Getting a good night’s sleep in the back county can be the difference between enjoying your holiday or being a miserable coffee-fuelled zombie.
It’s even harder for side sleepers!
This article will review the best sleeping pads for side sleepers and then explain what features a mat needs to have to provide a good night’s sleep for a side sleeper.
- Top 14 Best Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers Reviewed 2020
- Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Air Mattress
- Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Air Mattress
- Big Agnes Q Core SLX Sleeping Pad
- Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad
- Sea to Summit Comfort Light Sleeping Pad
- Klymit Insulated Static V Lite Sleeping Pad
- Big Agnes Insulated AXL Sleeping Pad
- Exped SynMat 7 Insulated Sleeping Pad
- Paria Outdoor Products Recharge Sleeping Pad
- Alps Mountaineering Comfort Air Pad
- Teton Sports ComfortLite Self Inflating Camp Pad
- Outdoorsman Lab Inflatable Sleeping Pad
- TNH Outdoors Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
- Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad
- What Makes a Sleeping Mat Good for Side Sleepers?
- Some Final Tips
Top 14 Best Sleeping Pads for Side Sleepers Reviewed 2020
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Air Mattress
Review: The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir is pretty much the most comfortable sleeping pad on the market regardless of your sleeping style.
And, it’s ultralight, packing up into a tiny pouch. What more could you want?
- Horizontal baffles.
- ThermaCapture technology provides 3 season insulation.
- 5” thickness is very comfortable.
- Packs up into a very small, very light (16 oz.) package.
- Durable, puncture resistant, waterproof material.
- Not self-inflating.
- Makes a crinkly noise when you change position.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Air Mattress
Review: This is the 4 season version of the NeoAir above, so it has all the same pros but in a warmer package that still manages to be ultralight (15 oz.).
- Reflective ThermaCapture technology provides insulation.
- 5” thickness cushions your hips and shoulders when you’re on your side.
- Tapered mummy shape reduces weight.
- Non-slip, textured fabric helps to prevent you from slipping off in the night.
Big Agnes Q Core SLX Sleeping Pad
Review: Made specifically for side sleepers, this mat is an incredible 4.25” thick and still manages to weigh only 20 oz.
Its prime feature is the larger side tubes which help to keep you in the middle of the mat when you’re sleeping on your side.
- Larger tubes at the sides keep you from rolling off the mat.
- The interior is treated with an antimicrobial to prevent mildew.
- Quilted top provides extra-comfortable cushioning.
- The Regular Wide size offers a 25” width which is ideal for side sleepers.
- Some people find it a little noisy when changing position.
Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad
Review: Another sleeping pad that provides a regular wide option with supportive baffles that distribute your body weight and are ideal for side sleepers.
- Comes in a regular length, wide version (25”) which is more comfortable for side sleeping and saves you having to buy the long version to get the extra width.
- Suspended Thermal Mirror insulation keeps you warm.
- Weighs just 19 oz. and packs into a compact package.
- Rectangular shape is potentially unnecessary.
Sea to Summit Comfort Light Sleeping Pad
Review: Designed with side sleepers in mind, this 3 season mat has air sprung cells rather than baffles and a 2.5” thickness.
The cells are smaller in the shoulder to hip area, contouring the surface to suit side sleepers.
- The surface isn’t slippery which is a huge bonus when you’re sleeping on a slight slope.
- The pad doesn’t make any sound when you roll over in the night.
- Insulated with Exskin Platinum material and Thermolite.
- Airstream Pumpsack makes inflation easy and prevents moisture from your breath entering the mat.
- Doesn’t come in a wide option.
Klymit Insulated Static V Lite Sleeping Pad
Review: Another baffle design that is well suited to side sleepers, the larger side baffles support your back when you’re on your side while the V-shaped baffles in the middle are designed with warmth in mind.
- Unique V-shaped baffles retain heat.
- Side rails keep you in the middle of the mat and stop you rolling off.
- Lightweight (19.6 oz.).
- 23” width is wider than most standard sleeping mats.
- Antimicrobial inner laminate.
- Some issues with leaky valves on arrival (but these can be fixed).
