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Why Does Pressure Relief in a Mattress Matter

Dr. Jordan Burns, DC, MS

Dr. Jordan Burns, DC, MS

Dr. Burns is an established authority in sleep health, combining over a decade of hands-on experience in chiropractic care with a deeply rooted knowledge of sleep science. A holder of degrees in Kinesiology, Life Sciences, Sports Science and Rehabilitation, and Chiropractic, his interdisciplinary background uniquely positions him at the intersection of wellness, ergonomics, and sleep […]

Mattress Resources
Read Time: 7 minutes

  • Pressure relief in a mattress is crucial for reducing discomfort and pain caused by pressure points, especially in areas like the shoulders, hips, and lower back.
  • Memory foam mattresses are highly effective for pressure relief, as they contour to the body’s shape, evenly distribute weight, and reduce motion transfer.
  • Different sleep positions require varying levels of pressure relief, with side sleepers needing the most, back sleepers needing balanced support, and stomach sleepers needing firmer mattresses for proper spinal alignment.

When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, the importance of pressure relief cannot be overstated. A mattress that provides adequate pressure relief can make all the difference in the quality of your sleep and overall well-being.

This comprehensive article will discuss the significance of pressure relief, the impact of pressure points on sleep quality, and how to find the best mattress for pressure relief based on your sleep position. Let’s explore the world of pressure relief and its profound effects on achieving restful sleep.

Understanding Pressure Points and Sleep Quality

Our bodies are composed of various curves, points, and planes, each unique to every individual. When we lie down on a mattress, certain parts of our bodies, such as the shoulders and hips, tend to make more contact with the bed due to our natural shape.

These pressure points can cause pain and discomfort if the mattress does not relieve pressure properly. Improper spinal alignment and restless sleep can result from a mattress that fails to alleviate pressure points. Therefore, understanding how pressure points impact sleep quality is crucial.

Pressure points are sensitive areas of the body prone to pain and discomfort. When you lie down in one position for a long time, like when you’re asleep, certain areas of your body can have less blood flow. Bony parts like your heels, ankles, hips, and tailbone are especially pressure-sensitive.

The shoulders, buttocks, sit bones, and backs of the knees can also get sore from pressure. If these areas don’t get enough relief from the pressure of the bed, it can worsen your sleep and increase your pain.

“Pressure relief in a mattress is not merely about comfort; it’s about maintaining spinal alignment and preventing pain,” says Dr. Jordan Burns. “A mattress that adequately reduces pressure points by conforming to the body’s natural curves can help prevent the misalignment of the spine during sleep.”

“Such alignment is crucial for reducing the stress on the spine. It can significantly alleviate back and joint pain.”

The Role of Pressure Relief in Sleep Quality

Imagine lying on a hard wooden floor to appreciate the significance of pressure relief. The lack of padding on a wooden surface intensifies pressure on sensitive areas, leading to discomfort and potential bedsores.

This analogy highlights the vital role of pressure-relieving mattresses, especially for individuals who are bedridden, elderly or have medical conditions such as diabetes or circulation problems. These individuals require specific, medical-grade beds to alternate and redistribute pressure throughout the night.

Even for those who do not fall into these specific categories, a lack of adequate pressure relief can result in discomfort and pain. Conversely, sleeping on a pressure-relieving material like memory foam has been shown to reduce pain and improve sleep efficiency. Therefore, finding a mattress with good pressure relief is essential for achieving optimal sleep quality.

How to Find a Mattress with Excellent Pressure Relief

When searching for a mattress with exceptional pressure relief, it is crucial to consider several factors. An ideal pressure-relieving mattress should evenly distribute body weight, support the spine, and provide cushioning and joint comfort.

Firmness level also plays a significant role in determining the amount of pressure relief experienced. A mattress that is too firm fails to provide adequate contouring and cushioning, while one that is too soft may not provide sufficient support.

Finding the right mattress firmness level is subjective and depends on individual preferences and body types.

Lightweight sleepers generally benefit from a softer bed, while average-weight sleepers find medium-firm mattresses most suitable.

Heavier individuals may require a firmer mattress for optimal pressure relief. Additionally, sleep position also influences the choice of a pressure-relieving mattress.

“When selecting a mattress, it’s important to consider your specific body type and sleeping style,” said Dr. Burns. “This practical approach can help you find the perfect mattress for your needs. Side sleepers, for instance, typically require a softer mattress to cushion the shoulders and hips adequately.”

“In contrast, back or stomach sleepers might benefit from a firmer surface for better lumbar support. Utilizing mattress trial periods offered by many mattress companies can be a practical way to ensure the mattress provides the necessary support and pressure relief tailored to your needs.”

The Best Types of Mattresses for Pressure Relief

Various mattress types offer excellent pressure relief, each with unique characteristics and benefits. The following are some of the best mattress types for pressure reduction:

  1. Memory Foam: Memory foam is the most effective material for pressure relief. It molds to the body, absorbs motion, and evenly distributes body weight, providing exceptional comfort. However, memory foam mattresses may retain heat, so effective cooling measures are necessary.
  2. Latex: Latex mattresses, whether natural or synthetic, offer temperature neutrality and a springier feel than memory foam. Latex beds are suitable for those who prefer a slightly firmer feel and want to feel more “on top of” the mattress. Researchers have found that latex reduces pressure throughout the body better than other mattress materials.
  3. Gel-Infused Foam: Gel-infused foam combines the pressure-relieving properties of memory foam with effective cooling. The addition of gel microbeads helps regulate temperature while providing the same sinking sensation and pressure relief as traditional memory foam.
  4. Hybrid Mattresses: Hybrid mattresses combine the support of innerspring coils with foam layers on top. These beds offer a balance of spinal support and pressure relief, making them an excellent choice for heavyweight, hot, and combination sleepers.

