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I’ve been a side sleeper (the left side specifically) for as long as I can remember, but some time after I turned 35, I developed some pretty serious shoulder pain on my left side. For a long time, I shook it off and assumed it was due to tweaking it at the gym.
After a year passed, however, and the pain didn’t get any better, I finally went to the doctor—where she informed me I actually had arthritis in my shoulder. My jaw dropped and I gasped.
“Arthritis?!” I said in disbelief. “But isn’t that only for old people??”
She looked at me coolly. “Well, you are 36,” she replied. Ouch. And double ouch for the actual ouch in my shoulder.
After a little digging, I did find that while there isn’t clear evidence that sleeping on your side can cause arthritis, there is evidence that sleeping positions can have an impact on spinal posture and can cause complications like pain during both the night and day. The point being how you sleep can affect how well your body feels and how well it functions.
“Side sleepers do need to use the proper pillow for their necks,” comments Sarah Schafer, a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) at Schafer’s Chiropractic in Lapeer, MI. “Due to the distance of the top of the shoulder to the neck while on your side, you’ll need a pillow that gives you enough support that you're neither pushing your head up nor letting it drop below spinal alignment.”
Side sleeping is actually the most popular sleeping position, so I’m definitely not alone. So if you or a loved one are side sleepers looking to improve your sleep quality, you may want to invest in a pillow designed specifically with us side sleepers in mind. Luckily, all of these best-selling side sleeper pillows are on sale right now on Amazon—meaning a good night's rest is just a couple clicks away.
Adjustable Cervical Memory Foam Pillow
This pillow by ZAMAT is a bestseller on Amazon and features a buttery shape with armrests that cushion your arm and wrist specifically as you sleep. The inside cavity, however, is designed to align the head, neck, and spine so even while sleeping on your side, you stay in alignment, hopefully preventing any complications that a shoulder pulled too far forward or back could lead to. This memory foam neck pillow is also adjustable, with a removable piece on the bottom, odorless and CertiPUR-US certified, and has a zippered case for easy washing.
To buy: Adjustable Cervical Memory Foam Pillow, $56 plus an additional 5% for Prime members (was $66); amazon.com
Locyop Pillow with Arm Hole
As silly as this one might look, I actually did purchase this pillow and while I don’t use it every single night, I keep it because it really is effective whenever my shoulder pain flares up and I just need a “reset.” It’s not the comfiest thing in the world to sleep on, so when I use it, I double another pillow on top of it for my head, but the armhole is incredibly effective for keeping all pressure off my arm.
To buy: LOCYOP Arm Pillow with Arm Hole, $32 + an additional 5% for Prime members; amazon.com
Homca Pillow for Side Sleepers
This pillow meets the criteria that the National Arthritis Foundation recommends to alleviate shoulder pain from arthritis while sleeping on your side: making sure there is a thick cushion under the shoulder to keep it elevated. The HOMCA actually features an impressive 6.7 inches of support that sits directly under the shoulder you’re sleeping on. And because it’s specifically designed for side sleeping, they even added a dip in the cushion so your ear is not compressed. Genius.
“As a lifelong side sleeper I can honestly say this pillow is a gift from the Gods and Goddesses (or whatever higher power you believe in),” gushes one Amazon reviewer. “Definitely recommend for my fellow side sleepers!”
To buy: HOMCA Pillow for Side Sleepers, $32 + an additional 5% for Prime members; amazon.com
Layla Kapok Pillow
This pillow was actually Health's top pick in our "Best for Side Sleepers" category. "The Layla Kapok Pillow is a medium-firm, high-loft pillow to keep side sleepers’ heads higher and in line with their spine, thanks to a hypoallergenic fill of memory foam and natural Kapok fibers," and one also has the option to remove some of the fill if they want something a little less firm. It also comes with a 120 night trial, so you can try it out for a while before committing.
To buy: Layla Kapok Pillow, King $129 (was $149); amazon.com
Cervical Pillow for Neck and Shoulder Support
The National Arthritis Foundation also recommends that side sleepers experiencing shoulder pain take care to ensure their shoulder is shifted backward, not forwards, during sleep and a structured pillow like this may help with that since it features special contour zones to keep you in an ergonomic position. There’s also a lot to love about this pillow in general, including the fact it’s non-toxic, odorless, adjustable with removal height inserts, and comes with a 100-night sleep trial.
One person who purchased in January 2023 had this to say on Amazon: “I sleep on my side and have been having some back pain lately, and also have a little problem with my shoulder that causes some discomfort while I sleep because that is the shoulder I tend to sleep on. This pillow has helped align my back better while I sleep, which eases the back discomfort. ”
To buy: Cervical Pillow for Neck and Shoulder Support, $45 + 10% off coupon; amazon.com
Groye Cooling Side Sleeping Pillow
If you’re a side sleeper dealing with pain and someone who happens to get pretty overheated at night, this is the pillow for you. It has a Q-Max 0.4 Arc-Chill cooling pillowcase that the company claims can reduce skin temperature by 2 to 5°C instantly, plus a 3D mesh structure that allows better air circulation.
