With nearly three-quarters of individuals reporting that they sleep on their side, it is overwhelmingly the most favored sleep position. Yet, the majority of people also say that they get a good night’s rest only three nights or less every week. It’s important to find the best type of mattress for side sleepers.
While many of us don’t spend a lot of time considering how we sleep and more importantly, how to sleep better, some elements are unique to side sleepers and should be taken into consideration.
Side Sleeping Basics
Despite being the most popular sleeping positions, side sleeping is not the best one for your body. The healthiest option is sleeping on your back. It allows your head, neck, and spine to rest in a neutral position, putting no pressure on those areas. Sleeping on your back also reduces acid reflux. Fewer than 10% of individuals sleep in this position.
Side sleeping is deemed more comfortable by most people, and it is the second-best position for your neck and back since the spine is still elongated. Sleeping on your left side has additional biological benefits due to the unique anatomy of our bodies. This can include alleviating digestion issues, improving circulation and draining toxins from lymph nodes.
The downfall for side sleepers is the increased pressure that is put on the shoulders and hips. While some of this can be alleviated by making small adjustments to your position (such as moving your arms to your side or putting a pillow between your legs), it is best to select a proper mattress for side sleepers.
Selecting a Mattress
When picking out a new mattress, side sleepers should keep a couple of critical elements in mind.
The most significant concern is getting the appropriate firmness. Many times, mattresses designed for back sleepers are too firm, which increases the level of pressure felt on the shoulder and hips.
Side sleepers need a mattress that will be firm enough to support the spine and body in a neutral position, without allowing the body to sink into the mattress too much (which increases spinal curvature).
The mattress should be cushioned enough to relieve pressure on the hips, shoulders, and neck. Achieving this usually means that the best options will be those that have a balance between firmness and comfort often achieved through adequate support cores.
Ideal choices include memory foam or gel memory foam, a hybrid mattress, a latex mattress, or those that provide a cushioned foam comfort layer on top. These mattresses maximize pressure point relief while still providing spinal support.
Body contouring is similar to firmness in that you want an ideal balance. Whereas firmness addresses proper support for spinal alignment for side sleepers, contouring addresses the ability of mattresses to conform to the body and allow the muscles to relax. This is another critical factor in achieving deep sleep that reduces pain.
Mattresses that contour support proper weight distribution. Kathy R. Gromer, MD, a sleep specialist with the Minnesota Sleep Institute in Minneapolis, argues that the weight distribution of memory foam mattresses helps support “the natural curves and lines of the body.” The ability of a mattress to appropriately contour to the body often has much to do with its thickness.
Individuals with larger body mass may need a firmer and thicker mattress to achieve the best contouring. This option can be too firm for a smaller person who would benefit from a thinner and softer mattress.
Memory foam mattresses offer the best of both worlds. They can contour bodies well, while still providing adequate spinal support. These are often the best options for sleeping partners that have very different body masses.
Achieving an ideal temperature is a concern for sleepers in all positions. There is a widespread belief that memory foam is hotter. While this may have been historically true, modern sleep science technologies often provide for temperature regulation, gel cooling, greater breathability, and temperature zoning that can optimize comfort.
No matter what your preferred sleep position is, purchasing a quality mattress that can adjust temperature will optimize your sleep environment and lead to more restful sleep.
Best Options for Side Sleepers
While factoring in the particular concerns for side sleepers, several mattress types meet these needs better than others. No matter what type is ultimately selected, the ideal firmness should be medium. The firmness should be between three and six on a scale of 1-10 with ten being the firmest. It is also worth considering those that offer a two to four-inch comfort top or pillow top layer.
Memory foam mattresses consist of high-density of foam layers that contour and cradle the body while maintaining appropriate firmness and support. This relieves pressure on the shoulders, hips, and spine.
Many memory foam mattresses also have temperature regulation technologies, allowing them not to trap heat and maintain a better temperature balance.
Hybrid mattresses are comprised of a combination of coils and foam. The coil support system is layered with foam, which adds both comfort and additional support. These mattresses also offer great conformity, but like traditional coiled mattresses, the support can break down over time.
Aside from these options, sleepers can also consider innerspring mattresses or latex mattresses. While innerspring mattresses tend to typically be too firm for most side sleepers and latex mattresses may lack optimized temperature regulation, the needs of every side sleeper are unique and should be factored into the ultimate decision.
Ultimately, selecting the best mattress is crucial in getting restful and regular sleep. Side sleepers have many great options that can provide the balance they need between support and comfort.
The key elements to look for are:
- Adequate spinal alignment support with thickness appropriate for body mass
- Softness to relieve pressure
- Contouring that allows muscles to relax
- Proper temperature regulation and breathability
Luckily, there is ample information about each type of mattress available to consumers.
Additionally, many of them offer trial periods so that consumers can make the best selection possible to meet their unique needs.