Is knee pain keeping you up at night? Unfortunately, it’s an all too common problem, especially among older populations, highly active individuals, and people involved in high-impact sports or occupations. But knee pain at night doesn’t have to keep you from getting the rest you need to stay happy and healthy. This guide will walk you through the practical steps you can take to ease nighttime knee pain for uninterrupted sleep.
If you struggle with knee pain, the agitation can keep you tossing and turning at night. Fortunately, there are preventative measures you can take to reduce nighttime knee aches and pains. You can adjust your sleep position and modify your sleep setup with the right mattress and pillows to relieve tension and make yourself more comfortable.
Lying in bed without distractions, you’re more aware of how your body feels, and any pain or discomfort will call your attention. Movement also keeps your joints lubricated; when you stop moving and try to sleep, the lack of lubrication makes pain more severe. Meanwhile, you have lower cortisol levels at night, which helps mitigate inflammation during the day.
A bad mattress could be the primary source of your knee pain, but more likely, it’s making existing pain worse. A mattress that’s too firm for your needs or that doesn’t provide proper pressure relief can put undue strain on your knees, exacerbating soreness and pain. Conversely, a mattress that’s too soft may make movement difficult, and sleepers with any type of chronic pain need maneuverability.
A better mattress will provide proper support, add comfortable cushioning, and disperse your body weight to take tension off peak pressure points like your knees. Pressure-relieving mattresses also help with shoulder, back, and hip pain. We’ll discuss all the ideal mattress features to look for to relieve knee pain after exploring the potential underlying causes of your discomfort.
Unfortunately, there are a number of conditions and injuries that can cause chronic or acute knee pain. If knee pain is keeping you up at night, the best thing you can do is identify and treat the underlying cause. Especially if you have severe pain, prolonged pain, or pain that inhibits mobility, don’t wait—see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Below, we’ve listed a few of the most common underlying causes of knee pain that carry into the night.
Aside from treating the underlying causes of your knee pain, you can also invest in a better mattress that cushions your knees and complements your sleep position and body type. For sleepers with knee pain, the following mattress qualities make the biggest difference.
Sleepers with knee pain (or any other joint pain) should prioritize pressure relief over all else. A pressure-relieving mattress redistributes your body weight, spreading it across the mattress surface. This lessens the tension around the highest pressure areas, like your knees, shoulders, hips, and back.
Nolah’s AirFoam™ mattresses achieve this with billions of microscopic air pockets within the cushioning foam. With two layers of AirFoam™ and deeply supportive high-resilience foam underneath, the Nolah Signature is our best mattress for pressure relief.
It depends on your weight, but in general, the best mattresses for knee pain have a medium firmness feel. This balance between cushioning and support keeps your spine aligned but allows enough give for contouring comfort around sensitive joints. You want a mattress that gently contours to your curves but doesn’t sink in too far, which can limit movement and cause misalignment. For that reason, sleepers with knee pain should stay away from ultra-plush memory foam mattresses.
On that note, sleepers with knee pain should also look for a responsive mattress that moves with them. Stay away from slow-reacting memory foam, which restricts movement. Instead, opt for a more responsive polyfoam, latex, or a hybrid mattress with flexible individually-wrapped coils. For example, Nolah’s hybrid Nolah Evolution and latex hybrid Nolah Natural have individually-wrapped coils in three targeted support zones for maximum responsiveness.
Individuals with joint pain, including knee pain, often use the edge of the bed to slowly climb in and out. If you use the perimeter of your mattress for accessibility, you’ll want a mattress with reinforced edge support. Hybrid mattresses perform particularly well in this area thanks to their structured coils.
Joint pain can leave you tossing and turning at night, and the last thing you want is to overheat. To prevent uncomfortable night sweats and further agitation, look for a mattress with breathable and temperature-neutral materials like viscoelastic chemical-free AirFoam™ or natural latex.
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Whether or not you plan to switch mattresses, you can also modify your sleep position for knee pain relief. The following positions may assuage knee pain or at the very least, stop further agitation.
Sleeping with a pillow between your knees is a great way for side sleepers with knee pain to get comfortable. This separates your knees, preventing them from clanking together and causing irritation. Putting a pillow between your legs also adds another plane for pressure relief. Plus, this position supports proper spinal and pelvic alignment because it prevents your hips from rotating.
What type of pillow should you use? You can buy an hourglass-shaped ergonomic knee pillow or use any contouring foam pillow with good pressure relief. As with mattresses, you also want to choose a knee pillow made with cooling materials. For example, Nolah’s height-adjustable Squishy Pillow has a moisture-wicking bamboo blend cover and breathable shredded foam filling.
Back sleepers will find knee pain relief with their legs elevated. An adjustable base gives you the most flexibility, but you can also elevate your legs with strategically-placed pillows. For example, using a wedge pillow can take pressure off your knees while improving circulation. If you don’t have a wedge pillow, you can use a tall foam pillow or stack two thinner pillows for leg elevation.
In general, we don’t recommend sleeping on your stomach, as it can misalign your spine. This position also puts more stress on your joints than any other position, including your knees. If you’re a stomach sleeper and arthritis, an injury, or any other condition is causing knee pain flare-ups, it may be time to train yourself to sleep on your side or back.
As previously mentioned, you should see your doctor for severe, long-lasting, or immobilizing knee pain. They can identify and treat the underlying condition and provide useful tips for alleviating symptoms and getting comfortable. Under a medical professional’s guidance, you may try the following pain-relieving strategies.
Hopefully, these tips help you ease your knee pain and get better rest. Remember, treating pain is often a holistic process that involves behavioral and environmental changes. Be patient, and keep your doctor up to date on any changes in your health, even beyond your knees and sleep.