Best Side Sleeper Pillow of 2021
The Honeydew Scrumptious Side Sleeper Pillow claimed the top spot for our favorite pillow for side sleepers. We absolutely loved the crescent shape, which gave room for our testers' shoulders, and pleasantly cradled our heads even when rolling around. We also really liked how adjustable the pillow is, and how the fill kept the pillow full and reasonably firm even when we removed a decent amount of the fill.
The only thing we don't love is that you have to remove all of the fill to wash the Scrumptious pillow. In other words, the fill isn't washable. We don't wash pillows all that often in our normal lives, but when we do, they usually really need it. There is also a band of stiffer fabric running around the side of the pillow that made a crinkly noise when we folded the pillow to read. Aside from that, there isn't a lot to complain about. All in all, we love the Scrumptious pillow. It has a nice balanced firmness, it's fully adjustable, and we absolutely love the shape. We recommend this for anyone who wants a position-specific pillow, but really, we'd recommend this for everyone. It's our favorite pillow we've ever slept on, and we think it's the best pillow for side sleepers out there.
The EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow is our favorite firm memory foam pillow. Although it isn't the least expensive on the list, we think it provides the best value. Unlike many of the adjustable pillows in this review, the EPABO pillow is filled with a block of polyurethane gel foam rather than shredded foam chunks. This makes the pillow far firmer and more similar to standard memory foam pillows. Although it's not completely adjustable, there is a ¾-inch thick removable panel in the middle of the pillow that, which when taken out, creates more of a cradle shape for your head.
While we like this as a firmer option, we think it could be improved with firmer edges. Other firm pillows did better at supporting our heads when we tried to read while lying on our side. Also, after repeated use, the cover fabric of the pillow began to pill. That said, this is a high-value product for those looking for a quality option on a limited budget.
The Sleep Artisan Luxury Side Sleeper Pillow was only lost to our favorite by a smidge; we love this pillow too. The long crescent shape rolled accommodatingly along with our lead tester, who tends to sleep with all the restfulness of a horizontal tornado. We really like the fill, which nicely fills the cover even when adjusted to be thinner. The sideband that helps keep its shape is also softer than the Honeydew pillow, which is a nice benefit.
Although the Sleep Artisan pillow is made from high-quality materials, these materials can only be spot washed, which is a bit of a disappointment. Some testers also wished this pillow was a touch firmer when thinned down, but even so, it is still one of our favorite pillows. We recommend this pillow if you tend to be restless, as this one will roll with you rather than rolling off the bed and can be folded and tucked nicely if you want a firmer or thicker spot in the middle of the night.
The Tempurpedic Tempur-Ergo Cooling Neck Pillow is definitely the firmest pillow we tested, and for those that really like supportive pillows, it's the way to go. Tempurpedic has a history of making quality memory foam pillows and mattresses, and this pillow is no exception. Despite it being a solid block of memory foam, this pillow is plenty cool, whereas some memory foam pillows can be total heat sinks.
We do wish this pillow had a bit of adjustability, as again it is one solid piece. However, you can buy it at different sizes and thicknesses. There is also a bit of annoyingly stiff piping sewn onto the edges of each side, which you can feel through pillowcases and this seems unnecessary. Also, we wish the pillow could entirely be washed — only the removable cover is washable. Still, we recommend this to anyone who likes a very supportive pillow, or who has neck pain from pillows that aren't firm enough.
For those who get really hot at night, the Hullo Buckwheat Pillow might be the cushion of their dreams. Pillows filled with buckwheat hulls have been around for a long time, but Hullo created a nice yet simple product using organic cotton for the case and American-grown buckwheat for the fill. Our lead tester, who sleeps warm, found that the buckwheat fill stayed cooler than foam pillows, perhaps because seed shells are less efficient at insulation. It stays at a nice temperature all night long. It's also a heavy pillow. The standard size weighs in at nearly nine pounds, so it won't roll away from you at night and generally keeps its shape once we nestled our heads into the center. It's also adjustable, and Hullo offers replacement buckwheat if, for some reason, you need to refill your pillow.
One noticeable drawback is the amount of noise the fill material makes. The buckwheat shells are sort of noisy when our ears were pressed against them and when we moved about. If you're sensitive to noise at night, this might not be the best product for you or your partner. It's also considerably more firm than any other non-buckwheat cushion we tested and has a texture similar to a bag of beans, which some might find offputting. However, if you really need a supportive pillow that keeps you cool, and you like the idea of natural materials, we recommend trying the Hullo pillow.
The Nest Easy Breather Pillow is made of quality materials in a normal pillow rectangle. Although it's got a standard shape, it has a silky band of material around it that helps keep its loft and makes sure that fill gets to spread all the way to the corners. The fabric is also nicely textured and quite soft, feeling pleasant under a case. The texture also helps keep it a touch cooler, as it allows for a bit of airflow. The foam fill is nicely firm and springy but allows your head to sink into the pillow, too. The fill is also adjustable—just remove some of the fill through a side zipper.
