The Best Mattress for Side Sleepers With Back Pain - 2020 Reviews

Updated on December 5, 2019
Reginald Thomas profile image

Reginald has been a sleep specialist for the past 20 years, training new and veteran associates in the retail mattress industry.

Best Mattress for Side Sleepers With Back Pain

It has been determined by physicians and other medical specialists that laying 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 one goes to bed, the desire and hope is that it will be a restful sleep. We don't want interruptions but do want a sleep that will rejuvenate our body 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 sales person 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 inner spring or the various types of innersprings available to you and or the various types of foams, airbeds or waterbeds.

Latex Foam or Memory Foam?

Types of Mattresses

Because approximately 72% of people sleep on their sides, this 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 and the different materials that can be put into the top of the mattress gives the consumer a greater amount of choices. So, when going into to 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.

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 innersprings as well as bad innersprings. This is the most popular of any type mattress therefore, make sure that your sales person 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. Visco elastic foam better known as memory foam was invented back in the 70's 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 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 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 the 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 the 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 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 is there expensive to operate and many places have restrictions.

iComfort Hybrid by Serta

I have been selling mattresses for the past 19 years and being in the market for a new set, my wife and I bought the iComfort Applause ll Plush by Serta and love it. The first reason is that it has great support. The second reason is that it has the right comfort level for us. The third reason is the pressure relieving material they use for spinal alignment. The last reason was the price. The next brand that reached our comfort level, was a Simmons Beauty Rest Black and the price was $1000.00 more. An easy decision for us.

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.


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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 the mattresses that feel 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 30 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."

© 2015 Reginald Thomas


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    • Reginald Thomas profile imageAUTHOR

      Reginald Thomas 

      4 years ago from Connecticut

      Thank you for your insight!


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