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The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend adults get at least 7 hours of sleep every night to support optimal health (1).
But it may be hard to reach that number, especially when sleeping with a herniated disc.
Luckily, a properly chosen mattress may help relieve discomfort and painful sensations so that you could enjoy restful slumber. So, let’s try to understand what makes the best mattress for herniated disc and how to pick something that would work perfectly for you.
Dealing with a Herniated Disc
All of the bones in our spine are cushioned by discs, which help absorb the shock from moving, twisting, and lifting. Each disc contains a soft inner part and a firmer outer section. A disc becomes herniated when the inner part starts protruding through the outer section (2).
Now, you may expect this condition to be mostly among the elderly, but the statistics show that herniated discs are most common among people between 30-50 years, and it is twice as common in males than females (3).
While being commonly associated with age-related conditions, disc herniation is usually caused by straining or trauma, or weak muscles due to a sedentary lifestyle (2). It can occur in any part of the spine or neck, which leads to pain or numbness (or both). Naturally, this can influence your sleep quality.
Now, you probably realize that only your doctor can choose the right treatment for you. In the meantime, in order to sleep better, you may want to look for a suitable mattress for a herniated disc. After all, sleeping comfortably and getting enough rest can help speed up your recovery as well as minimize pain and other symptoms.
What Is the Best Mattress Type for a Herniated Disc?
When it comes to picking the best mattress for a herniated disc, opinions differ. The main rule here is: as long as it makes you feel comfortable, your bed is good.
But each mattress type has certain peculiarities and characteristics, which may work for some sleepers and make others feel uncomfortable. Let’s take a closer look at them:
- Memory foam. Famous for its adaptiveness, memory foam offers close conforming. This material adjusts to your body curves and minimizes pressure points, which can help with pain relief in those with a herniated disc. However, keep in mind that memory foam can trap your body heat. This can affect your sleep greatly, especially if you are prone to night sweats. A good solution would be a mattress that has gel-infused layers or uses open-cell foam technology for improved air circulation.
- Polyfoam. Polyfoam is a bit denser and more responsive than memory foam, which makes it a great option for sleepers who don’t want to feel stuck in their mattress. At the same time, polyfoam provides good pressure relief and precise body contouring, so it may work for those with herniated discs quite well.
- Latex. Since disc herniation can cause muscle weakness, it may be challenging for some people to switch positions during the night (4). And that’s when the bounciness of latex would come in handy. This material is very responsive and springy, which makes it a good choice for a suitable mattress for a herniated disc. Latex also does a good job of reducing pressure points without enveloping your body too much.
- Hybrid. Hybrid mattresses usually combine a coil base and foam or latex comfort layers. Many sleepers appreciate their balanced feel. Hybrid mattresses successfully pair solid support with pressure relief. Many hybrid models feature zoned spinal support, which puts them among the best mattresses for a lumbar herniated disc. The main drawback of this bed type is its price tag, which isn’t ideal for shoppers on a budget. Check out our 5 best-rated hybrid mattresses here.
- Innerspring. Coil mattresses offer consistent support and bouncy response throughout the surface. They typically don’t sleep hot and don’t restrict your movements during the night. However, innerspring mattresses aren’t that impressive when it comes to pressure relief, which can be an issue when dealing with a herniated disc. Since these beds are usually quite cheap, some sleepers combine them with a memory foam topper to enjoy a more balanced feel. However, this might not work for everyone, especially if your herniated disc is causing radiating pain.
Things to Look For in a Good Mattress for a Herniated Disc
The truth is, there’s no universal recipe for the best mattress for a herniated disc. After all, different sleepers have various requirements in terms of comfort levels.
Here’s the thing, though:
When it comes to dealing with disc herniation, some mattress characteristics are crucial. And that’s what you need to pay your attention to:
- Support. The spine has three main curves: cervical, thoracic, and lumbar (5). These curves have to be supported and properly aligned during sleep to maintain correct posture and a healthy spine. So, it doesn’t matter whether you want a mattress for a herniated disc in your neck or lower back, for instance. It just has to support your whole body evenly in order to keep the spine aligned.
- Firmness. You should pick your bed firmness according to your sleeping position. For average side sleepers, a soft-to-medium mattress would be a good option. Back sleepers require firmer support and may want to look at medium to medium-firm mattresses. As for stomach sleepers, a firm bed would be the most suitable. Now, your weight matters as well, and if you are a bigger individual (over 230 pounds), you might need something extra supportive and a bit firmer.
