In This Article:
Identifying Pressure Points
What Is a Pressure Point?
The Most Common Pressure Points
What Is a Pressure Relief Mattress?
What to Look for in a Pressure-Relieving Mattress
The Best Mattress Materials for Pressure Relief
With injuries and age come soreness and pains that keep you awake at night, tossing and turning in discomfort. Whether you're an athlete who pushes your body to the limit, you have arthritis, or you simply threw your back out, you know how pressure points can make falling asleep feel impossible. And, if you don't have the right mattress, you likely wake up in even more pain.
Your mattress shouldn't compound or aggregate existing pain—it should provide much-needed relief. If your bed doesn't soothe sore muscles and cradle your creaky joints, you may be missing out on restorative rest and falling asleep with ease.
Fortunately, industry experts have developed mattresses specifically structured to provide pressure relief where you need it most. Designed with human anatomy in mind, pressure-relieving mattresses offer a balance between cushioning and support at critical pressure points across the body.
If you think a pressure relief mattress may ease your pain and help you sleep, follow our pressure-relieving mattress shopping guide as you browse and compare your options.
Before exploring mattress materials and models that offer pressure relief, you should understand where and why you feel soreness and pain and whether a new mattress will benefit you. While a pressure-relieving mattress can go a long way to comfort bones and joints and prevent further aggravation, it can't "cure" injuries and maladies.
That said, pressure relief mattresses can soothe soreness at the critical pressure points described below. They provide extra comfort for those with injuries, the usual aches and pains that come with age, and pain-related conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.
In the mattress industry, a “pressure point” refers to any part of your anatomy that, when you lay down, puts more pressure on the bed’s surface than the rest of your body. Pressure points cause discomfort if your mattress can’t compensate for the additional pressure in these areas, distribute your weight evenly, and keep your spine aligned.
You can think of pressure points as the parts of you that weigh the most or stick out when you settle into your preferred sleeping position. Most commonly, people experience pain in their shoulders, back, hips, and knees.
Depending on how you sleep—on your side, back, or stomach—you’ll notice certain pressure points more than others. For example, side sleepers tend to feel more discomfort in their knees than back and stomach sleepers.
Pressure relief mattresses are designed to accommodate and offset the additional stress put on your shoulders, back, hips, knees, and other pressure points when you lay down. The best pressure-relieving mattresses provide enough structure and support at these critical junctions to compensate for the extra weight and prevent spinal misalignment.
At the same time, pressure-relieving mattresses cushion and comfort these sensitive and protruding areas. Pressure relief mattresses don't just alleviate the strain put on pressure points and bulgy joints; they cradle every part of the body that contacts the mattress surface. By contouring to your shapes and curves, pressure relief mattresses soothe sore muscles and aching bones.
While browsing for a pressure relief mattress, you'll likely come across another option: a pressure-relieving mattress topper. Also known as mattress pads, mattress toppers sit on top of your existing mattress and add comfort and support.
A pressure relief mattress topper can certainly help reduce soreness and pain and facilitate better sleep. However, because they're much thinner, they don't offer as much structure and pressure relief as complete mattresses.
For those who need a pressure-relieving solution on a budget, a mattress topper is a great choice. But if you have the means to invest more in your sleep health, a new mattress is the way to go.
With a firm understanding of common pain points and how pressure relief mattresses work, you can start browsing mattress brands and models. To make comparison shopping easier for you, we've compiled a list of the most important factors and features to consider when shopping for a pressure-relieving bed.
There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all firmness level that suits all sleepers or makes the ideal pressure relief mattress. People have different preferences and feel varying resistance depending on how much they weigh.
When shopping for a pressure-relief mattress, you want to find a surface with enough structure and support to keep your back straight. If your bed is too soft, your body will sink into the mattress at each pressure point and throw your spine out of line. Prolonged spinal misalignment ultimately leads to more stiffness and pain.
For adults around 230 pounds or less, a medium-firm mattress typically offers enough support to sustain spinal alignment while still allowing enough give to cradle your bones and joints. If you weigh more than 230 pounds, you may benefit from a firmer option. If you weigh less than 130 pounds, a softer mattress will likely do the trick.
However, everyone has different preferences and needs. If you don't know what mattress firmness feels best for you, we recommend giving a few options a try. Even if you plan to buy your new bed online, you can try out different levels at a store since most manufacturers adhere to the same 1-10 mattress firmness scale.
Aside from support, pressure-relieving mattresses need to provide cushioning to sensitive pain points. A high-quality mattress accomplishes this by contouring under pressure, cradling your muscles and joints in a soft and supple material.