Cooling technology aside, the main draw of this pillow for side sleepers is that it can take pressure off of the shoulder while you sleep and a slight elevation keeps your head, neck, and arm in alignment. It also boasts some pretty impressive reviews, with 70% of its 1,479 reviews coming in at 5 stars. One reviewer even claimed that this pillow is so effective in alleviating shoulder pain from side-sleeping that it completely eliminated his shoulder pain—in the shoulder he was scheduled to have surgery on!
To buy: Groye Cooling Side Sleeping Pillow, $40 + 10% off coupon; amazon.com
Anvo Memory Foam Pillow
What I like about this pillow is that while it will provide support for side sleepers, it also recognizes that many of us side sleepers tend to veer off into the occasional stomach sleeping territory—and this pillow is just fine with that. In fact, it still claims, that thanks to its rebound memory foam and two separate neck position levels, it will support your head and neck while alleviating pressure off your shoulders, no matter what position you find yourself sleeping in. Impressive. Also impressive? Almost 8,000 reviews, with nary a negative one in sight.
“I had been a huge believer of down pillows as my go-to pillows. After suffering neck and shoulder problems over the last two years, I'd decided to give this a try,” noted one former skeptical reviewer. “After only a month in, I'd already noticed a difference. Not until I went out of town for a week did I notice the pain in my neck and shoulder start creeping in again. I hadn't realized how critical good neck support actually was."”
To buy: Anvo Memory Foam Pillow, $40 (was $50); amazon.com
Sidney Sleep Side and Back Sleeper Pillow
At over 30% off with an additional $10 coupon available, this Sidney Sleep pillow is not only one of the best deals of the day, but it’s also a great pillow. Unlike some of the other structured side sleeping pillows that are designed to literally take pressure off your shoulder, this pillow takes a different approach in flowing around the shoulder for gentle, comfortable support.
If you want more structured support, however, buyers can have the option to “build their own” level of support by requesting extra foam for medium or firm support. Many reviews noted that they appreciate the ability to adjust the support to their liking and comfort—and sometimes, that comfort level even changes nightly—by removing or adding in extra foam.
To buy: Sidney Sleep Side and Back Sleeper Pillow, $55 + $10 off coupon (was $80); amazon.com
Homca Memory Foam Cervical Pillow
The HOMCA memory foam is similar to some of the other cervical pillows out there, but there are two specific things to note that make it stand out: first, it’s on major sale at almost 30% off and secondly, while it offers cervical support for side sleepers, it also has these super cool “grooves” on the side that you can rest your arm in when your side sleeping. This is a unique feature that I especially appreciate, because not only do I sleep on my side, but I tend to tuck my wrist underneath my body, so which also creates problems. This pillow takes care of your whole arm, shoulder to wrist.
One Amazon reviewer said that she loves this pillow for side sleeping thanks to the way the curve of the pillow “tucks right up against” the cheek, while still cradling the head. “They even thought of the perfect place to put your arm while sleeping!” the reviewer added.
Another reviewer noted that the pillow’s special grooves helped solve some of the issues she had been having with carpal tunnel syndrome. “I couldn’t keep my hands from curling at nights even with splints,” they explained. “This pillow has been a true lifesaver! I no longer wake with neck pains, sore and pained shoulders or chest and the little raised sides assist in keeping my hands from curling.”
To buy: HOMCA Memory Foam Cervical Pillow, $39 (was $55); amazon.com
J-Shaped Maternity Body Pillow
This just in: pregnancy pillows are not just for pregnancy! Really though, a pregnancy pillow can provide whole-body support in a way other pillows just can’t. And as someone who has used a pregnancy pillow for both pregnant times and not pregnant times, I can attest that pregnancy pillows provide an unparalleled level of support.
They can help elevate your head to take the pressure off your shoulder, but then provide support in the front so you can rest your other arm–or really, your whole body—on the pillow as well. And then, to finish off the job, the full body pillow can support your back and in between your legs too, so you stay in complete alignment.
To buy: Maternity Body Pillow, $34 (was $60); amazon.com
Contour Legacy Leg & Knee Foam Support Pillow
This is one that I have personally found to be a game-changer: a knee support pillow. I’ve found a huge difference in my shoulder and neck pain when I make sure to use some kind of pillow between my knees at night. A leg pillow helps keep your spine in alignment and prevents the “droop” that can add undue pressure on your shoulder and lower back especially.
“Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees alleviates pressure on the low back by changing the angle where the legs join the pelvis at the hips,” explains Michael Drzewiecki, DC, MS, FABBIR, DACNB, CCSP, and director of Clinical Neuroscience at The Neurologic Wellness Institute in Wood Dale, Illinois. “This reduces strain throughout the night in the sacroiliac joint, where the spine meets the pelvis.”
You can get away with sticking a normal pillow between your legs, but I’ve definitely found I’m less apt to kick away a contoured knee-specific pillow like this one. “This actually stays in place, and having the pillow would wake me up every toss and turn,” said one Amazon reviewer. “Not to mention a pillow is big and bulky. I’ve used it every night since I’ve had it, and I wish I would have bought one sooner. Don’t debate it like I did! I feel like I would have started healing sooner if I would have had this.”
To buy: Contour Legacy Leg & Knee Foam Support Pillow, $25 + 10% coupon for Prime members (was $40); amazon.com