If you’re a side sleeper, you’re in good company! A substantial 74 percent of the population catches ZZZs in that particular sleep position—all while enjoying some unexpected “side benefits.” Did you know, for instance, that sleeping on your side can reduce pressure on your stomach and digestive tract, or help improve circulation and the drainage of toxins from the body?
While there are plenty of general sleep tips for anyone needing some quality shut-eye, we’ve pulled together a list of tips to help you snooze more soundly as a side sleeper. The next time you find yourself sideways, consider these helpful tricks to getting more restful and restorative sleep.
Sleep on your left side…often.
It’s important to be mindful of your anatomy when you’re sleeping on your side. That’s because the side you prefer can impact the amount of pressure placed on your internal organs. By sleeping on your left side, instead of your right, you can reduce pressure on your stomach and digestive tract as well as promote healthier blood flow throughout the body. Sleeping on your left side can also help alleviate acid reflux and heartburn and help boost digestion throughout the night. You probably alternate sleep positions throughout the sleep cycle—we get it!—but try starting out on the left side as you drift off to sleep or just snuggle in bed.
Buy a firmer, more supportive pillow for your neck and head.
While sleeping on your side has a number of benefits, this particular sleep position can sometimes put extra pressure on your neck and head. If you sleep on your side, make sure you have a firmer pillow that lifts your head, helping to align with your neck and back more naturally. Avoid down, or down alternative, pillows since these are usually much softer than other materials and may lack the loft you need. The ideal pillow for side sleepers is constructed of firmer foam with superior contouring. Latex foam pillows are a particularly good choice, combining a high level of responsiveness with natural contouring for plenty of support.
Sleep with an extra pillow between your legs and knees.
One of the most common ailments for side sleepers is pressure point pain, mainly because sleeping on your side doesn’t provide enough support for your legs or back. To counteract the impact of side sleeping, use a softer pillow between your knees to keep your spine aligned and to reduce pressure on your hips and legs. This helps reduce the chances of lower back pain and joint soreness when you wake up in the morning.
Opt for the right firmness level and materials in your mattress.
The firmness of your bed is ideally determined by your height, weight and unique sleep needs—but your sleep position has a big impact, too. For side sleepers of average height and weight (or those whose height and weight are below average), a soft to medium firmness level is recommended. That’s because soft to medium firmness level mattresses deliver that ever-important, targeted pressure point relief that alleviates pain at the shoulders and hips.
If you’re a side sleeper who is above average in height and weight, or you suffer from chronic back pain, finding the perfect solution is a bit more complicated, though: a mattress that’s too soft may not provide the proper spinal alignment for side sleepers in either of those categories.
Our top recommendations for any side sleeper having difficulty finding the right fit are to choose either a zoned mattress or a latex mattress. Zoned mattresses are created specifically for side sleepers, delivering exactly the right amount of support where you need it most: the center of your bed. Because the majority of your body weight is shifted to the lumbar and hip regions when you sleep on your side, a firmer middle provides much needed spinal support. Meanwhile, more contouring zones at the head, shoulders, knees, and feet deliver the targeted pressure point relief that comes with a softer surface. Conversely, natural latex is one of the most desirable sleep materials because it delivers a unique buoyant quality that relaxes muscles and relieves tension, lifting away the pressures of the day while you sleep. Latex is available in both all-foam mattresses and high-quality hybrid models—a combination of latex foam and individually pocketed coils that provides deep compression support to any bed while decreasing motion transfer.
In summary, the pairing of highly durable foam and coils, found in both zoned mattresses and latex hybrids, can present the best of both worlds for side sleepers who need pressure point relief with added support. Of course, if you’re not sure which mattress is best for you, even after carefully considering all the options, don’t be afraid to ask a sleep specialist for guidance.