Sleeping on your side is one of the most common and recommended sleep positions. Side sleeping aligns your spine and neck and prevents snoring and sleep apnea. However, without the right mattress, side sleeping can lead to shoulder, hip and back pain.
Memory foam mattresses contour to your body shape and relieve pressure points, making them an excellent choice for side sleepers. But is memory foam the best mattress type for side sleepers? What are the benefits and drawbacks? This article will explore the pros and cons of memory foam for side sleepers.
Benefits of Memory Foam for Side Sleepers
Memory foam, also known as viscoelastic foam, was first developed by NASA to cushion aircraft seats. Now it is one of the most popular mattress types on the market. Here are some of the key benefits of memory foam mattresses for side sleepers:
1. Pressure Point Relief
One of the main advantages of memory foam is its ability to contour and mold to the curves of your body. This cradling effect helps to relieve pressure points in areas like your shoulders, hips and neck.
When side sleeping, pressure can build up at your shoulders and hips. Over time, this pressure can lead to pain and stiffness. Memory foam cushions these areas to reduce pain and discomfort.
2. Spinal Alignment
The cushioning and contouring of memory foam encourages proper spinal alignment when sleeping on your side. It fills in the space beneath your waist and keeps your spine in a straight neutral position.
Proper spine alignment minimizes back and neck pain for side sleepers. The mattress will dip beneath your shoulders and hips to support their natural curves.
3. Motion Isolation
Memory foam has excellent motion isolation properties. The foam absorbs movement so you won’t feel your partner changing positions or getting in and out of bed.
Motion transfer can disrupt your sleep, especially if you are a light sleeper. With memory foam, you can enjoy undisturbed rest all night.
4. Long-lasting Support and Durability
Quality memory foam retains its shape and cushioning properties for years. Unlike old spring mattresses that sag over time, memory foam continues providing comfortable, body-hugging support.
Memory foam mattresses are a long-term investment for side sleepers. They will relieve pressure points and properly align your spine for the lifespan of the mattress.
5. Hypoallergenic Material
Memory foam is naturally resistant to mold, mildew and dust mites. This makes it a good option for side sleepers with allergies and sensitivities.
Fewer allergens mean you’ll breathe easier and sleep better without congestion. Memory foam provides a clean and healthy sleeping environment.
Potential Drawbacks of Memory Foam for Side Sleepers
While memory foam has many advantages for side sleeping, there are also a few potential cons to consider:
1. Heat Retention
One common complaint about memory foam is heat retention or sleeping hot. The dense foam surrounds your body and can trap body heat near the surface.
If you tend to sleep warm or sweat at night, an all-foam mattress may cause you to overheat. However, many new memory foam formulas have cooling gels and airflow layers to help regulate temperature.
2. Sinking In Too Deep
Lower density memory foams may allow your hips and shoulders to sink in too deeply. This imbalance can strain your spine and joints.
A mattress that is too soft may also make it hard to change positions during the night. Look for a medium firm density foam to avoid excessive sinking.
3. Off-Gassing Odors
New memory foam mattresses often emit an odor caused by the manufacturing process. These off-gassing fumes can cause irritation and headaches.
Allow your new mattress to air out in a well-ventilated room for at least 24-48 hours. The smell will fade over time.
4. Lack of Bounce
Memory foam conforms closely to your body rather than pushing back. Couples may find that memory foam lacks the bounce of other mattresses during intimate activities.
However, the isolation of movement is beneficial for limiting sleep disturbances. Overall, memory foam offers the best mix of comfort, support and motion isolation for side sleepers.
How to Choose the Right Memory Foam Mattress Firmness
The optimal mattress firmness for you depends on your:
- Body type – Your weight impacts how far you sink into the mattress. Heavier people need a firmer mattress; lighter people need a softer one.
- Sleep style – Your preferred sleep position also affects the ideal firmness. Side sleepers do best on medium soft to medium firm beds.
- Comfort preference – Some people simply prefer the cushioning of a softer mattress, while others like the support of a firm surface.
Here are some tips for choosing the best memory foam mattress firmness level:
- Lightweight side sleepers (under 130 lbs) – Soft to medium soft
- Average weight side sleepers (130-230 lbs) – Medium
- Plus size side sleepers (over 230 lbs) – Medium firm to firm
- Combination sleepers who also sleep on their back or stomach – Medium is most versatile
Test mattresses in a store to find the one with the right balance of contouring and support. Avoid very soft memory foam if you sleep mainly on your side. Too much sinking can strain your joints over time.
Memory Foam Mattress Considerations for Side Sleepers
Higher density memory foams are more durable and prevent excessive sinking around your shoulders and hips. Look for a density of at least 4 pounds per cubic foot. Low-density memory foam under 3 pounds is likely to sag too much.
10 to 12 inches is the ideal mattress thickness for proper support and comfort. Thinner mattresses may not cushion pressure points adequately. Over 12 inches may let your midsection sink too deep.
