How we test products
Our mission is to take the guesswork out of finding the perfect sleep products.
We've dedicated hundreds of hours to testing mattresses and sleep accessories, and rely on a team of testers of differing weights, temperature preferences, and sleeping positions to evaluate each product.
Tested products are granted the Sleep Hero tested stamp of approval, a mark of our review's reliability.
If we haven't personally tested a product, please be assured that we invest significant time and energy into scouring the UK market and researching the best recommendations, and we work with a team of sleep experts who review our articles, ensuring that the insights we provide are not only relatable but also reliable.
What is a side sleeper?
There are all kinds of sleepers in this world 😴
Some lie flat on their stomachs, cheeks pressed down into the mattress.
Others lie on their backs, sprawled out across the bed.
A side sleeper is someone who sleeps on their side.
There are many subcategories of side sleeping positions, like the foetal position, where side sleepers crawl into a ball, or pillow huggers, where side sleepers cuddle with a pillow.
Sleeping on your back is often deemed the healthiest position as it creates the least tension for your body, but most adults sleep in the side position.
This can create a fair bit of tension, which is why it's so important to choose the right kind of mattress.
Focus on optimal spinal alignment
Any ideal mattress - regardless of sleeping position - has to offer good stability and support.
Stability should not be confused with firmness. A soft mattress can offer as much stability as a firm mattress can.
The ideal mattress has to offer the right amount of stability regardless of sleeping position.
This is because the exact sleeping position of a side sleeper can change every night 🌌
Sometimes you'll bend your legs; other times, you'll sprawl them out to the side. Or maybe you'll only bend one leg.
The right mattress will be able to support you well in every position.
So what do stability and support even refer to?
In a nutshell, a mattress with good stability and support will help keep your spine straight.
This is necessary to prevent lower back pain and unnecessary tension 👍
Achieving this is relatively easy for back sleepers but a little more difficult for side sleepers.
This is because most of your body weight will be concentrated in your shoulder and hip areas.
These heavier parts of your body will need to be able to sink into the mattress a little more deeply while the rest of your body remains adequately supported.
Only this will allow your spine to remain optimally aligned.
Ultimately, it's a fine balance of offering the right kind of support.
What should a good mattress be able to do?
A suitable mattress relieves pressure and supports the body.
It’s designed to cushion the entire body while supporting the hips and spine. The shoulders, pelvis, and hips sink in so the body is balanced and the spine is aligned.
You need enough support to keep your feet and head lifted but not too much to still allow your hips and shoulders to sink in.
You need the Goldilocks of mattresses - not too soft, not too firm, but just right 👩
The Nectar memory foam mattress is a great option with medium-firm support.
Very often, you'll find mattresses with integrated comfort or contour zones.
Zoned mattresses allow for greater support in some areas and more sinkage in others, allowing for optimal spinal alignment.
This is exactly what you need as a side sleeper!
You'll often find high-quality foam mattresses, such as memory foam, latex foam, and gel foam, combined with a stable zoned support layer of cold foam or PUR foam to achieve this effect.
The construction of the base layers often also influences the mattress's durability.
It's generally a good idea to make sure you purchase the best quality you can afford.
All of the mattresses we recommend are high-quality, durable choices with a long guarantee period.
If you choose a zoned mattress, you can also choose a bed frame where the slats match the zoning.
This will help enhance the mattress features.
Our favourite bed frames:
Make sure pressure is evenly distributed
We've already mentioned that your body weight in the side position will be more concentrated in your shoulder and hip areas.
But, you don't want this to create unnecessary pressure points, which could result in a build-up of tension and awful aches and pains.
This is why you need to look for a mattress that offers even pressure distribution across the mattress.
This will help relieve pressure points, meaning that your muscles can relax fully while you sleep 💤
Luckily, pressure relief is related to point elasticity.
A mattress with high point elasticity will allow weight to be more evenly distributed.
Look at the picture references of the Simba mattress:
You can see quite clearly how pressure in one area doesn't affect the rest of the mattress.
This is the ideal.
Different mattress materials for side sleepers
Side sleepers need a mattress that's not too soft and not too firm but provides just the right amount of body contouring for optimal spinal alignment.
Any mattress material that allows for body contouring can be well-suited to side sleepers.
We go over the most common mattress materials below.
Spring mattresses consist of a core of coils with layers of foam or latex on top.
These mattresses are generally firmer, but they can still be suitable for side sleepers as long as the cushioning top layers allow for enough softness.
Spring mattresses are also an excellent choice for heavy sweaters.
This is because the springs create natural ventilation channels and allow for greater air circulation 💨
Spring mattresses are also among the best mattresses for heavier side sleepers as they offer greater stability and more support.
Hybrid mattresses rely on a composition of two or more materials and usually consist of pocket springs with memory foam or latex.
This results in a mattress that offers the best of both worlds - support, stability, pressure relief, and cushioning.
They're a great choice for side sleepers.
Latex mattresses are known for their soft, springy feel, great breathability, and long lifespans.
Latex conforms well to the shape of the body, making latex mattresses an excellent choice for side sleepers.
You can choose natural or synthetic latex mattresses.
Memory foam mattresses
Memory foam mattresses allow for optimal body-hugging support.
This is because memory foam moulds so well to your body shape.
The unique body-contouring abilities of memory foam are due to the memory effect of the foam.
When you apply pressure to the foam, it leaves an imprint that will remain visible for a few seconds.
Look at the images below that demonstrate this memory effect 👇
The downside is that memory foam can be too soft.
This is why memory foam mattresses often feature a more supportive base layer, like zoned cold foam.
A zoned memory foam mattress is an excellent choice for side sleepers.
The best mattress topper for side sleepers
If you've purchased an almost perfect mattress that's just a tad too firm, you'll benefit from investing in a mattress topper.
Mattress toppers provide a thin layer of extra padding and allow for increased comfort and softness.
This extra cushioning top layer may be just enough to allow for optimal spinal alignment if you're a side sleeper.
This can easily turn a too-firm mattress into the perfect haven for side sleepers.