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.
Stomach sleepers struggle the most with neck and shoulder tension. Therefore, this sleep position is not recommended. However, if you can't sleep in any other position, look at our article on the best mattresses for front sleepers to ensure the healthiest sleep in this position.
How sleeping on your side affects your health
There are numerous health benefits to sleeping on your side.
But, there are also quite a few drawbacks as side sleeping creates tension in certain parts of your body - which is why choosing the right mattress is so important 📢
Here, we'll give you an overview of how side sleeping affects your rest before deep-diving into what to pay attention to when buying a new mattress for side sleeping.
If you have the right mattress, side sleeping results in optimal spinal alignment.
This is better for your health and eliminates the causes of back and neck pains.
Drawbacks to side sleeping
Despite the above-mentioned health benefits, there are also a few drawbacks to side sleeping.
These include 👇
Improper spinal alignment
Side sleeping on the right mattress allows for optimal spinal alignment.
But, sleeping on your side on a mattress that's not perfectly designed can lead to improper spinal alignment.
This results in tension and lower back pain 😩
The right mattress will allow your hips and shoulders to sink in more deeply, allowing your spine to remain straight at all times.
Side sleeping places more pressureon your shoulders, which can lead to or worsen shoulder pains.
This is only if you don't have the right mattress.
If your mattress doesn't allow your shoulders to sink in deeply enough, it will push your shoulders up towards your neck, resulting in a misalignment of your anatomy.
Similarly, if your mattress is too soft, your shoulders will sink in too deeply, again resulting in misalignment.
The right mattress, together with the right pillow, can assist in creating alignment and leaving you tension-free.
Side sleeping shouldn't cause back problems - but sleeping on a bad mattress can cause or worsen existing back pain.
How do you know if your mattress is at fault?
If you wake up with back pain that generally disappears within an hour of getting up or after some stretching, then your mattress might be to blame.
It could be too firm or too soft, both of which lead to improper spinal alignment.
Buying a new mattress can help, but you could also get away with simply purchasing a mattress topper, especially if your back pain is caused by a mattress that's too firm. Why not try the luxurious but well-priced Eve mattress topper? We also recommend a few other options further down.
Side sleepers may suffer from the effects of pelvic rotation.
This results from the displacement of the back muscles and the lumbar spine.
A rotation happens when you turn the upper body in the opposite direction of the lower body.
This can be quite painful 😱
You can prevent pelvic rotation by clamping a pillow between your legs while you sleep.
Choosing the right mattress with the proper support structure can also help.
Choose the right mattress for side sleeping
Luckily, all the negatives to side sleeping are usually caused by an incorrect mattress or pillow 🥳
The right mattress will alleviate these drawbacks and ensure a tension-free sleep in the side position.
Let's look at what you should pay attention to when buying the right mattress for side sleeping 👇
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 - enough 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 👩
If you've done some reading on mattresses, you'll have seen the term "point elasticity" thrown around.
But what exactly does this mean?
Point elasticity measures the ability of materials to compress at a specific point without affecting the rest of the mattress.
If a mattress has high point elasticity, for example, it means that you can put a very heavy dumbbell at one point and only have the mattress sink in at that point - the rest of the surface will remain unaffected 🏋️♀️
If you've read the above section on stability and support, you'll know that this is exactly what you need if you're a side sleeper.
Your hips and shoulders (the dumbbells in this scenario) will need to sink in more deeply, but the rest of the mattress should remain unaffected.
Point elasticity is influenced by the materials used and the composition of the mattress.
But, you can rest easy in knowing that all the mattresses we recommend have exceptional point elasticity.
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, and a mattress with high point elasticity will allow weight to be more evenly distributed.
Best mattress firmness for side sleepers
If you have a mattress that offers good stability and support, has high point elasticity, and allows for pressure relief, then you've already made a good choice.
The degree of firmness you choose is often simply a matter of personal preference.
But, your size, body weight, and sleeping position influence which level of firmness will be more suitable for you.
Firmness for side sleepers
In general, we would recommend a slightly softer mattress for side sleepers.
This would be any mattress with an average firmness of about 4 - 6 (where 1 is the softest and 10 is the firmest) on our Sleep Herofirmness scale.
These are generally softer or medium-firm mattresses.
Firmer mattresses often don't allow for sufficient sinkage in the hip and shoulder areas, which will prevent optimal spinal alignment.
Consider your size and body weight
Your build, size, and body weight will also influence which level of firmness is the best.
If you are a bigger or heavier person (above 90 kg and especially if you're above 130 kg), you should choose a slightly firmer model.
Mattresses with a firmness level of 6 - 8 on our scale will work well.
This is because people who are slightly heavier will sink into the mattress more deeply, and will need a mattress that's firm enough to still offer sufficient support.
Spring mattresses are particularly well-suited to heavier people as they offer greater firmness and stability.
You can always choose a hybrid mattress that features top layers of memory foam, a mattress with a quilted pillow top, or a spring mattress with a memory foam mattress topper to achieve the same comfort level as with a foam mattress.
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