I'm a mattress writer — 3 features every side sleeper bed needs to have

Woman sleeping on her side on a comfy mattress designed to reduce pressure points while side sleeping
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Side sleeping is the most common sleep position with 60% of Americans curling up on their sides in bed, but that doesn't mean all mattresses have the features to accommodate it. If you're a side sleeper and in the market for a new bed, then you should always check whether a mattress can provide you with the specific comfort and support you need for this position. 

So, how can you tell if you're choosing the best mattress for your sleep style? I write about mattresses for Tom's Guide and I've been rigorously researching side sleeper mattresses, as I'm a side sleeper myself. Here I'll break down the three most important requirements for a side sleeper mattress, from the right height to the right firmness rating.

Plus, I'll be rounding up some of the top side sleeper beds on the market. You can find a lot of great options in this month's mattress sales so you needn't spend a fortune for comfier sleep.

1. It need multiple comfort layers

As mentioned above, 60% of Americans sleep on their side. From my work I know that the best mattresses for side sleepers are designed to provide you with sink-in soft, cushioning pressure relief to soothe your hips, shoulders, and knees, areas where pressure points are found when side sleeping. While a plush sleep surface benefits side sleepers the most, the surface needs to have some firmness to keep your body supported and spine healthily aligned.

To provide comforting but supportive pressure relief, side sleeper mattresses should have multiple comfort layers (usually made from memory foam or latex foam). Side sleepers tend to find memory foam mattresses comfortable as they're constructed from multiple layers of comfort-boosting foam. 

The best hybrid mattresses for side sleepers also contain foam layers for comfort, along with coils for support, which is why hybrid mattresses are better than innerspring mattresses for side sleeping, 

Woman and man sleeping

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

2. It should have a minimum height of 12"

Side sleepers need multiple comfort layers — and the more comfort layers, the thicker the mattress. If you're wondering how thick a mattress should be, a general rule is that side sleepers should sleep on a mattress that 12 to 16 inches in height, which puts the mattress in the thick/deep category. 

While 10 to 12 inches can suit most adults and sleep styles, a mattress 12 inches and over is most likely has multiple comfort layers to alleviate pressure from the shoulders and hips. 

3. It should have a medium firmness rating 

When deciding how firm a mattress should be, choose a mattress with a medium rating. Choose a medium rating based on your build, how much support you need, and whether you like a sink-in soft feel or not. 

A medium-soft (a 4 out of 10 on the firmness scale) is perfect if you have a light body or prefer a plush feel, while a medium firm (7/10) is great for those who prefer a firmer, supportive feel. However, a lot of side sleepers will do well with a medium mattress (5-6/10), which delivers cushioning with the right level of support. 

3 top side sleeper mattresses on sale now

1. Nectar Memory Foam Mattress: $699$349 at Nectar

1. Nectar Memory Foam Mattress: from $699 $349 at Nectar
At 12 inches thick and with a 6.5 firmness rating, the Nectar Memory Foam mattress provides a medium-firm feel that great for both side, back and combination sleepers. Our Nectar Memory Foam mattress review deemed the mattress great value for money and is ideal for side sleepers who prefer a supportive, firmer feel. Right now, the Nectar mattress deal can get you 40% off this all-foam bed, with a queen size now $649 (was $1,099). 

2. Amerisleep AS3 Hybrid mattress:$1,499$1,049 at Amerisleep

2. Amerisleep AS3 Hybrid mattress: from $1,499 $1,049 at Amerisleep 
Our Amerisleep AS3 mattress review found this 12" medium mattress to have the most cushioning foam for pressure relief. There's an evergreen discount on this mattress which takes $450 off the MSRP, reducing a queen to $1,299 form $1,749. While it may be standard, this deal is still great value for a mattress with such high-quality material, such as the plant-based Bio-Pur foam.

3. GhostBed Luxe: $2,595 $1,298 at GhostBed

3. GhostBed Luxe: from $2,595 $1,298 at GhostBed
The standard GhostBed mattress sale knocks 50% off, so you'll never have to buy this mattress at MSRP. You can pick up a queen size for $1,548 (was $3,095), and sometimes they thrown in some freebies, too. Our GhostBed Luxe mattress review found this medium, 13"-thick bed to be great for neck, hip, and shoulder pain and offers deep contouring, too. 

Frances Daniels
Sleep Staff Writer

Frances Daniels is a Sleep Staff Writer at Tom's Guide and her role includes covering all mattress and sleep news, in addition to mattress reviews and buyer's guides, plus sleep accessories such as pillows and mattress toppers. Frances is a PPA-accredited journalist and is hugely interested in the relationship between good sleep and overall health. When not writing about mattresses and sleep for Tom's Guide, Frances enjoys writing about women's issues, health and wellbeing, the environment, and her native Wales.