We do wish that this pillow were easier to wash, as you have to empty the entire pillow to wash the cover. Nest specifically says that their foam is not designed to be washed and instead recommends a pillow protector. We also wished that the texture was a touch less lumpy. Still, we think it's a good option for a shredded memory foam that feels like it could suit back or side sleepers, depending on how much fill you leave inside the case.
For what it is, we like the Coop Homegoods Original Pillow. At first glance, it's a standard rectangle pillow with a foam filling. The foam filling is actually a pleasant, shredded memory foam blended with microfiber that can be adjusted to the thickness you desire. It's one of the softer options we tried, but it still provides decent support even after removing some of the fill. We also like that it's fully washable—just chuck it into the washer and select a delicate cycle.
We wish this pillow were crescent-shaped like some of the others in the review, which might have helped it scored higher. It also has a double cover design which is nice for washing but leaves the corners a bit unfilled. Otherwise, we think that the Coop Original Pillow is a solid choice for those who want a more conventional-shaped pillow.
The Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow is a very soft, very adjustable rectangular pillow with a decent memory foam fill. Its adjustability is a nice touch. Otherwise, it would be far too full and fluffy for a pillow for side sleepers. We were also impressed that it doesn't hold much heat — take note, anyone seeking the eternally cold pillow. Another nice touch is that it's easy to wash.
In some ways, this pillow is very similar to the Coop pillow, but we like the Coop pillow a bit more. The Xtreme Comforts pillow became lumpier as we adjusted the fill level, and it also left the corners empty. It seemed like the fill stuck to itself somewhat and wouldn't evenly fill the casing. Still, it's a well-made product, and if you're looking for a soft, adjustable pillow without spending too much, it might be a decent option.
The Beans72 Buckwheat Pillow is a small yet thick cushion filled with organic buckwheat hulls in unbleached cotton fabric. The pillow comes overstuffed but easily adjustable. Unlike some other adjustable models, we found managing the fill removal to be easy and less messy. We like how cool the buckwheat stayed. Beans72 is also a very small company, so if you like the idea of supporting a cottage company, it might be a good choice.
The Beans72 pillows come in a variety of sizes. We tested the Japanese size and found it quite small in comparison to what we're used to. Despite the model we ordered being advertised as 14" x 20", the product we received was only 10" x 14". The pillow is six inches narrower than any other pillow we tested, and for our lead tester, who rolls around a lot at night, he tended to roll off the pillow. Instead, we really ended up liking this pillow as knee support and to keep legs from touching, something many side-sleepers enjoy. We found it worked great between the knees while sleeping, or as back support on the couch or around the house. These uses aren't what we were looking for in this review, but some folks may find it helpful nevertheless.
Despite the name, we believe the Mkicesky Side Sleeper Ergonomic Memory Foam Pillow suits back sleepers better than side sleepers. It has a unique shape; essentially a hole cut in the middle that cradles your head when on your back, which we really liked when wearing earbuds in bed. The pillow also has a raised mesh fabric that allows more airflow between your head and the foam to keep things cooler.
The Mkicesky really seems like a better back sleeper pillow, though. The scoop in the middle of the pillow fit our testers' neck much better when on their backs, whereas it tended to push our shoulders down awkwardly on our sides. It worked a bit better for side sleepers if we used the side of the pillow, but then we didn't get the benefits of the cradle in the middle or the mesh. We think this is a decent product, but it would much better if marketed towards back sleepers than side sleepers.
In most ways, the Beckham Hotel Collection Gel Pillow feels like a standard pillow. It has a nice feeling gel fiber fill and a smooth cotton fabric in a standard rectangular shape. We also like that it's fully machine washable and dryer safe, just be sure to use a delicate cycle.
That said, this product is way too fluffy to be a decent side sleeper pillow. Fully fluffed, it's around eight inches thick, which kinked our lead tester's neck. For side sleeping, it only seemed useful if we slid our heads all the way to the edge. If you're reading this review, you've probably already tried standard pillows for sleeping on your side, and you weren't satisfied, so we wouldn't recommend this pillow as a solution.
Why You Should Trust Us
As someone who owns and operates a small B'n'B, Ethan Newman knows quality bedding. He is also an extremely light sleeper and sensitive to small changes in a sleeping environment, so he took particular care in conducting this review. He has picked through dozens and dozens of pillows, sheets, and mattresses to find the highest quality and value in his bedding for both himself and his guests.
We tested these pillows for side sleepers like we do other products on our site, with thorough personal use and carefully designed tests. After researching dozens of the top models on the market, we selected and purchased the most promising eight to evaluate. Our lead tester and his partner slept on each of these pillows for weeks, rotating them out to see how they performed. Our testing team also washed each model according to their instructions to see how it held up to washing and put every pillow through multiple dryer cycles to accelerate the wear process to see how each product fared.
Analysis and Test Results
We used four metrics to analyze the pillows for the most objective reviews possible. Each metric covers a different kind of performance for these products. For this review, we rated each pillow for comfort, quality, washability, and features.
