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The right mattress for a side sleeper with back pain may depend on the type and location of the pain.

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Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

People usually sleep on their sides, fronts, or backs, or a combination of all three. There are both benefits and disadvantages to side sleeping, which the following sections outline in more detail.

Benefits

People may find that sleeping on their sides reduces snoring. Some research suggests that people, especially those with overweight, are more likely to snore while sleeping on their backs than in any other position.

People who are pregnant may find it more comfortable to sleep on their sides. Also, sleeping on the side can reduce the risk of stillbirth. The National Health Service (NHS) states that sleeping on the back after 28 weeks can double the risk of stillbirth and that sleeping on the side is the safest position during pregnancy.

Disadvantages

One of the disadvantages of side sleeping is that it can lead to sleep wrinkles. One 2016 literature review suggests that sleeping on the side or front can lead to compression and stress to the face, which may increase the appearance of wrinkles. The researchers note that sleeping on the back may reduce compression and stress to the face.

Also, some older research suggests that side sleeping may increase shoulder pain. The author suggests that shoulder pain may be the result of people spending longer periods of time sleeping on their side.

Generally, mattresses that support spinal alignment relieve pressure on the back and joints, which may alleviate back pain for some people.

During sleep, the primary force affecting the back is gravity. Because of this, sleeping on a mattress that is too soft or hard or that does not support the alignment of the spine may put pressure on the joints. For some people, this can cause or worsen back pain and impact overall sleep quality.

A person should purchase a mattress that keeps their spine in a straight position and contours to pressure points, such as the hips and shoulders. Additionally, people should feel comfortable in every sleeping position.

People often believe that firm mattresses are good for back pain, but an older study from 2003 challenges this belief. The authors write that participants who slept on medium firm mattresses experienced less pain and disability.

Another study, this time from 2008, suggests that people who sleep on waterbeds or memory foam mattresses may have improved sleep and back symptoms compared with those who sleep on hard mattresses. However, the authors note that the differences between all three mattress types seem to be small.

Before purchasing a mattress, people may wish to consider the following factors:

  • Firmness: Medium firm mattresses are usually suitable for all sleeping positions. However, firmness feel is subjective, and a person should choose a mattress that best supports their body.
  • Materials: Memory foam mattresses may provide extra pressure relief, whereas hybrid mattresses may offer cooler sleep.
  • Sleeping position: People should ensure that the mattress they purchase is comfortable in all sleep positions.
  • Sleep trial: Some companies may offer a sleep trial. With these, people can try a mattress for a period of time to ensure that it is comfortable.
  • Warranty: A person may wish to purchase a mattress from a company that offers a warranty.

The right mattress should distribute pressure evenly throughout the body and keep the back in a neutral position.

Below are six options that may reduce back pain and improve sleep, thereby increasing energy levels.

Helix Midnight Mattress

Best for relieving hip and shoulder pressure

This mattress is a hybrid, meaning that it has both memory foam and coils.

It has an overall medium firmness, with several layers of memory foam of different densities. According to the manufacturers, these layers allow the mattress to conform to the body, providing pressure relief for the hips and shoulders.

This mattress has won multiple consumer awards and receives mostly positive reviews.

All Helix mattresses have breathable covers and come with a 100-night sleep trial and a 10-year warranty.

Bear Hybrid Mattress

Best for cooler sleep

This mattress combines memory foam and coils to provide a medium firm surface, which the manufacturers suggest is ideal for side sleepers.

The mattress also has five layers of differentiated support to relieve pressure on the joints, along with a layer of cooling gel foam.

According to the product website, the coils in this mattress transfer heat away from the body 28% more efficiently than standard memory foam mattresses. This could make it a good option for people who get hot during the night.

It comes with a 100-night sleep trial and a 20-year warranty. The company says that it strives to use environmentally friendly materials.

Winkbeds GravityLux

Best for back pain

This mattress may work well for side sleepers and people who switch between their sides and back. The company also notes that the mattress’ seven support layers provide a softer surface for the shoulders and legs and a firmer one for the torso.

Winkbeds says that its memory foam contains small air capsules to follow the body’s contours and help heat dissipate, allowing the person to stay cool and comfortable.

According to reviews on the company’s website, this mattress has helped some people with back pain. It comes with a 120-night trial and a lifetime warranty.

Birch Natural Mattress

Best latex mattress

Research suggests that mattress materials can affect sleep quality. A small study from 2017 compared latex and polyurethane foam mattresses and found that latex mattresses performed better overall and provided more pressure relief for side sleepers.

As a result, side sleepers may prefer latex mattresses.

The manufacturers of this mattress note that it contains organic cotton, organic wool, and natural Talalay latex, all of which are materials that help regulate body temperature. The company also says that the steel coils in the base help prevent motion transfer.

A person can try it for 100 nights before committing to the purchase, and the company offers a 25-year warranty and free shipping.

Innomax Genesis 800 DX Watermattress

Best for lower back pain

According to the manufacturers, this waterbed distributes body weight evenly and reduces pressure on the shoulders, lower back, hips, and heels. They highlight a 10-layer support system that is firmest in the middle to support the back.

A study from 2008 suggests that waterbeds and foam mattresses perform better for participants with chronic lower back pain than firm mattresses.

Innomax offers a 20-year extended limited warranty.

The following are some frequently asked questions about mattresses for side sleepers:

Should side sleepers use a soft mattress?

A soft mattress may be suitable for side sleepers, as people can sink into the surface, which may keep the spine in a neutral position.

However, people should purchase a mattress that has a firmness that feels comfortable. Some people may find that a medium or medium-firm mattress is a better fit than a softer mattress.

When should I replace my mattress?

A person should replace their mattress if they believe that it no longer gives adequate support.

The following are some other reasons a person may consider replacing their mattress:

  • The mattress is showing signs of wear and tear, such as soft spots, lumps, or broken springs.
  • The person is waking up feeling tired or sore.
  • The person is waking up with a partner’s movement. This can happen because mattresses lose motion isolation as they age.

People may find that they need to replace their mattress every decade. Some materials, such as memory foam, may last longer than this.

Learn more about how long mattresses last here.

How can I dispose of my mattress?

People can dispose of their mattress by recycling it, donating it, or leaving it at a landfill site.

A person may be able to recycle most of their mattress. Materials such as springs, foam, and polyester filling are all recyclable. However, people will have to take apart the mattress and separate the materials.

If a mattress is still useable, some companies or charities may accept it to donate to others. Although some places may accept mattresses in a range of conditions, most will not accept mattresses that are not useable.

If a person cannot recycle or donate their mattress, they must dispose of it at a landfill site.

Learn more about disposing of a mattress here.

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

However, everyone has different needs, and finding the right mattress may take some trial and error. To this end, many companies now offer trial periods.

If back pain persists after a person takes steps to ease it at home, it may be a good idea to contact a doctor.