What's worse than waking up in the morning and feeling like your knee has been bruised by a sledgehammer? While it's unlikely that your mattress is the cause of your knee pain, sleeping in an unsupportive bed can worsen existing pain.
Pain and sleep are inextricably linked. Pain can make sleeping difficult, and a lack of sleep can slow pain recovery. If you experience nighttime knee pain, it may be time to take action.
What Causes Knee Pain?
Joint inflammation, tendonitis, and injuries are common culprits of knee pain. Knee pain can also occur if your body lacks the right cushioning to keep you from damaging the bones and soft tissues surrounding your knees.
You can heal or treat many of these ailments with gentle exercise and rest. However, in some cases, like a torn meniscus, treatment may involve surgery. For proper care, be sure to see your doctor, who can identify and treat the underlying cause of your knee pain.
Common Causes of Knee Pain:
- Fractures– A fracture is a break or crack in one or more of the knee bones. Kneecap fractures typically result from a head-on collision with the knee, most common in car accidents, sports injuries, and direct falls onto hard surfaces like concrete. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and knee tenderness.
- Bursitis– Characterized by inflammation of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) near the knee joint, bursitis can occur from strenuous activity, overuse, infection, or injury. Symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, and an unusual sensation of warmth.
- Dislocated Knee Cap– This occurs when the patella slips out of place, separating from the thigh bone and settling outside the knee joint. Kneecap dislocations can occur from injury or accident. Symptoms include pain and swelling, painful popping in the knee, and inability to straighten the leg. You may even be able to see the dislocation.
- Torn Meniscus– An injury may result in a torn meniscus, a rotation or twist of the knee. Symptoms include pain, swelling, stiffness, and difficulty extending the knee.
- Arthritis– There are over 100 forms of arthritis, many of which affect the knee joints. Common forms of arthritis that affect the knee joint include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, and gout.
Why Do My Knees Hurt Worse at Night?
Combined with the effects of natural aging, sitting for long periods of time can worsen knee pain. If you sit in a chair for most of the day, your knee pain may become worse the longer you remain inactive. Knee pain also worsens at night when cortisol, a hormone that limits inflammation, naturally decreases.
Finding the Best Mattress to Alleviate Knee Pain
An old or low-grade mattress can cause discomfort and pain, worsening overall sleep quality. When you sleep on an inadequate mattress, you deprive yourself of much-needed rest and recovery. On the other hand, a high-quality mattress designed to both cradle and support joints can give your knees a break and help soothe aches and pain.
If you plan to replace your mattress with a model more conducive to knee comfort and recovery, look for the following features.
Factors to Consider:
- Pressure Relief– For better comfort and support while you sleep, look for a mattress that offers superior pressure relief. A mattress designed for pressure relief can support the sensitive pressure points in your hips, shoulders, and knees.
- Firmness– If your mattress is too soft, your body will sink, causing your spine and joints to become misaligned. On the other hand, if your mattress is too firm, it could cause uncomfortable pressure against your sensitive knees, hips, and shoulders. We recommend a medium-firm mattress, around a 6/10 on the mattress firmness scale.
- Maneuverability– Ultra-plush mattresses can make it difficult for people with knee pain to change positions throughout the night. If you have any type of joint stiffness or limited mobility, avoid mattresses that make you feel "trapped" in bed. Otherwise, you risk exacerbating your existing knee pain as you struggle to shift positions in the night.
- Edge Support– The edge of the bed should be firm enough to support your body as you climb in and out of bed to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on your joints.
- Temperature Regulation– Some mattresses can trap heat, causing you to toss and turn as you try to find a cool sleeping position. This constant, inconsistent movement may worsen knee pain. Look for a mattress that dispels body heat to offer a cooler, more comfortable sleep.
More Ways to Manage Nighttime Knee Pain
Aside from purchasing a new mattress, you can take other practical steps to reduce knee pain and help you get better sleep. However, keep in mind that every body and injury is different, and you should talk to your doctor before implementing any health-related changes.
Try Heat or Cold Therapy– Depending on your symptoms, either an ice or heat pack on the knee can provide some relief. If your joints are inflamed, use cold therapy on the affected joint to bring down the swelling. On the other hand, if you struggle with stiffness, use heat therapy to loosen up the muscles and joints.
- Do Some Stretches or Light Exercise– If possible, try to perform some light exercise. Stretching can help to loosen and strengthen the muscles, preventing further injury.
- Rethink Your Sleeping Position– How you sleep is a matter of preference, but if you suspect that your sleep position is worsening your knee pain, you may want to train yourself to sleep differently.
Use a Pillow for Greater Side-Sleeping Support– Side sleepers can benefit from putting a pillow between their knees to alleviate pressure and maintain proper spinal alignment. If you sleep on your back, you may find relief by putting a pillow under your knee to allow the joint to bend slightly during sleep. However, some people report difficulty unbending their knees in the morning.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight– Added weight can put more pressure on your joints. Losing just a few extra pounds can dramatically reduce the pressure you put on your joints as you walk or perform regular daily activities.
Nighttime knee pain is a common complaint that can lead to disrupted sleep, but you don't have to resign yourself to tossing and turning all night long.
You can take steps that may help relieve your discomfort, so you get the restful slumber you deserve. Try adjusting your pillows or positioning them between your knees to alleviate any added strain when sleeping on your side. A relaxing stretch before going into bed can also help to keep your joints limber.
If your old mattress doesn't offer enough support for your body or relief for your sensitive joints, you might consider upgrading to a pressure-relieving alternative like AirFoam™.
Remember, sleep plays a key role in regaining your physical health. Prioritize pain-free, quality sleep to get the rest your body needs for proper recovery.