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by David Smith

Side sleepers require (relatively) thick pillows to fill the area between the crown of the shoulder and the side of the head, also called the comfort gap. Thin pillows do not provide enough cushion, but overly-thick pillows can throw spinal alignment off-kilter. 

How to choose the right side sleeper pillow depends on:

  1. Your Sleep Surface (Mattress Firmness)
  2. Your Sleep Style (Side Sleeper, Back Sleeper, Stomach Sleeper)
  3. Your Shoulder Width (Comfort Gap)

1. Sleep Surface Mattress Firmness

No matter if you sleep on the floor, a foam mattress, or a mattress with a pillow top, it is important to understand that your sleep surface impacts your neck and, in turn, your quality of sleep.

Did you know? 65% of Americans sleep on their side as their primary sleep position.

NOTICE: For side sleepers, when your mattress is softer, your shoulder will compress the sleep surface. This reduces the area your pillow needs to fill.


2. Sleep Style (Side Sleepers)

Roughly 65% of people sleep primarily on their side. This creates what we refer to as a “Comfort Gap.” The Comfort Gap is the area between the crown of the shoulder & the side of your head. When you sleep on your side, a pillow needs to fill this Comfort Gap to provide you with the proper support.

Firm Mattress
Side sleepers who sleep on a firm mattress have the largest comfort gap to fill. A firmer pillow is necessary to appropriately fill this gap. Firm Down Pillows

Medium Mattress
A softer mattress allows the side sleeper's shoulder to press slightly into the sleep surface, reducing the size of the of comfort gap. A down pillow of medium density is required to keep the spine straight. Medium Down Pillows

Soft Mattress
Side sleepers who sleep on a soft mattress require an even softer down pillow to maintain proper spine alignment due to the shoulder pressing deeper into the sleep surface. Soft Down Pillows

3. Shoulder Width Comfort Gap

When you sleep on your side the area between the crown of the shoulder & the side of your head is called the comfort gap. The broader the shoulders and firmer mattress greater the size of the comfort gap.

The goal is to fill the comfort gap with the correct down pillow density to keep your spine as straight as possible when lying on your side. This position replicates standing with perfect posture! The end result is that you’ll rest more comfortably all night long.

Pillow Density Formula

Sleep Surface + Sleep Style + Shoulder Width = Recommended Pillow Density


A woman of average height (~ 5’3) who tends to sleep on her side on a pillow top mattress would typically need a Medium to Firm density pillow.

PLEASE REMEMBER: Selecting a pillow is a very personal decision. Our recommended pillow formula is merely a guideline to help you choose the perfect pillow for you.

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