But, as previously mentioned, a mattress that sinks too much under pressure will let your spine fall out of alignment. For ultimate pressure relief, you want your mattress's surface to gently contour to the curves of your body but not entirely lose its shape and structural support under your weight.
In other words, you don't want a mattress that completely conforms to your body. Not only does sinkage misalign your spine, but it also makes it difficult to reposition yourself at night. If you experience sores and pain, the last thing you want is to have to struggle with your mattress just to turn over.
A mattress's ability to cushion and contour depends on the type of material used and density of the mattress's top later. We'll discuss which mattress materials offer the best pressure relief in-depth in the next section.
People with injuries, arthritis, and other sources of soreness and pain need to be able to get in and out of bed with ease.
The best pressure-relieving mattresses have reinforced edges that provide extra support around the sides of the bed. Edge support allows you to sit up, swing your legs over the side of the bed and rest in a sitting position, then slowly stand up. Seniors and people with osteoporosis often find this the safest and least painful way to get out of bed.
Some mattresses also have extra structural support in other strategic areas. "Zoned support" refers to additional reinforcements within a mattress's core that lay beneath pressure points like your shoulders and hips. Hybrids and high-end spring mattresses with individually wrapped coils often include this feature.
Nothing soothes sore muscles like climbing into a cool bed and wrapping yourself in silky-smooth sheets. Conversely, a bed that's too warm and makes you sweat only agitates you further, making falling asleep that much harder.
Fortunately, many modern mattresses have cooling properties. In the next section, we'll discuss which mattress materials are temperature neutral and which trap heat around your body. Paired with cooling sheets, a cooling mattress can do wonders to relieve aches and pains.
If you need a pressure-relieving mattress to mediate pain, you may also benefit from an adjustable bed. With an adjustable bed, you can change the incline of your upper body independently from your lower body until you find the position that feels best for your current pain points or injuries. Most adjustable beds also have a zero-gravity setting that supports neutral spinal alignment.
If you own an adjustable frame or plan to purchase one in the future, ensure your new pressure-relieving mattress is compatible. Check out our Shopper's Manual for Adjustable Beds to learn which mattresses work best with adjustable bases.
Nowadays, shoppers have a wide selection of mattress materials to choose from. When it comes to pressure relief, some excel, and others sink—literally.
Because of its popularity, many people think memory foam is the most advanced mattress foam—but that's not the case, at least not when it comes to pressure relief.
While memory foam mattresses come in a range of firmness levels and density, they all use the same technology to conform to your body. The foam responds to both heat and pressure, so it reacts slowly and tends to trap your body's warmth within the mattress.
Memory foam also sinks further than high-density foams and latex, creating pockets that are difficult to get out of when you want to move. The material's slow reactivity also means it takes time to get comfortable again after you reposition yourself.
We designed Nolah AirFoam™ to out-perform memory foam, a material that dates back to the 1970s. With billions of embedded microscopic air bubbles, our proprietary foam offers fours times better pressure relief than memory foam.
AirFoam™ reduces peak pressure on your hips, shoulders, and back but still cushions the body with gentle contouring. The foam has a soft feel but is still dense enough to support your body and keep your spine aligned.
Our proprietary foam also sleeps cooler because, unlike memory foam, it doesn't need harsh heat-trapping chemical additives for optimum flexibility. While memory foam requires heat to conform, AirFoam™ is temperature neutral.
Made from the sap of rubber trees, natural latex foam offers excellent pressure relief. Talalay latex—a high-quality, all-natural type of latex—is sustainable, durable, and provides the following pressure-relief features:
Older innerspring mattresses have a bad rep when it comes to pressure relief, and for a good reason. Traditional spring systems provide the same amount of pushback across the board, which doesn't compensate for the body's natural weight distribution. They don't offer additional support for the body's heaviest parts, making them a poor choice for pressure relief.
However, many newer coil and hybrid mattresses feature individually-wrapped coils that offer zoned support. Each spring stands alone, allowing for better weight distribution. Also, the springs in each zone are tensioned to provide the optimal amount of pushback to the part of the body they support.
Today, most high-end coil mattresses and hybrid mattresses have individually-wrapped coils, not traditional innerspring systems. They can provide average to excellent pressure relief, depending on:
Going to bed should always give your body a rest, even at pressure points. Without the right mattress, laying in bed for about eight hours a night can exacerbate existing aches or even create new pain points. For the most comfortable sleep possible, prioritize the parts of your body that need the most support by investing in a pressure relief mattress.