Big Agnes Insulated AXL Sleeping Pad
Review: This is a really comfortable, lightweight sleeping mat that is ideal for side sleepers due to its supportive side baffles, wide width and 3.75” thickness.
- Tapered ends are weight and space saving.
- Comes in a regular wide size (25”).
- Supportive chambers and larger outer rails to keep you in the middle of the mat.
- Durable TPU lamination and PrimaLoft Silver insulation.
- Weighs just 12 oz.
- Very expensive.
Exped SynMat 7 Insulated Sleeping Pad
Review: This is a heavy duty 4 season sleeping pad, which while very warm, is also very heavy.
But, it’s a good option if you’re backpacking in the winter, or car camping and weight isn’t an issue.
- Comes in a medium wide size (25.6” wide).
- Comes with a pump bag for quick, moisture free inflation, that can also be used as a waterproof stuff sack.
- Microfiber insulation makes this one of the coziest sleeping mats on the market.
- Vertical baffles are less suited to side sleepers but may not be an issue for everyone.
- 3 lbs. is very heavy for a sleeping pad.
Paria Outdoor Products Recharge Sleeping Pad
Review: This is a warm 3 season sleeping pad that weighs just 13.4 oz. and is a luxurious 3.5” thick.
It’s 22” wide which is about as narrow as a side sleeper would want to go, but its horizontal baffles are well suited.
- Contains microfiber insulation.
- Horizontal baffles and cozy 3.5” thickness.
- No-slip surface keeps you from sliding off.
- Takes a bit of time to inflate.
Alps Mountaineering Comfort Air Pad
Review: This is another heavy duty sleeping pad that is too heavy for backpacking, but may be exactly what you want for your car camping trips.
It’s the most luxurious sleeping pad on this list with a plush suede cover. The regular is only 1.5” thick but that doesn’t take away from the comfort.
- Brushed suede surface gives this sleeping mat a luxury, non-slip finish.
- Anti-slip dots on the polyester bottom stop the whole things from sliding downhill in your tent.
- Self-inflates if you leave it for long enough, but it gets faster after a little breaking in.
- The regular size only comes in a 20” width but the long is 25” wide.
- At 2 lbs. 10 oz. (for the regular – the larger sizes are much heavier), this is only suited to car camping.
Teton Sports ComfortLite Self Inflating Camp Pad
Review: This sleeping pad has doesn’t have baffles to interrupt your sleeping position, so paired with a pillow and its 2” thickness, this could be one of the best sleeping pads for side sleepers who want to feel like they’re in their own bed.
- The regular is 24” wide which is excellent for side sleepers.
- Self-inflates in minutes and can be finished off with a few puffs.
- Smooth surface means no baffles to worry about.
- Microfiber top and non-slip bottom keeps you where you want to be.
- Heavy (3.6 lbs.) and not compact when rolled up.
Outdoorsman Lab Inflatable Sleeping Pad
Review: This is a more budget option for backpackers looking for an inflatable mat that won’t break the bank.
This sleeping pad is highly insulating and a comfortable 2” thick.
- Extremely affordable for a sleeping pad, let alone a 4 season one!
- Interconnected diamond shaped cells instead of baffles create a very comfortable sleeping surface.
- Weighs just 16 oz. and packs down into a small stuff sack.
- 6” wide is a little on the narrow side for side sleepers.
TNH Outdoors Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
Review: Another excellent sleeping pad for people who prefer the smooth surface over baffles of any shape, this sleeping mat is self-inflating with additional foam padding inside for a well cushioned sleep.
- Self-inflates and then can be topped up with a few breaths.
- Durable 70D polyester outer will cope with sharp rocks and uneven ground.
- Well insulated against the ground in cold weather.
- The surface isn’t non slip which could be an issue if your sleeping bag is slippery.
Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad
Review: This sleeping pad is ridiculously affordable, which is mildly concerning when it comes to something inflatable which can’t afford to pop on you.
But this sleeping pad seems to be durable enough to cope with the rigors of camping making it a great budget option.
- 2” thick interconnected diamond shaped air cells and 23” width.
- Very lightweight at only 14.5 oz.
- 20D ripstop nylon outer.
- Packs down to the size of a water bottle.
- Takes quite a few breaths to inflate!
What Makes a Sleeping Mat Good for Side Sleepers?
