Can you sleep sideways on a cervical pillow?

Cervical pillows, also known as orthopedic pillows, are specially designed to provide proper support for your neck by aligning your spine while sleeping.

These pillows have a curved shape with higher contours on the bottom and lower curves where your neck rests so they can adequately cradle your head and neck.

Sleeping on your side is a popular sleep position, but you may wonder if you can use a cervical pillow when sleeping on your side. Let's take a closer look.

Can You Sleep Sideways on a Cervical Pillow?

The short answer is yes, you can sleep sideways on a cervical pillow. However, you need to ensure the pillow's thickness and shape properly support your head and neck as you sleep on your side.

Some cervical pillows even come with different thickness zones or the ability to remove and adjust the fill to customize the pillow height to sleep comfortably on your side.

Adjust the height level under your head for ideal spinal alignment and neck support.

Choosing the Right Cervical Pillow for Side Sleeping

When selecting a cervical pillow for side sleeping, make sure to consider the following three points:

  1. Adjustable thickness for proper height and spinal alignment inside the sleeping position. Many cervical pillows are adjustable or offer different thickness levels.

  2. Proper firmness. Too soft, and your head sinks in too much; too firm puts pressure on neck joints. Aim for medium firmness. Memory foam or buckwheat fill cervical pillows are good options.

  3. Size. Get one large enough for your head and neck or one made specifically for your sleep position and body frame size. King-sized cervical pillows work well for side sleepers.

Did you check these best positions for side sleepers?

Benefits of Sleeping on Your Side with a Cervical Pillow

Using a cervical pillow while sleeping on your side can provide five main benefits:

  1. Proper Alignment - Cervical pillows keep your head, neck, and spine aligned all night long, even as you snooze on your side. This prevents you from waking up with stiffness and discomfort.

  2. Reduced Snoring - Side sleeping with cervical support opens up airways more than sleeping flat on your back. This can help significantly reduce snoring and sleep apnea symptoms.

  3. Pressure Relief - A good cervical pillow minimizes pressure points on your shoulders and hips as you sleep sideways. This prevents numbness and tingling sensations.

  4. Neck Support - The customized contours and curves of cervical pillows provide a comfortable space that cradles your neck as you lay on your side. No more neck strains!

  5. Spinal Health - Keeping your spine properly aligned with a supportive cervical pillow all night promotes overall spinal health and can help reduce back discomfort issues.

While different types of cervical pillows are usually marketed for back sleeping, with the right fit, thickness, and firmness, they can be used comfortably for side sleeping as well.

Who Should Not Sleep Sideways on a Cervical Pillow?

People with the following conditions should opt for a flatter, thinner pillow when side sleeping instead of a thick cervical pillow:

  • Shoulder injuries or discomfort. A thick pillow puts strain on shoulder joints.
  • Osteoporosis or compression fractures that require delicate spine support.
  • After neck surgeries, consult your doctor for proper pillow recommendations.

So, be mindful of any special orthopedic conditions when selecting and fitting the right pillow for your sideways sleeping position.


Cervical pillows can provide excellent spinal alignment, neck support, and discomfort relief during sleep. While they were designed with back sleeping in mind, many people also enjoy using them for side sleeping. Ensure you get one with proper height, firmness level, and adjustability features to customize it to your sideways sleep position and frame size. With the proper pillow pick, you’ll enjoy being on your side just as much as sleeping on your back!


  1. Is there one pillow height rule for back and side sleeping with a cervical pillow?

No, the proper pillow height can differ for side versus back sleeping so you often need to adjust a cervical pillow's thickness or height when switching sleep positions. Your pillow should adequately fill the space under your head to keep your neck and spine aligned. Side sleepers need a little extra height for proper alignment.

  1. How do I pick the right firmness level in a cervical pillow for side sleeping?
Test cervical pillows by lying on display models for 5-10 minutes to gauge comfort—the right firmness cradles your head without letting it sink too deep into the cervical pillow. Avoid overly soft or firm cervical pillows. Memory foam or buckwheat cervical pillows work well.
  1. Can I use a neck roll pillow with a cervical pillow for side sleeping?

You can try layering a smaller, firmer neck roll under your regular cervical pillow to get some extra height and support on your side. But test it out and give your body time to adjust to the new layers before committing to this long-term.

  1. What is the best fill material for a cervical pillow for side sleepers?

Memory foam and buckwheat hulls tend to be preferred cervical pillow fills for side sleeping. Memory foam conforms well to the head and neck during side resting postures. Buckwheat pillows allow you to remove fill to adjust height and support as needed.

  1. Does pillow size matter when selecting a cervical pillow for side sleeping?

Yes, pillow size is essential, especially for side sleeping. You generally want to size up and get a more oversized, longer cervical pillow made for your sleeping position (often called side sleeper pillows). King-size cervical pillows give you ample room to adjust. Also, see if the brand offers size options for different body frames.