from moving around at night. People may also place a pillow behind their back to help keep their spine straight and prevent them from turning onto their back.
  • Arm positions: When side sleeping, people may find that keeping their arms and hands below the face and neck and parallel to the sides of their bodies provides some relief.
  • Correct pillow height and design: Some people may prefer sleeping with a higher pillow to provide better support around the neck and head or prevent the head from dipping too low. Others may find that a double contour pillow provides more comfort and support when placed beneath the neck.

A mattress’s lifespan can depend on a range of factors, such as how old it is, the type of mattress, and whether people protect it from stains and spills with a mattress protector.

Some general signs that a mattress is past its best include:

  • Waking up stiff, sore, or uncomfortable: Aging mattresses can start to soften or dip, which can leave a person’s shoulders, hips, and spine unsupported, leading to discomfort and pain.
  • Rolling from either side of the bed into the center: Mattresses that need replacing can lose their shape easily, resulting in a large sag in the middle.
  • Coughing, itching, or sneezing while in bed: Older mattresses can harbor dust mites and other allergens so if it is not hayfever season, it may mean a person needs a new mattress.
  • Visible signs of wear and tear: Holes, tears, sagging, lumps, or protruding springs suggest that a mattress is no longer providing the required level of comfort and support for the spine.
  • Partner’s movements wake people up at night: Older mattresses may lose their ability to distribute weight effectively, meaning a restless sleeper impacts their partner’s sleep too.
  • Squeaking springs: Mattress coils can lose strength over time and become loose, rubbing against each other, making a noise, and providing less support than when they were new.

People should purchase a mattress that has a comfortable level of firmness. Some individuals may find that a medium or medium-firm mattress fits better than a softer mattress.

Researchers have found that medium-firm mattresses improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of developing low back pain.

Research suggests that a medium-firm mattress may be best for back pain. These mattresses provide enough firmness to support the body’s weight and maintain proper spinal alignment. However, taller and heavier people may find a firmer mattress more suitable.

Side sleepers should opt for a mattress that provides cushioning to relieve pressure on the shoulders and hips and supports the spine. This may be a medium-firm mattress over a soft mattress. However, mattress firmness is subjective, and people should test mattresses before they buy them.

People who are side sleepers will often find soft or medium mattresses most comfortable. However, firmness is subjective, so people should try out different mattress firmnesses before committing to a purchase.

A mattress with zoned support may be best for people with low back pain. This is because companies build them with extra support in the center third of the mattress for the core and lumbar region. We chose the Saatva Classic Mattress as a good option for those looking for lumbar support.

People who sleep on their sides may prefer a mattress with softer areas around the shoulders and legs and a firmer middle area. This can help support the spine’s alignment.

However, everyone has different needs, and finding the right mattress may take trial and error. With this in mind, many companies now offer trial periods.

If back pain persists after a person takes steps to ease it at home, contacting a doctor is a good idea.