I’m A Side Sleeper with Shoulder Pain, What Is the Best Mattress For Me?

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Waking up on the wrong side of the bed lately? Side sleepers usually complain of shoulder pain after a restful sleep. Although this can be due to a variety of causes, there’s no denying that a very stiff and uncomfortable mattress can be the culprit. It’s imperative to get the best mattress for side sleepers with shoulder pain to alleviate this problem.

Personally, I’m also a side sleeper (a leftie one) who joins 74% of the population on “taking sides”. There seems to be no problem about it until I wake up with a numb left arm and a shoulder that feels like it’s been pressed for long. And since I have stocky arms, the force of my body makes the pain worse.

I first thought that it’s just my build and I badly need to work on losing the flab off my arms. But no matter how thin I am, the problem persists. That’s when I realized that the problem boils down to two branches of sleep thought: the fact that I’m a side sleeper and that I have an awful mattress.

Your body as a side sleeper

Side sleeping is the most comfortable slumber position for many – including me. But how does our body look while we sleep? Basically, our hips and shoulders are twisted. When we lay down on our sides, the upper leg will tread forward to rest on the mattress. This twists the hips. And since it’s impossible to contain the arms parallel to the body, this will also fall on the bed. The result? Twisted shoulders and the other arm is tucked and pressed under the body.

Some think that side sleeping is the most symmetrical sleeping position. But there’s no way it can be. As you lose consciousness, all parts of your body will fall into the mattress, thus various strain points.

As much as it’s comfy, there are some problems associated with side sleeping.

Problems associated with side sleeping

The number one problem with side sleeping is the force exerted to the shoulder below. That’s one major reason why many of us experience shoulder pain. And if the shoulder pain is caused by other reasons, the pain would be worse for side sleepers.

Another thing is that the hips are twisted for most side sleepers. This poses a threat to possible hip pain. The easy fix here, though, is a pillow paired with the best mattress for shoulder pain. That way, you can achieve body alignment, at least in your lower extremities.

One of the common issues about side sleeping is paresthesia or “pins and needles”. Since your other arm is buried on the weight of your body, the circulation is disrupted. Once, I woke up with a completely limp left arm enough to send me on a fit of panic. It disturbs the sleep cycle and the last thing you’ll know is you have a bad case of shoulder ache.

Sometimes, side sleeping isn’t exactly the problem, but the mattress is.

Stiff mattresses that don’t conform to the shape of the body are only a notch shy of being the same with sleeping on the floor. Although it cushions the body, it fails to support it entirely.

For women who are sleeping on their sides, one problem is it causes the breasts to sag on one side. This puts the strain on the ligaments that can possibly cause pain on the bust. Also, side sleeping increases wrinkles. So should you switch to a new sleeping position now? Nah.

If you’re a natural side sleeper, forcing your body to rest on a different position will just sabotage the quality of your sleep.

Benefits of side sleeping

To be fair, side sleeping isn’t all evil. Various studies prove that there are more benefits to it than the downsides. The key point here is to properly sleep on your side with the best mattress for side sleepers with shoulder pain.

Here are some good things about side slumber:

Good for heartburn

Experts found that sleeping on your side will help calm heartburn symptoms. Although solid proof is yet to be established, it’s said that side sleeping on the left eases the lower esophagus.

Stops Snoring

This is a known benefit of side sleeping. When you sleep on your back, the soft palate and the base of the tongue collapses back to the throat. This makes a louder vibrating sound when you’re asleep. In comparison, when you sleep on the side, the vibrations are reduced.

Lymph draining

When you sleep on the left side, many believed that you’re helping your body detoxify. It’s thought that since the thoracic duct is located on the left side of the body, the lymph can easily drain and be flushed out of the body.

There are more benefits to side sleeping as long as the best mattress for shoulder pain is used. But as much as this sleeping position is great, the preference varies from person to person. Take note that some people have to sleep on their sides for medical reasons. Pregnant women who are past their first trimester are discouraged from sleeping on their back.

How the right mattress ease the pain

Mattresses aren’t the sole solution to shoulder pain. If the cause of the discomfort is an underlying illness, a nice mattress would only support, but not cure. Still, it’s undeniable that switching to a mattress crafted for side sleepers will make a big difference.

The best mattress for shoulder pain will sink enough to conform to the shape of your shoulder. The good thing about this is that there wouldn’t be an excessive sinking feeling. Memory foam is the Holy Grail for side sleepers as it sinks and conforms, thus reducing the weight that seems to crush the shoulder.

Like what I said earlier, you don’t have to change your sleeping position (unless your doctor recommends). You just have to look for a mattress that caters your sleeping position.

Take note that shoulder pain is one proof that you’re experiencing acute pressure. Soon, these pressure points will manifest on different parts of your body including your back, hips, and neck. What you need right now is a mattress that will ease this strain.

One thing that the right mattress does is aid body alignment. While it’s true that you can’t achieve perfect body alignment when sleeping on the side, a conforming mattress will do the trick. It will help straighten the spine while releasing the pressure points.