Choosing the Right Mattress Based on Sleep Position

Different sleep positions require varying levels of pressure relief. Consider the following recommendations based on sleep position:

  1. Side Sleepers: Side sleepers typically need the most pressure relief as their shoulders and hips bear the brunt of the pressure. A softer, more cushioning mattress that allows the shoulders and hips to sink in while maintaining overall support is ideal. Memory foam, hybrid beds, and gel-infused foam are excellent choices for side sleepers.
  2. Back Sleepers: Back sleepers require a balanced mattress that maintains proper spinal alignment. If the lower back arches off the mattress or back pain is experienced upon waking, the mattress may be too firm or soft. Medium-firm mattresses with zoned support can offer excellent pressure relief to back sleepers.
  3. Stomach Sleepers: While they might not encounter pressure points like side and back sleepers, they require a firmer mattress to maintain correct spinal alignment. Stomach sleepers must use a mattress that supports the hips and stomach. Firm latex beds, beds with zoned support, or hybrid mattresses are all suitable options for stomach sleepers.
  4. Combination Sleepers: Combination sleepers who change positions throughout the night require a versatile mattress that caters to multiple sleep positions. A medium-firm mattress with some bounce, such as latex or hybrid beds, is preferable for ease of movement and pressure relief.

The Health Benefits of Pressure Relief

Pressure relief goes beyond enhancing sleep quality; it also has significant health benefits. Adequate pressure relief promotes improved circulation, essential for preventing pressure ulcers and bedsores. Insufficient pressure relief can result in joint and muscle pain and poor circulation.

By choosing a mattress that offers proper pressure relief, you can reduce the risk of developing these conditions and wake up refreshed and pain-free.

“Another lesser-known fact about pressure relief is its impact on circulation, 1 Verified Source Medline Plus Online resource offered by the National Library of Medicine and part of the National Institutes of Health. See the source ” said Dr. Burns. “A mattress that doesn’t adequately distribute body weight can restrict blood flow to certain areas, leading to tingling and numbness and even exacerbating conditions like varicose veins.”

“The American Academy of Sleep Medicine acknowledges 2 Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. See the source the importance of circulation for recovery and rest, recommending the selection of mattresses that support the spine and enhance circulatory health.”

Additional Pressure-Relieving Features and Accessories

In addition to selecting a pressure-relieving mattress, certain accessories can further enhance pressure relief and optimize sleep comfort:

  1. Pillows: The right pillow can alleviate neck, shoulders, and head pressure while maintaining proper spinal alignment. Side sleepers benefit from higher loft pillows, back sleepers from medium-loft pillows, and stomach sleepers from low-loft pillows. Select a pillow that provides support for your preferred sleeping position and maintains proper alignment of your spine.
  2. Mattress Toppers: If your current mattress is too firm, a mattress topper made of memory foam or latex can relieve additional pressure. These toppers can be an excellent temporary solution until you can invest in a new mattress.
  3. Adjustable Base: An adjustable bed base enables you to modify your sleeping position, alleviating pressure from sensitive areas. The “zero gravity sleep position” achieved with an adjustable base evenly distributes body weight and eliminates pressure from the lower back, hips, and shoulders. Ensure your mattress is compatible with an adjustable base before making a purchase.


Why is pressure relief important in a mattress?

Pressure relief in a mattress is crucial for reducing discomfort and pain, particularly in areas like the hips and lumbar region. A mattress with good pressure relief helps prevent pressure points from forming, ensuring a comfortable night’s sleep and potentially alleviating chronic pain.

How does a mattress’s firmness impact pressure relief?

The level of firmness in a mattress is crucial for relieving pressure. If a mattress is overly firm, it can create extra pressure on specific body parts, resulting in discomfort. On the other hand, a softer mattress may provide better pressure relief, especially for individuals with chronic pain.

What role do comfort layers play in pressure relief?

Comfort layers, particularly thicker ones, can improve pressure relief by providing a cushioning effect. These layers evenly distribute body weight, minimizing pressure points and promoting a more comfortable night’s rest.

Can a support core affect pressure relief?

Yes, the support core of a mattress, such as an air chamber core or coil support core, can impact pressure relief. A supportive core helps maintain proper spinal alignment, which is essential for relieving pressure and preventing discomfort.

How does body type and sleeping position affect the need for pressure relief in a mattress?

Body type and sleeping position can influence the amount of pressure placed on certain body areas. For example, individuals with a heavier body type may require a mattress with thicker comfort systems for adequate pressure relief.

Likewise, preferred sleeping positions can also affect pressure relief needs, with side sleepers often requiring more targeted support for their hips and shoulders.


Pressure relief is vital in achieving restful sleep and maintaining optimal health. A mattress that offers excellent pressure relief ensures proper spinal alignment, even weight distribution, and cushioning for joints. By considering your sleep position and selecting the right mattress type and firmness level, you can experience the benefits of pressure relief.

Remember to complement your mattress with accessories like pillows and mattress toppers to enhance pressure relief further. Prioritizing pressure relief will allow you to wake up refreshed, free from pain, and ready to tackle the day ahead.

Harrison Wall is Sleep Junkie’s business strategist and sleep analyst. He also authors posts on bedding and mattress accessories. Harrison regularly coordinates with new mattress companies and tests their products to determine what really helps you get better rest and have brighter mornings.

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