First and foremost, pillows must be comfortable. Otherwise, why even buy them? Comfort is also essential for a specialized pillow review like this because it's likely you've already tried conventional pillows, and they just weren't comfy enough or didn't suit your preferred sleeping position. Most pillows are designed for back sleepers, and a comfortable pillow for a back sleeper might be quite uncomfortable for a side sleeper.
We tested our comfort metric by using it in our own bed, with both our lead tester and his partner using each one for multiple nights to evaluate them. We were specifically looking for comfort while sleeping on our sides, which our testers do naturally. We evaluated each pillow for how much we liked both the texture of the exterior and the interior fill. If we found them uncomfortable, or woke up with the pillows tossed off the bed, or had to do a lot of squishing and specific positioning for the pillow to be comfortable, they scored lower. If the pillow felt nice and fit us well after the initial adjustment, it scored higher. Because comfort is so important for a side sleeper pillow, we weighted the performance here heavily.
Our testing team found the crescent-shaped products, the Sleep Artisan and Honeydew Scrumptious, to be the best pillows for side sleepers by far. The apex of the curve allowed room for our shoulders, while the wider part cradled our face nicely. The Sleep Artisan pillow fill is a touch softer than the Honeydew, but what is comfier is really a matter of preference. For similar textures with a more standard shape, we like the Coop pillow quite a bit. The EPABO and Tempurpedic Temper-Ergo were also quite comfy for firmer options. For a very firm pillow, we liked the Hullo pillow filled with buckwheat, which also kept us nice and cool.
Durability and Craft
If you're going to plunk down the cash for a quality pillow, we think it should be well constructed and made with quality fabrics and fill. We evaluated each pillow's durability and craft by researching the materials and finely combing over each pillow before and after use to find spots that might break down over time. We also washed each model multiple times according to the manufacturers' instructions to see how well they recovered from it and if they suffered any wear and tear.
Runs in stitching, easily caught zippers, pilling fabrics, and lesser quality fills all made certain products score lower in this category. For example, the Xtreme Comforts and Coop pillows are fairly similar in style, but we found the fill of the Coop pillow to be of higher quality, which kept the pillow fluffier. Some of the pillows also had fabrics that, although softer, tended to begin to pill up fairly quickly, such as the EPABO model. Hidden under a pillowcase, though, this isn't a large concern for most folks.
The highest-scoring models impressed us from unboxing through the end of testing, which are the Sleep Artisan, Honeydew, and Tempur-pedic models. Both Buckwheat pillows, the Hullo and Beans72, also were quite durable, as the cotton covers held up to washing well, and the buckwheat fill is robust. The fill is also inexpensive and easy to replace if needed.
Like the rest of your bedding, pillows should periodically be washed. Pillowcases absorb the daily amount of skin oils and dirt, but eventually, any pillow not covered in a protector needs to be cleaned. A good washing not only cleans the pillow but also revives the fill to its previous levels of fluff and volume. The easier each product is to clean, the higher its score in the category of washability.
The only fully washable pillows were the Xtreme Comforts, the Coop, and Beckham, so they scored the highest. They can all just be thrown into the washing machine and set on a delicate cycle, whereas with the other pillows, only the cover can be machine washed, or worst case, they can only be spot cleaned.
You might be asking, how many features can a pillow for side sleepers really have? A surprising amount, we'd answer. The key feature for many of these is adjustability. Some of these pillows can be completely adjusted from overstuffed orbs of fluff to essentially empty bags with just a whiff of fill and every level in between. We found the Sleep Artisan, the Honeydew Scrumptious, the Xtreme Comforts, the Coop, the Hullo, and the Beans72 pillows all to be completely adjustable by adding or removing their loose fill materials. This is a great advantage for fine-tuning the fill level we want to fit our neck and shoulders. The buckwheat pillows were the least hassle of those to adjust because shredded foam tends to get everywhere once out of the casing. The buckwheat hulls are simple and quick to pour in and out of the case. A few of the pillows, like the Xtreme Comforts and Coop pillows, actually had two casings so you could just wash the outer one or throw the whole pillow into the wash depending on what it needs.
Other features, mostly on the firmer pillows, are neck scoops that are meant to support the curve of your neck from your shoulders. We liked this on the EPABO pillow. We didn't like it nearly as much on the Mkicesky pillow, as it felt like it pushed our shoulders awkwardly. The Mkicesky also had a hole cut through the middle to create a head cradle that seemed like a better fit for back sleepers than side sleepers, but we could kind of use it when trying to relax with earbud headphones in.
Some folks are more sensitive than others to get a good night's rest, and if you're reading this review, you might be one of those people. Most pillows are designed for back sleepers, so we decided to review pillows for side sleepers. Sleep quality is vitally important; it can affect everything from cognitive function to athletic performance to stress, so we think it's worth getting the highest quality products to help you sleep well. For something we spend a third of our lives doing, we hope we've helped you improve it by leading you towards the right pillow.
— Ethan Newman