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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, backs, or a combination of all three. There are both benefits and disadvantages to side sleeping, and the following sections outline these in more detail.

Benefits of side sleeping

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

Additionally, pregnant individuals may find it more comfortable to sleep on their sides. Sleeping on the side can also 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 of side sleeping

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 worsen shoulder pain. The author suggests that shoulder pain may be due to people spending longer periods of time sleeping on their sides. There is also increased pressure on the hips while sleeping on the side, and this can worsen discomfort in that area without proper support.

Generally, mattresses that support spinal alignment relieve pressure on the back and joints and may alleviate back pain for some people. There isn’t any conclusive research around mattress firmness and side sleeping. However, weight may play a role in the level of support you need in a mattress. If you’re under 130 pounds, you can get away with a softer mattress, and if you’re over 230 pounds, you may require a firmer mattress.

During sleep, the main 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. This can cause or worsen back pain and affect overall sleep quality for some people.

A person should purchase a mattress that keeps their spine in a neutral position and contour around 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 older study 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.

A more recent 2014 review of all research on mattress firmness and back pain to date found that there is not enough conclusive evidence to make a definitive guideline around the best mattress firmness for back pain. So, it comes down to what makes you feel most supported and the spine neutral.

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

  • 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.
  • Materials: Memory foam mattresses may provide extra pressure relief, while 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, individuals 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.

How we choose products

Medical News Today chooses products that fit the following criteria:

  • Materials: We choose mattresses that contain a range of materials, such as latex, memory foam, and water.
  • Firmness: We choose mattresses that have a range of firmness feels.
  • Sleeping position: We choose mattresses that are suitable for most sleeping positions, in this case focusing on side sleepers specifically.

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, which can help a person feel refreshed when they wake.

Best mattress for side sleepers to relieve hip and shoulder pressure: Helix Midnight Mattress

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

It has an overall medium firmness, with several layers of memory foam of different densities. These layers reportedly 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.

Best cooling mattress for side sleepers with back pain: Serta iComfort CF 4000 with Cooling and Comfort Upgrade

Serta’s iComfort line has several supportive features. They include cooling properties that can benefit side sleepers who get too warm and need extra support at their hips and shoulders.

It comprises a supportive foam design that moves with and contours to a person’s body, alleviating pressure points where the body naturally carries more weight.

The iComfort is also a hybrid model, meaning it has both memory foam and inner springs, the latter of which can offer more support than an all-foam mattress.

Best mattress for side and back sleepers with back pain: Winkbeds GravityLux

This mattress may suit side sleepers and people who switch between their sides and back. The company notes that there are seven support layers to provide a softer surface for the shoulders and legs and a firmer layer for the torso.

Winkbeds adds that its memory foam contains small air capsules to follow the body’s contours and help heat dissipate, allowing an individual 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.

Best latex mattress for side sleepers with back pain: Birch Natural 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 manufacturer of this mattress notes that this mattress features organic cotton, organic wool, and natural Talalay latex, materials that help regulate body temperature. Additionally, the steel coils in the base reportedly 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.

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 because it can relieve pressure on the shoulders and hips, which are common trigger points.

However, people should purchase a mattress that has a comfortable level of firmness. Some individuals 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 it no longer offers adequate support.

The following are some other reasons for replacing a mattress:

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

People may find that they need to replace their mattresses every decade. However, mattresses featuring certain materials, such as memory foam, may last longer than this.

Learn more about how long mattresses last.

How can I dispose of my mattress?

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

A person could 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 unusable mattresses.

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.

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. With this in mind, 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.