Are you a side sleeper who suffers from back and hip pain? Have you listened to the standard advice saying you need as firm a mattress as possible, only to find that makes your pain worse? If so, you're not alone.
There are many misconceptions about the best mattress for side sleepers which are only now being brought to light with the advent of new mattress technologies. Memory foam and air mattresses, for example, are revolutionizing the way side sleepers get a good night's rest.
Back Sleepers versus Side Sleepers
The misconception that side sleepers need a firm mattress stems from the fact that this has been the traditional advice given to back sleepers as well. Yet, there's a significant difference between buying the best mattress for sleeping on your back and sleeping on your side.
On your back, a larger part of your body surface is in direct contact with the mattress. So while you're producing less weight per square inch on the mattress, you have more surface area to support. A mattress that is not firm enough will allow the buttocks and hips to sink disproportionately and put undue stress on the back. A firmer mattress keeps the spine straight and reduces pain.
For side sleepers this scenario is just the opposite. Because you have less surface area to support, a mattress that is too firm pushes up on your shoulders and hips and causes the spine to go out of alignment. Side sleepers are better off with a softer mattress which allows the hips and shoulders to sink slightly, while the midsection remains a bit higher. This allows the mattress to more evenly conform to the body so that the spine remains straight.
The next question for side sleepers is what type of mattress should be used in terms of its construction. Are innerspring mattresses better or worse than memory foam? What about air-based mattresses? The truth is it all comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer one mattress over the next, while others simply don't care. The best way to figure out which is right for you is to shop for a mattress that has a risk-free, in-home trial period.
That said, from a scientific and clinical standpoint the air-based mattress is going to offer the most customizable comfort. An air bed allows each user to adjust his or her portion of the mattress to fit their exact comfort needs. This is actually true even for back and front sleepers as well.
The next best thing, from a clinical standpoint, is memory foam. That's because memory foam conforms to the body according to weight and temperature. These mattresses provide just the right amount of support for both back and side sleepers because the foam conforms to their bodies in either position.
Unfortunately, the innerspring mattress is probably the worst option for the side sleeper. Innerspring mattresses are the worst in conforming to the body of the occupant, and results in the most pressure points of any type of mattress. While it is possible to find a comfortable innerspring mattress for a side sleeper, it can be difficult to say the least.
What's Right for You
Regardless of the construction and firmness you choose, your mattress has to be right for you. As a side sleeper you need one that is firm enough to support your hips and shoulders, yet soft enough to allow the spine to remain straight. When you find that perfect mattress you'll know it, because you'll feel it in your back and your hips. As previously stated, the best way for you to shop for a new mattress is to go to a dealer that offers a free in-home trial, although many online retailers also offer this service nowadays.