3. Memory Foam Layers
Multiple foam layers provide progressive support and relief. A top comfort layer of soft memory foam cushions your curves. Underneath, a firmer base foam prevents sagging and keeps your spine aligned.
4. Cooling Features
For better temperature regulation, choose a mattress with cooling gels, graphite or copper infused foam, open-cell construction, or breathable covers. Cooling technologies keep the surface comfortable.
5. Trial Period
Buy from a company that offers free returns or a trial period. Make sure you can test out the mattress for at least 30 nights at home. It can take time to adjust to memory foam feel.
Should Side Sleepers Use Memory Foam?
Memory foam mattresses provide the best combination of cushioned pressure relief and contouring support for side sleepers. The foam molding to your body shape keeps your spine in proper alignment all night long.
While memory foam does have some downsides like heat retention, many new formulas are designed to sleep cool. Memory foam isolates motion extremely well, so you won’t feel your partner moving next to you.
Medium density memory foam provides the right balance of contouring comfort without sagging excessively around your shoulders and hips. Multiple foam layers give cushioning relief as well as pushback support.
Overall, memory foam is the top mattress type recommended for side sleepers by chiropractors and medical professionals. The medium-firm feel aligns your spine, reduces pressure buildup, and minimizes pain. Memory foam promotes healthy, restorative sleep for side sleeping.
If you are unsure about all-foam mattresses, try a memory foam hybrid. Hybrids pair memory foam comfort layers with pocketed coil support cores. The coils allow more airflow to keep hybrids cool.
No matter which style you choose, look for free returns, warranties, and trial periods when shopping for a new memory foam mattress. Make sure you can test it at home before fully committing. Then enjoy the pressure-relieving comfort of memory foam engineered for side sleepers.
Memory Foam Mattress Alternatives for Side Sleepers
While memory foam is highly recommended for side sleepers, other mattress types can work too. Here are a few alternatives to consider:
Latex contours like memory foam but has more bounce. Natural and synthetic latex resists sagging very well. It also sleeps cooler than memory foam for those concerned about heat retention.
Latex may produce fewer odors than memory foam. Look for latex hybrids to get pressure relief with coil support.
Adjustable Air Mattresses
Airbeds let you customize the firmness level on each side of the mattress. This allows couples with different preferences to find their ideal comfort.
For side sleeping, avoid airbed firmness settings that are too soft. Keep your spine aligned. Some airbeds have memory foam toppers for extra cushioning.
Pillow Top Mattresses
Pillow top mattresses provide an extra layer of padding sewn into the top of a traditional innerspring mattress. This extra cushioning comforts your shoulders and hips as a side sleeper.
Choose a medium or plush pillow top feel. But make sure coils underneath still support your spine correctly.
Hybrids combine memory foam comfort layers with pocketed coil support cores. The design offers pressure relief and healthy spine alignment from the foam, plus lift from the coils.
Many side sleepers love the balance of contouring and support from a memory foam hybrid model. The coils also promote more airflow than all-foam beds.
FAQs About Memory Foam for Side Sleepers
Is memory foam bad for side sleepers?
No, memory foam is excellent for side sleepers when you choose the right firmness and density. Softer, low-density foams may be bad for side sleepers as they can allow your body to sink in too much. But most side sleepers love the cushioning relief of good quality memory foam.
What thickness of memory foam is best for side sleepers?
10 to 12 inches is ideal. This allows for enough contouring comfort layers on top with firmer base foam support below. Less than 8 inches may not have adequate pressure relief while over 12 inches can let your body dip in too far.
Is firm or soft memory foam better for side sleeping?
Medium firmness memory foam provides the best mix of cushioning and support for side sleepers in most cases. Softer foams may lack support while firm feels too hard on your shoulders and hips. Medium density strikes the right balance for comfort and spine alignment.
Do you need a special pillow with a memory foam mattress?
Memory foam contours closely to the head and neck. So you may find a slimmer, low-profile pillow allows your head and neck to stay aligned with the mattress. Avoid very thick pillows that tilt your head too far upwards.
Why is memory foam good for side sleepers?
Memory foam is good for side sleepers because it cushions areas like the shoulders and hips that support your weight. It keeps the spine aligned and reduces pressure buildup that can lead to aches and pains. The close contouring provides superior comfort for side sleepers.
Memory foam mattresses provide excellent support for side sleeping. The foam relieves pressure points, correctly aligns the spine, and isolates motion. Mattresses with medium density and firmness prevent excessive sinking.
While memory foam runs hot for some sleepers, new cooling technologies keep the surface comfortable. Consider a breathable hybrid mattress if you are concerned about heat retention.
Look at density, thickness, foam layers, and trial periods when choosing a memory foam mattress. Test different firmness levels to find the right balance of contouring and support. With the proper mattress, memory foam allows side sleepers to wake up rested and pain-free.
Ready to experience the comfort of memory foam designed for side sleepers? Check out our top-rated memory foam and hybrid mattress picks. We provide insights and reviews to help you find your perfect match. All our mattress recommendations come with generous night trials so you can decide if memory foam is right for you. Browse our selection now to get started!