We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission Here’s our process.

Medical News Today only shows you brands and products that we stand behind.

Our team thoroughly researches and evaluates the recommendations we make on our site. To establish that the product manufacturers addressed safety and efficacy standards, we:
  • Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
  • Fact-check all health claims: Do they align with the current body of scientific evidence?
  • Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?
We do the research so you can find trusted products for your health and wellness.
Was this helpful?

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.

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.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

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

FirmnessSizesTypeSleep trialWarrantyPrice
Helixmediumtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California (CA) kinghybrid100
10 years$1,373
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$1,449
Leesamediumtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, CA kingmemory foam100
10 years$1,399
Saatvaplush soft, luxury firm, firmtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, split king, CA king, split CA kinginnerspring365
Puffymedium-plushtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, split king, CA kinghybrid101
Nectarmedium-firmtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, CA king, split kingmemory foam365
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$1,895
Nolahplush, firm, or luxury firmtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, CA king, split kinghybrid120
Dreamcloudmediumtwin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California (CA) king, split kinghybrid365

Medical News Today’s methodology

MNT 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.
Was this helpful?

Before purchasing a mattress, people should 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 relieve extra pressure, while hybrid mattresses offer cooler sleep. People should also check they are not allergic to any of the materials in a mattress.
  • 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 some time to ensure it is comfortable.
  • Warranty: A person may wish to purchase a mattress from a company that offers a lengthy warranty.

Generally, mattresses that support spinal alignment and relieve pressure on the back and joints may alleviate back pain for some people. However, research on the effects of mattress firmness and side sleeping is inconclusive.

That said, body size and weight may affect the level of support needed in a mattress. For instance:

  • Soft mattresses: People with lighter body weights may find soft mattresses comfortable and supportive.
  • Firm mattresses: Individuals with higher body weights may require a firmer mattress.
  • Memory foam mattresses: According to a 2021 study, medium-firm mattresses may provide better comfort, sleep quality, and spinal alignment than other firmnesses. Therefore, people with back pain may consider purchasing a medium-firm memory foam mattress.

Soft vs. firm mattresses

During sleep, the main force affecting the back is gravity. Due to this, sleeping on a mattress that is too soft or hard or does not support the spine’s alignment may put pressure on the joints. This can cause or worsen back pain and affect overall sleep quality for some people.

Generally, a medium-firm mattress is the best choice for people hoping to reduce back pain.

People should purchase a mattress that keeps their spine in a neutral position and contours around pressure points such as the hips and shoulders.

While side sleepers with back pain should look for a supportive and comfortable mattress, they may also want to consider other important features, such as:

  • 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.

People usually sleep on their sides, fronts, backs, or a combination of all three. The sections below detail the benefits and disadvantages of side sleeping.

Benefits of side sleeping

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

Additionally, pregnant people may find it more comfortable to sleep on their sides. Sleeping on the side can also reduce the risk of stillbirth.

Disadvantages of side sleeping

Some older research suggests that side sleeping may worsen shoulder pain. The author suggests that shoulder pain may be due to people sleeping longer on their sides. There is also further pressure on the hips while sleeping on the side, worsening discomfort in that area without proper support.

One cosmetic disadvantage of side sleeping is that it can lead to sleep wrinkles. A 2016 review suggests that sleeping on the side or front can lead to compression and stress on the face, which may increase the appearance of wrinkles. Sleeping on the back may reduce face compression and stress.

A person should sleep in the most comfortable position and speak with a doctor to discuss the best position for sleeping with back pain.

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 may help 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: People may find that keeping their arms and hands below the face and neck and parallel to the sides of their body may provide some relief when side sleeping.
  • 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 person should speak with a doctor if their back pain is severe, limits their movement, or interferes with daily activities. They should also get medical advice if their back pain does not improve with a new mattress or other self-care methods.

Individuals should seek urgent medical advice if they experience the following symptoms along with back pain:

The following are frequently asked questions about mattresses for side sleepers with back pain.

What kind of mattress is best for side sleepers with back pain?

A soft mattress may be suitable for side sleepers because it can relieve pressure on the shoulders and hips, 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 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.

When should I replace my mattress?

People should replace their mattress if they believe it lacks 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 wakes up feeling tired or sore.
  • The individual wakes 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, donating, or leaving them at a landfill.

A person could recycle most of their mattress. Materials like springs, foam, and polyester filling are all recyclable. However, people need to take the mattress apart 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 various conditions, most will not accept unusable ones.

People who cannot recycle or donate their mattresses can dispose of them at a landfill.

Learn more about disposing of a mattress.

What mattress firmness is best for back and side sleepers?

A small study of side sleepers with chronic lower back pain found that a mattress with zoned support reduced pain and increased comfort compared to the person’s own mattress.

The zoned mattress provided softer contouring around heavier body parts, such as hips and shoulders, while providing more firm support in the lumbar area and under the head.

Is sleeping on a hard or soft mattress for back pain better?

Possibly neither. Studies have found that medium-firm mattresses lower a person’s risk of developing back pain and help them sleep better.

Remember that a person should purchase a mattress with a level of firmness they find comfortable.

What firmness is best for side sleepers with 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 that a firmer mattress is more suitable.

Where possible, people should try mattresses out in person to find the most comfortable and supportive option or use a company’s sleep trial to test the mattress.

Do side sleepers need a firm or soft mattress?

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 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.