- Pressure relief. Extra pressure on your spine or muscles can cause back pain (6). And this may worsen the pain from your herniated disc. Your mattress should be able to help reduce that pressure. In this case, you need something that would allow for enough cushioning for the protruding parts of your body.
- Quality materials. When dealing with a herniated disc, you don’t want your mattress to lose its properties too soon. Look for well-known brands and a good warranty, as it would give you peace of mind for years to come.
- Cooling. While not being directly related to disc herniation, sleeping hot can make you feel uncomfortable during the night and affect your sleep quality. If you are prone to overheating during the night, look at mattresses that use cooling components (gel memory foam), allow for air circulation (hybrid and innerspring), or naturally don’t trap body heat (latex).
Which Sleeping Position Is the Best for a Herniated Disc?
A correct sleeping position is one of the potential treatment options that can help you with pain relief when dealing with a herniated disc. But which one is considered to be the healthiest option? Let’s take a look and see how each position works:
- On your back. This sleeping position is considered to be the healthiest one for most people (7), as it can help you maintain proper spinal alignment. Back sleepers usually require medium firmness and a good amount of cushioning for their hips and buttocks. If you have a herniated disc in your neck, you may want to invest in an orthopedic pillow with a special dent in the center for proper neck support.
- On your side. Sleeping on your side is another good option when dealing with a herniated disc. It might be especially beneficial if you are dealing with a foraminal herniated disc (8). A proper mattress, in this case, has to be soft enough to cradle your protruding shoulders and hips. You can try to put a pillow between the knees or even use a full-body pillow to contribute to spinal alignment.
- On your stomach. This sleeping position may work if you have lumbar paracentral disc herniation (8). But in other cases, it is not recommended for disc herniation. The thing is, sleeping on your stomach can cause your hips to sink while elevating the chest and creating an unhealthy arch in the spine. However, if you can’t sleep in any other position, at least make sure that your mattress is firm and supportive enough.
Sleeping in a reclined position helps some people feel more comfortable when struggling with back pain caused by a disc herniation. Therefore, you may try an adjustable bed frame. Make sure that your mattress is flexible enough to be used with it. Foam and latex mattresses are generally thought to work best with adjustable bases.
Also read: Best Mattresses for Adjustable Beds
Can a bad mattress cause a herniated disc?
While a bad mattress cannot really cause disc herniation, it can worsen the symptoms and prolong the recovery process.
Is a memory foam mattress good for a herniated disc?
It depends on your personal preferences. Generally, memory foam mattresses are considered to be a good option for sleepers with a herniated disc due to this material’s pressure-relieving properties.
What’s the best sleeping position for people with herniated discs?
Sleeping on your back or side is considered suitable for a herniated disc. When lying on your side, you can also put a pillow between the knees to aid spinal alignment.
Having a herniated disc doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to have sleepless nights.
You just need to pick a suitable mattress.
So, keep in mind that you may need good pressure relief for disc herniation, as well as solid support. A hybrid or latex mattress can be optimal, but if you want more cushioning, you should go with memory foam.
And don’t forget that firmness and quality materials matter too. After all, you don’t want your new bed to sag within the first two years.
So, how are you dealing with disc herniation? Do you think a suitable mattress can help alleviate the pain caused by this condition? Share your thoughts in the comments!
- Watson NF, Badr MS, Belenky G, et al.; Consensus Conference Panel (2015, August). Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society on the Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: Methodology and Discussion. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/38/8/1161/2417936
- Rachel Nall (2019, March 07). Slipped (Herniated) Disc. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/herniated-disk
- Jo Jordon, Kika Konstantinou, John O'Dowd (2009, March 26). Herniated lumbar disc. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907819/
- Tim Newman (2018, August 21). Causes and treatment of a herniated disk. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/191979
- Daniel K. Park, MD (2020, June). Spine Basics. Retrieved from https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/spine-basics/
- Adapted from a pamphlet originally prepared for the Arthritis Foundation by John W. Frymoyer (n.d.). Back pain. Retrieved from https://orthop.washington.edu/patient-care/articles/arthritis/back-pain.html
- National Sleep Foundation (n.d.). The Best Sleep Position for Your Body. Retrieved from https://www.sleep.org/articles/best-sleep-position/
- Richard Staehler (2017, October 25). Mattresses and Sleep Positions for Each Back Pain Diagnosis. Retrieved from https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/sleep/mattresses-and-sleep-positions-each-back-pain-diagnosis
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