Plenty of Cushioning
Side sleepers benefit from a little extra thickness in their mats so that heavier or wider parts of the body can sink into the mat while lighter parts remain supported.
This is important so that your spine can stay in alignment and not be forced to curve as it would if you were on a hard surface.
On the same track as the cushioning point, the mat also needs to be supportive so that your body weight gets evenly distributed along the length of the mat and your hips or shoulders (whichever is your heaviest part) don’t touch the ground.
Side sleepers tend to sleep with their knees tucked up a little, with their body forming a z shape.
This requires a little more width to make sure that parts of you aren’t hanging off the mat, and that you don’t accidentally roll off.
Horizontal, Not Vertical Baffles
This may not be a deal breaker for everyone (hence the reason there is a mat with vertical baffles on the list above) but generally speaking, horizontal baffles are more supportive and comfortable for side sleepers.
Large Side Baffles
Again, this isn’t a deal breaker, but some sleeping pads that are designed for side sleepers have larger baffles or rails running down the outer edges of the mat to help keep your body in the middle of the mat and stop you rolling off.
This is relevant for all sleeping positions but especially so for side sleepers. If the surface of your mat is as slick as your sleeping bag, you will slide off.
This is particularly relevant if your tent isn’t pitched on completely flat ground.
The slightest slope can have you sliding downhill and that does not a good night’s sleep make!
This isn’t something that most people would think of unless they’ve already experienced a noisy mat.
But some sleeping pads make an awful crinkly sound when you change position that can be enough to wake you or your neighbor up from their slumber.
Side sleepers tend to roll over in the night more than other sleeping positions so it pays to make sure that your sleeping pad has passed the noise test.
Foam Versus Inflatable
So, can side sleepers use foam mats instead of inflatable?
Well, never say never.
If the situation arises and you have no other choice… then, yes.
But it won’t be comfortable, unless it’s extremely thick, very well cushioned, and you have a very good pillow.
It would need to be at least a few inches thick which would make it impossibly huge from a backpacking perspective, and when you know there are excellent inflatable options available, why go for the less comfortable option?
In saying that, bear in mind that when I say inflatable, I’m also referring to inflatable pads that have a little foam inside for insulation. These are still inflatable sleeping pads.
So, in the foam vs. inflatable argument, inflatable wins hands down.
…for tents. Sleeping pads for hammocks are another story…
Self-Inflating Versus Lung Powered
This is a personal choice for most people and there’s no black and white answer.
Self-inflating mats have the advantage that they’re going to be less at risk of developing mildew inside from the condensation of your breath.
But, bear in the mind that self-inflating mats can take some time to naturally inflate and don’t inflate all the way, they will still need to be finished off with a breath or two.
Mats that require pumping up from scratch are quicker but need to come treated with antimicrobial chemicals to prevent the formation of mildew.
Some Final Tips
Invest in a Travel Pillow
Or, if you’re a car camper, bring your pillow from home. Front or back sleepers can get away with a tiny pillow or none at all.
But side sleepers will force their neck into a very uncomfortable angle if they try and sleep without a pillow.
Yes, at a stretch you can sleep on your arm, but few of us can do that all night without waking up to a serious case of pins and needles.
Investing in a travel pillow will keep your neck supported and help to keep your chest and airways open and comfortable too.
Try a Slightly Different Position
I know this may be asking a bit much given this article is for die-hard side sleepers, but hear me out.
You may have tried sleeping on your back, and if you’re a side sleeper this is understandably too much of a leap.
But, there is another option.
Sleeping half on your front and half on your side still feels like you’re sleeping on your side but you reduce the pressure that certain parts of your body put on the mat, making it more forgiving.
Lie on your front with your face turned to the side and your arms bent around your head in a comfortable position (the way a baby would lie if you put him on his front). Then, shift your hips slightly and bend the knee on the side that your head is facing as though you are sleeping on your side. Leave the other leg straight.
This may or may not work for, but it’s worth a shot, right?
Hopefully, now you have graduated from being a sleep-deprived side sleeper with a crook in your neck, to a reassured side sleeper who is excited to go camping again!
Don’t forget to download our travel ebook for more essential tips and tricks, and feel free to drop a line below with your thoughts.
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