What is the right firmness?

There’s no one-firmness-fits-all rule for side sleepers. Each of us will have varying preferences and needs based on our individual conditions.

The rule of thumb for side sleepers is a mattress not tougher than a moderate or medium firm.

A very firm mattress fails to support the neck and hips of a side sleeper. What happens is that the pressure points and gaps between the body and mattress linger. Accumulatively, this will cause more than a mild shoulder pain. It’s one reason why you should get the best mattress for side sleepers with shoulder pain.

When you stick to a moderate firm, the material of the mattress will fill the gaps by sinking according to the weight of the body. So can you also opt for a softer one? Again, this depends on your comfort level. If you don’t mind waking up in a pit that seems to swallow you, you can probably give a soft mattress a go.

Last note about softer mattresses:  Very soft mattresses don’t offer much motion control. So if you’re sleeping with someone that’s notorious for tossing and turning, you’re doomed to have sleepless nights.

The perfect material

Generally, side sleepers should look for a material that’s firm enough to provide control but soft enough to conform to the body. Most of the time, latex mattresses are the best options for side sleepers. It has the right blend of stiffness and softness for support and comfort. This material is also breathable.

You can also opt for memory foam if you want something that will conform with your body.  Memory foam mattresses are popular as it helps spinal alignment without losing its shape over the years. However, memory foam is problematic for hot sleepers. Since it shapes according to the body weight and angles, it’s less breathable.

Just avoid one thing here: spring coil mattresses. This type of mattress is bouncy but it doesn’t conform to your body. The result is you sleep on top of the mattress which has very little difference to sleeping on the floor. It creates pressure points and is probably the reason why you’re having a bad shoulder right now.

The best mattress for shoulder pain

Comparison Chart

Classic Brands Cool Gel Memory Foam 14-Inch Mattress with BONUS Pillow | CertiPUR-US Certified | Bed-in-a-Box, Twin
TUFT & NEEDLE – Original Queen Adaptive Foam Mattress, CertiPUR-US, 100-Night Trial

Classic Brands Cool Gel Ultimate Memory Foam


Pressure-removing memory foam is exactly what side sleepers need right now. But it’s hot, right? Not with the Classic Brand’s Cool Gel technology. Its high-density foam will conform well to your body to ease the pressure points while keeping your body cool through its aerated cool gel memory.

It bears a medium-feel with maximum support and adjustable base. This comes with a memory pillow which is a complete package for easing shoulder pain.

The good thing about this mattress is it’s made of pure foam. NO springs or coiled stuffing. It has four layers of foam for maximum comfort and restful sleep. It also has a stretch-knit cover that matches the mattress perfectly – the best mattress for side sleepers with shoulder pain.

This comes with a 10-year warranty, so if it doesn’t work as promised, you can send it back. Take note that this is a bed-in-box type so everything will be delivered on your doorstep.

For this Classic Brand mattress, you’ll have to wait for a few weeks until the foam stabilizes. It’s too soft for a few nights then it will become firmer. Then very firm. But after a week or two, it will achieve its perfection. Somehow, it will reduce the sweating if you’re a constant hot sleeper.

Tuft & Needle Bed-in-a-Box Adaptive Foam


For those who want to avoid the sinking feeling of most mattresses, the Tuft & Needle adaptive foam would be excellent. It claims to work better than the usual latex foams in the market. When it comes to easing shoulder pain, I can bet that it works its wonders by localizing bounce and providing the right firmness and support.

It’s also excellent for hot sleepers due to its cooling technology. However, Tuft & Needle doesn’t claim to use memory foams, instead, they utilize their own adaptive foam. Based on experience, that translates to medium plush level – something between very stiff and very soft.

You have to wait for three days to let the foam stabilize (again, this is a bed-in-box). There would be a little odor once it expands but it’s completely normal as the one from the Classic Brand also has this whiff.

T&N mattresses have a 10-year guarantee and 100 nights’ sleep trial. If you’re not satisfied, you can send the mattress back with a full refund within the said timeframe. Overall, this is the best mattress for shoulder pain.

Tips for side sleeping

Aside from getting the right mattress, there are some hacks that you can use to ease the pain on your shoulder. As this discomfort is usually associated with side sleeping, here are some steps you can do to ease the pain:

Pillows on the legs. Since your top leg will fall into the mattress for comfort, it’s best to stuff a pillow between your lower appendages. This way, the twisting motion of the hip will be minimized as you sleep. This will decrease – if not totally avoid – pressure points on the hip.

Neck support. One thing that makes your shoulder carry the weight is your unsupported neck. A nice pillow will do the trick here, however, avoid elevating it too much.

The best mattress for side sleepers with shoulder pain will ensure that you’ll have a good night sleep. No more numbness, sprain, or tingling sensation. All you have to do is ditch your old bedding and start investing in peace of mind.

On this video, Dr. Justin Lin shows how you should sleep on your side while minimizing pressure points:

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