You need stability and support
No matter their sleeping preference, every type of sleeper needs a mattress that perfectly matches comfort, stability, and support.
It’s easy to confuse stability and support with firmness.
These are not the same thing, though firm mattresses do generally offer excellent support.
But it is also very possible for a soft mattress to offer excellent stability and support.
Why are stability and support so important?
If you sleep on a mattress that doesn't offer adequate stability and support, your spine won’t stay well-aligned while you sleep.
This results in back and neck pain and can lead to further complications down the line.
But you also need softness and comfort
So you may think that you’ll simply choose a firmer mattress, which naturally offers stability and support.
But firm mattresses aren’t ideal for side sleepers either.
In fact, your ideal mattress is neither too firm nor too soft.
Side sleepers generally change positions quite often.
One minute, you’re sleeping comfortably with your legs stretched out along the length of your mattress, and the next, you’re cuddling comfortably in the foetus position.
Your ideal mattress will be comfortable in any position - while still ensuring your spine remains in proper alignment.
A good mattress will give you support for the lighter parts of your body, ensuring that your feet, arms and head, for example, remain stable and don’t sink into the mattress too much.
It will also provide soft comfort for the heavier parts of your body, allowing your pelvic and shoulder area, for example, to sink more deeply into the mattress.
This ensures that your body remains in optimal alignment, your spine remains straight, and you can wake up feeling well-rested and pain-free.
Quality mattresses can provide this alignment through contour zones, where some parts of the mattress give way more easily than others.
High point elasticity and pressure relief
In addition to adequate support, a good mattress for side sleepers will also have high point elasticity and pressure relief capabilities.
Point elasticity refers to the ability of a material to compress without affecting the rest of the mattress.
So, to use an extreme example, if you stand on your mattress, it should sink in where your feet are, but the rest of the bed should remain mostly unaffected.
A mattress with pressure relief capabilities will distribute your weight evenly across the bed, cushion your body well, and prevent pressure build-up in a particular spot.
Both of these factors affect comfort and support.
If your mattress offers high-point elasticity and pressure relief, you can rest well and not struggle with aches and pains.
Avoiding pelvic rotation
Pelvic rotation is a common problem experienced by side sleepers.
What is pelvic rotation?
In simple terms, it’s a displacement of your back muscles and lumbar spine, which makes it appear that one hip is higher or more forward than the other one and can result in lower back, hip, or knee pain.
While there may be many causes of pelvic rotation, sleeping in the side position is a common one.
Pelvic rotation while sleeping can occur if your upper body turns in a direction that’s opposite to the direction of the lower body.
Preventing pelvic rotation
One simple way of preventing pelvic rotation is by placing a pillow between your legs while sleeping.
You may be doing this already - many side sleepers automatically grab a pillow for a more comfortable sleep.
Now you know why.
Of course, sleeping on a high-quality mattress that provides the correct support structure can also rectify this issue.
Choosing a good pillow
The importance of a good pillow cannot be emphasised enough.
Even if you sleep on the most expensive and high-quality mattress in the world, you’re likely to experience severe neck pain if you’ve got a lousy pillow.
It’s important to find a pillow that perfectly supports your head and neck.
This is particularly important for side sleepers as they need a pillow that’s firm enough to offer support, soft enough to provide comfort, and high enough to fill the space between your neck and the mattress.
If any of these are out, it can lead to a build-up of pressure or tension, resulting in tight shoulders, neck pain, and tension headaches.
We’d suggest opting for a latex or memory foam pillow as these materials adapt very well to your head and offer even pressure distribution.
Also, consider a pillow with removable and interchangeable layers like the Emma pillow.
Finding the right degree of firmness
As we’ve seen above, it is possible for a soft - or softer - mattress to offer the right degree of firmness.
Side sleepers should steer away from very firm mattresses as these often won’t allow your shoulders and pelvis to sink in deeply enough.
Exceptions exist, of course, and heavier-weight sleepers or people of larger builds may be okay on a firm mattress.
It would be best if you also steered clear of very soft, low-quality mattresses as they often lack the support you’d need.
The best type of mattress for side sleepers is a medium-firm mattress or a one-fits-all model, which are very popular these days.
On our Sleep Hero firmness scale, these would be rated between 4 - 6.
If you’re light- or average-weight, you’ll be comfortable on the softer side, and if you’re a bit heavier, you may enjoy the slightly firmer ones more.
The Emma Original, of course, is an excellent mattress for side sleepers as it offers great stability and support while being exceptionally soft.
Ultimately, you want a mattress that adapts to your body perfectly and allows you to sleep comfortably but perfectly aligned.
If you’re sinking in too deeply, your mattress is too soft.
And if it feels like you’re lying on a table, your mattress is too firm.
Side sleepers should opt for soft or medium-firm mattresses with high point elasticity, good pressure relief, and contour zones.
These factors will enable your body to remain perfectly supported and keep your spine in a healthy alignment, all while ensuring you’re comfortable and pain-free.
Any high-quality foam mattress - particularly memory foam, latex foam, and gel foam - will be a good choice.
Also, choose a mattress with a stable cold foam or PUR foam base layer, which offers additional stability.