Is Memory Foam Good for Side Sleepers?

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Over the last few years, the number of mattress choices available seem to have exploded! Traditional, memory foam, hybrids, latex and more. But which option should you choose? There are lots of things to consider. For example, is memory foam good for side sleepers?

The answer is yes. Side sleepers need a mattress that is as supportive and responsive as possible to avoid waking with back and neck pain. A high-quality memory foam mattress certainly fits that bill. It is not the only option that side sleepers – or anyone – can consider when shopping for a great mattress though, as we will explain more here.


What Type of Mattress is Best for Side Sleepers?

Every mattress type has something slightly different to offer to side sleepers and making the choice between the three major types of modern mattress – latex, memory foam and hybrid – often comes down to a matter of personal choice, budget, and other considerations. With this in mind here are some of the major considerations, pros and cons to keep in mind when making a final buying decision:

Memory foam

Memory foam is incredibly supportive, molds to your unique shape as you sleep and yet still springs back to its original state when you rise. A gel memory foam, which is designed to sleep cooler than standard memory foam, can be an excellent choice for side sleepers who tend to sleep hot.


Latex is an all-natural material that can provide as much support as any other modern mattress but has more ‘spring’ than a memory foam mattress does. Latex has natural cooling properties, so usually sleeps very cool.


A hybrid mattress is made up both of traditional spring coils and one, or more, additional layers of memory foam or latex. Some side sleepers prefer this type of mattress because it offers them edge to edge support – as the springs extend all the way to the edges of the bed that is springier than just standard memory foam.

Woman sleeping on her side on the bed

What is Memory Foam?

When memory foam was first introduced in the Seventies it was labeled ‘space foam’. It was based on technology developed by NASA. Modern memory foam, the type used in mattresses, pillows and more, can be founded in several types these days:

Traditional memory foam

Traditional memory foam is made from a viscoelastic foam and, in a mattress, is designed to ‘mold’ to your body as you sleep and then spring back when you get up. The big complaint some people have about traditional memory foam is that it ‘sleeps hot’, which can be extremely uncomfortable.

Open cell memory foam

Open cell memory foam was created to try to address the heat problem that traditional memory foam can have. Its internal structure is slightly different and allows for more air to circulate within the foam to keep it cooler.

Gel memory foam

Also known as gel infused memory foam, this type of memory foam has gel pumped into it to provide even more cooling.

How Long Do Memory Foam Mattresses Last?

Like most modern mattresses crafted from any material memory foam mattresses are designed to last between five and seven years with regular use. There are some things that will ‘age’ a memory foam mattress faster, including failing to place it on the right platform or support or choosing a memory foam mattress that was not designed to support your weight.

What mattress firmness is best for side sleepers?

As you begin to shop for a memory foam mattress you will quickly discover that almost all of them are offered in several firmness levels. For side sleepers making the right choice is especially important, as sleeping on a mattress that does not offer enough support and pressure point relief tends to lead to back and neck pain.

Often side sleepers find that a medium firm mattress is the best choice for them, but as everyone is different, and has different sleeping preferences that may not fit the ‘norm’ choosing a mattress that comes with a free trial – that allows you to take a mattress for an extended test run before the purchase becomes final – is often the best way to ensure you get the best mattress fit for you.

What is the best memory foam pillow for side sleepers?

A good pillow is as important to getting the best night’s sleep as a great mattress. There are an increasing number of memory foam pillows on the market to choose from, and, once again, that choice can get confusing.

To avoid neck and back pain, side sleepers should choose a pillow that supports their neck well and keeps it aligned with their spine. It should have some loft, but not too much and, very importantly for some people, it should sleep as ‘cool’ as possible, as there is little worse than waking up hot and sweaty!

What foundation is best for a memory foam mattress?

A white bed in a white bedroom with a white bed frame

Although many memory foam mattresses do offer enough support that they could be used as a ‘bed on the floor‘ doing so may void your warranty (never a good thing) and will create a bed that is extremely low to the ground, something that can be exceedingly difficult to get in and out of.

Most people do choose to use their mattress with a foundation of some sort, but, again, these days you have lots of choices! Here’s a quick look at the most popular foundations available today and how suitable they are for use with a memory foam mattress.

Platform – A platform bed foundation may be as simple as a flat furniture piece with slats that you lay your memory foam mattress on or a more complex structure that contains the mattress. Either are great for use with a memory foam mattress, but an enclosed platform may look a little more polished in terms of bedroom decor.

Adjustable Bed – Some love the idea of an adjustable bed, as you can usually adjust both the head and the foot of the bed to suit your personal preference, and they are great for reading in bed/watching TV. They can be used with many memory foam mattresses, but you should check to make sure that is the case before you buy one.

Box Spring – A memory foam mattress should not be used with a traditional box spring. This is because usually the slats in a box spring are too far apart to support the weight of a memory foam mattress properly. In fact, in some cases, using your new memory foam mattress with a box spring might void its warranty.

What happens if you sleep on memory foam mattress before 24 hours are up?

Most popular memory foam mattresses arrive in a box with the instruction that, once unboxed, you wait 24 hours before sleeping on them. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the memory foam is compressed in the box and needs those 24 hours to expand to its proper size.

The second is that to varying degrees, memory foam mattresses should be off gassed. This means you need to get rid of the ‘new mattress’ smell that can be rather pungent. The best way to do this is to place the mattress in a well-ventilated space for the recommended 24 hours.

Does memory foam require special bedding?

This depends on the type of memory foam your mattress is. Since most memory foam beds can sleep hot, choose bedding that is cooling, comfortable, not too warm or scratchy – the way some woolen blankets can be – and that matches or complements your overall bedroom decor.

Here’s a memory foam mattress we love

As we have emphasized throughout this article there are a lot of memory foam mattress choices out there. One we happen to love – a lot – is the Nolah Original 10″ mattress.

Air foam mattress from Nolah

The Nolah mattress is the most comfortable mattress for side sleepers. It is crafted from several layers of high-density memory foam, boasts a separate cooling layer, can be used with almost any bed platform, comes with a 120-night free trial and is one of the most affordable high quality memory foam mattresses on the market, so what’s not to love?

Click here to check out the Nolah Mattress

Next Read: Left vs Right Side Sleeping: What’s the Best For You?