21st July 2021
Guides & Advice
With so many different styles of mattress available, it can be overwhelming when trying to understand which is right for you.
We spend so much time in our beds that our mattresses are one of the most important purchases in our homes, and your sleeping position can help to determine your decision.
If you sleep on your side, our guide will give you all the knowledge you need to choose the right mattress for you.
Side sleepers can be at risk of lower back pain, as the spine can end up out of alignment which will put extra pressure on your joints. Shoulder pain can also be a result of sleeping on your side, as the shoulder you are sleeping on can either slump into the mattress or up to your neck.
If sleeping in this position, you also have to be careful of the angle your head and neck sit at, because tucking your chin towards your chest can result in neck pain.
This means it's important to choose a mattress that will help alleviate any pressure, keep your spine perfectly aligned, and provide an ideal structure for areas that are prone to aggravation.
Pressure points are the parts of our bodies that have direct contact with the mattress and, depending on the sleeping position, those could be different for each person. Having the wrong mattress can disrupt our pressure points, causing us to wake up with aches and pains.
Side sleepers can have varied pressure points due to the different ways of sleeping on your side, such as in the foetal position or with an arm under the pillow.
Shoulders, hips and ears are common pressure points for side sleepers, along with the arms and legs of the preferred sleeping side. These areas are more specific to side sleepers than those who sleep on their back or front and should be especially supported by the mattress.
Where back sleepers will want a relatively firm mattress, side sleepers will often require a more medium firm mattress. This can help with keeping the head, neck and shoulders aligned so that the chin stays upon the pillow, rather than collapsing and causing pain in the morning.
That being said you can’t have one that’s too firm, as it will put strain on your joints and won’t allow your hips and shoulders to sink into the mattress, which is essential for the side sleeper.
A soft mattress wouldn’t be suitable either, because if you’re a side sleeper you will need more joint support than other types of sleepers. The mattress therefore needs to provide enough support so that your body isn’t sinking too deep but should still allow your hip and shoulder to dip and align your spine perfectly.
You should also consider factoring in the weight of the sleeper, as the smaller your build, the softer your mattress should be - which is why it is vital to test out the firmness for yourself rather than buying online.
To enable it to be comfortable enough while sleeping on your side, the top two layers of the mattress should be quite thick, so that a balance is struck between support and comfort. Overall, the mattress should be on the thicker scale if you sleep on your side, as your pressure points will dig in more to the mattress than those sleeping on their back or front.
However, those who have a larger build may want thinner comfort layers to ensure the mattress doesn’t feel too soft and you don’t end up sinking down too much, while the other layers remain thick enough to support you.
Pocket sprung mattresses are great for all types of sleepers but may work well for side sleepers due to the increased support they provide for the heavier parts of your body, such as neck, arms, hips and shoulders.
These mattresses are also perfect for those who sleep on their front due to helping distribute body weight more evenly, so if you are a side sleeper that hugs or tucks their arm under the pillow this will work well for you.
Memory foam is an option for side sleepers, as it can respond to your body with firm pressure, especially on key side sleeper pressure points like the hip and shoulder.
Both pocket spring and memory foam mattresses can also help reduce motion for those sleeping with a partner, as some side sleepers can switch from left to right side during the night.
Open coil may be preferred by those who sleep on their back due to them evenly distributing your weight. They provide great support and can be on the firmer side, so if you are of larger build this could be an option for you.
A Latex mattress can help side sleepers with joint issues or back and neck pain, as it can provide comfort and contouring yet give more bounce back, so you don’t end up too slumped into the bed, especially if you move around more in your sleep.
If you have a mattress that feels too firm, adding a mattress topper will help your hip and shoulders sink down just enough to keep your spine in a neutral position. This is a more accessible and cost effective option for getting the support and comfort you need without investing in a brand new mattress.
There are many different types of mattress topper, including various thicknesses, as well as a range of materials to choose from such as memory foam, latex, down and wool.
When choosing a mattress topper, it is important to consider your current mattress. If it is on the firm side, a softer and thicker mattress topper should be considered, while latex can add a bouncier feel, feather down will add more cushioning. The thicker the topper, the more it will alter your sleep, so if you are just wanting a slight change then opt for around one inch of thickness.
A pillowtop mattress can also provide extra cushioning and support for your pressure points while remaining soft enough to keep your spine aligned.
Many factors must be taken into consideration when choosing the correct mattress for those who sleep on their side. Your specific pressure points should be looked at initially, and whether you suffer from any aches and pains currently, especially neck, back or shoulder pain.
If your aches and pains in these areas are more prevalent in the morning, this could be a sign that your mattress isn’t right for your sleeping style and can also point you in the right direction of the support and criteria you need in a mattress.
Make sure that you consider your build, weight and sleeping position (as well as your partner’s) when shopping for the types of mattresses that will suit your needs.
Remember to take time when making your decision and find your local stockist so you can go into a store to try out the type of mattress you want. Make sure you lie on a mattress in your side sleeping position, and do this for more than 10 minutes to assess and recognise if it can support your pressure points, while maintaining comfort.
This article is guidance only. Harrison Spinks can’t offer any medical advice. If you have persistent pain when sleeping please speak to a medical professional.