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How to Find the Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers With Back Pain

This article will provide information on how to choose the best mattress for side sleepers.

This article will provide information on how to choose the best mattress for side sleepers.

Support and Comfort!

It has been determined by physicians and other medical specialists that lying on one's side is the most common sleeping position—approximately 72% of people surveyed. That is not to say that medical professionals endorse sleeping in this position, but they recognize that it is a very common way in which people sleep. Most medical experts also claim that sleeping on your back is more beneficial for a healthier sleep.

For the purpose of this article, we will concentrate on the best mattress for side sleepers. For clarification, this article focuses on mattress choice. However, regardless of what mattress you choose, this author recommends a steel box spring for any mattress purchased by the consumer.

A Restful Sleep

When we go to bed, the hope is that we will have a restful sleep. We don't want interruptions but do want a sleep that will rejuvenate our bodies for the next day.
If we are going to have a restful sleep as a side sleeper, the first thing to understand is the difference between the words support and comfort. I like to think of these two words in a simple equation: support + comfort = restful sleep.

It is very easy for people to think about these two words as meaning they need to get a firm mattress. Many times when a person is shopping for a mattress and box spring set, they will tell the salesperson that they are looking for a firm set when they are actually looking for or need a softer than firm set for the way they sleep.

Let's Look at It Another Way

Support for your mattress comes from what is on the bottom portion of that mattress. This might be a steel coil system, a solid foam core, or a rubber bladder filled with air or water.

Indeed, it is very necessary to seek out a mattress and box spring that will have great support or (using the consumer lingo) "firm" support but as will be explained, there are two parts to the mattress construction.

Comfort is the second part of the equation and comes from the materials upholstered into the top of the mattress such as poly foams, memory foam, latex foam, silk, wool, cotton, and the list goes on.

So, it makes sense that when we try to find the best mattress for you as a side sleeper, insist on having your salesperson show you exactly what is in the mattress for support and comfort.

This would include a full demonstration of an innerspring or the various types of innerspring available to you and or the various types of foams, airbeds, or waterbeds.


Consumer Choices

Because approximately 72% of people sleep on their sides, gives the manufacturing industry for mattresses a wide spectrum of comfort levels to produce for the consumer. They simply categorize these choices into two levels of comfort called plush or pillow top.

The major difference between a plush and a pillow top is the amount of 'fill' that is put into the pillow top. Most all pillow-top mattresses will tend to be on the softer end of the comfort spectrum.

You may be wondering why there's such a large number of choices. This is because every person has a different comfort level. The different materials that can be put into a mattress allow the consumer a greater amount of choices. So, when going into a mattress store you will see what could be an overwhelming amount of mattress choices. What is important though is to know and understand what are the different types available to you before you go out searching. Below is a list of the most common types.

Great Support + Great Comfort = Restful Sleep!

Types of Mattresses

Let's take a look at some of the common types of mattresses.

Innerspring or Coil System

Every mattress manufacturer produces sets with an innerspring or coil system. Like most things that you buy today, there are some good innerspring systems as well as poor ones. This is the most popular of any type of mattress therefore, make sure that your salesperson gives you a thorough explanation of the different types of coil or innerspring systems.

Memory Foam

When talking about the best mattress for side sleepers, this type of mattress is a result of science at its best. Viscoelastic foam better known as memory foam was invented back in the '70s by a Swedish chemist and further developed for other science applications by NASA later in that decade. Because of its pressure-relieving qualities and long-lasting effect, makes it a very popular material to sleep on. Memory foam contours to you as you will feel as if you are sleeping in the bed as opposed to sleeping on the bed. It also has several firmness and softness levels for side sleepers.

Latex Foam

Another type that is good for pressure relief is latex foam. This foam has two separate characteristics – natural latex and synthetic latex. Natural latex comes from the rubber tree, whereas synthetic latex is a man-made product. This type of foam unlike memory foam will give you the feeling of sleeping on the bed as opposed to sleeping in the bed.
Good natural latex will be on the more expensive side but if you like that feel for comfort it is well worth the price because it will last for years and years.


Many companies now have what is called the "hybrid mattress" which in my opinion is the best of both worlds. A good hybrid will have memory foam and or latex on the top for comfort and a pocketed coil system on the bottom for support. If you go to a chiropractor, they usually work to adjust your spine. A pocketed coil works in much the same manner in that it will adjust to your spine as you move in the bed giving you correct spinal alignment. Working with either latex foam or memory foam truly gives you the best of both worlds. Again, the best mattress for side sleepers in a hybrid mattress will be determined by how it feels to you.

Air Mattress

There are a few air mattress companies around today that offer their unique approach to comfort and support for side sleepers. These beds have an air chamber that is filled with air that you can adjust as you wish. not as popular as the others on the list because of the expense and the possibility of its mechanics breaking down sooner than later. Many do have good comfort with the added adjustability in the comfort.

Waterbed Mattress

This is the least popular of all types. Back in the 1970s, the waterbed mattress was a very popular sleep surface. It was new, different, and innovative. Due to the new technology and strides in the mattress industry, the waterbed is not as popular as it once was. Good support and many have good comfort but are there expensive to operate and many places have restrictions.

Latex Foam or Memory Foam?

Latex Foam or Memory Foam?

How to Determine Your Preferred Mattress Comfort Level

There are a few simple ways to determine what your comfort level is when selecting the best mattress for side sleepers.

  1. Most side sleepers prefer a mattress with a bit of contour to it. Avoid mattresses that feel too firm.
  2. You must do the lay-down test, or what I call the 'Goldilocks' test, on a few mattresses in either the plush level or the pillow top level.
  3. Because we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping, you will want to spend time on this project in order to make the right choice. Make sure you are trying these with your sleep partner. You are wasting your time if you do this without him or her.
  4. Your body will accept or reject a mattress in a matter of 20 to 90 seconds. This doesn't mean that you have found the right one. It means that if your body accepts a particular model, then you are on the right track. When you find one that you like, you are half of the way there. Stay with that type of comfort and tweak your comfort level until your body says, "Ahhh."

Make sure you do the "Goldilocks Test!"

Encased Coil System

Encased Coil System

Our Preferred Sleeping Setup

I have been selling mattresses for the past 19 years and being in the market for a new set, my wife and I bought a new mattress set. As a consumer, I used the information outlined in this article to help me choose the best for us.

I started with a brand that had an all-steel box spring to support the mattress.

Next, I selected the best-supporting coil system. This was the pocketed coil. A pocketed coil system moves with you. The key to this coil is that it provides excellent spinal alignment. With your spine in the proper alignment, you will reduce your tossing and turning because your body is aligned properly and evenly supported.

The last component of our new mattress was the comfort level. We chose a mattress with medium plush memory foam.

My wife and I both enjoy the mattress and sleep through the night without interruption.

As a consumer, I do have back issues and probably always will, but do find the ‘hybrid’ to be the best mattress for side sleepers with back pain.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Reginald Thomas


Reginald Thomas (author) from Connecticut on October 16, 2015:

Thank you for your insight!