How to Make a Cozy Bed That Does Not Aggravate Arthritis Pain
Last updated: January 2024
Four out of five people with arthritis-related conditions suffer from poor sleep.1 We’ve already discussed the pros and cons of mattress and pillow options. This time, we’re talking about sheets and blankets. What’s comfortable? What’s not? Check out these things to think about when buying new bedding.
This or That
Are you newly diagnosed (1 year or less) with RA?
How to select comfortable sheets
Even sheets and blankets can make or break a good night of sleep. Some sheets may better serve people with rheumatoid arthritis pain than others.
- Knits (such as flannel and jersey knit) are stretchy. This matters if you struggle to make your bed. A stretchy corner can spare an arthritic wrist, hand, or fingers from the added pain of wrapping it around the mattress edge.
- Wovens describe the majority of sheets. A damask, sateen, or percale sheet comes from woven fabric. These more durable fabrics can produce a crisp sheet or a satiny feel.
People with arthritis pain in their hips, shoulders, or spine may find that slippery woven sheets make it easier to turn from side to side.
- If you use knee pillows, a case with a more slippery finish will help you change your position during sleep.
- If you use slippery sheets and you wear slippery pajamas, you may risk falling out of bed, so plan carefully!2
- For people with arthritis in the feet or knees, even the weight of a sheet might create painful pressure. If this describes you, choose the lightest weight sheets. Also, consider installing aluminum rails (found in home health and bedding stores); they’re designed to keep covers off the feet.2
If tucking in sheets hurts, try using a long-handled wooden spoon to do the work of pushing them under the mattress.3
- Tuck in your fitted sheet, but feel free to layer the top sheet, untucked, on top.3
- Zip sheets use a two-part quick-change system to make changing sheets easier. Install the sheet base around the mattress; a top sheet then zips into the base for easy swapping on laundry day.4
Some people with arthritis prefer warm bedding while others want it cool. There’s no right or wrong here: choose which works best for you:5,6
- If you’re a “hot sleeper,” you may want to consider fabrics that cool, like cotton, bamboo, eucalyptus, or Tencel.
- Cotton percale, satin, and jersey-knit sheets tend to be breathable and lightweight, whereas sateen’s stiffer weave may be less comfortable.
- Thread count affects the breathability of a sheet. Cooler sheets have thread counts between 250 and 300. More than this, and the fabric allows for less ventilation. However, higher thread count sheets capture warmth.
Blanket features and considerations
People with arthritis should consider blanket weight, warmth, and suppleness of materials.
Two options contrast one another:7
- Lightweight blankets move with you as you sleep, taking pressure off joints while providing warmth and airflow.
- Weighted blankets — though it seems counterintuitive — can bring comfort to some people with arthritis. Also called gravity blankets or pressure blankets, they can help some relax at bedtime due to the hug-like contact that they provide.
For some people with arthritis pain, a warm bed allows them to wake up with less stiffness in the morning. For others, a cooler bed provides relief and comfort. Choose whatever allows you to sleep comfortably without pain, overheating, underheating, or pressure.
Blankets are made out of anything, from quilted cotton squares to tightly-woven synthetic fabrics to loosely knit yarns to snug woolen fibers. Your best bet? A blanket that moves with you as you sleep, which isn’t too heavy or too slippery.
Some people may choose to layer blankets during cold seasonal weather or even sleep without blankets during hot summers.
Keep in mind that a heavier blanket may be painful to lift and move with stiff, painful hands. And, a stiffer blanket won’t conform easily to your body.
Comforters, quilts, duvets & bedspreads
Some kinds of bedding — especially bedspreads and quilts — are meant only for decoration. You simply peel them away from the bed at night, then replace them when you make the bed. Meanwhile, others are designed for sleeping.
Lightweight washable quilts, duvets, and comforters made from supple natural fibers may be your best bet; they’re easiest to care for and soften with use.
Cleaning requirements matter. “Dry clean only” bedding may require you to remove, pack, and deliver unwieldy bedding to the cleaners. Meanwhile, if your bedding is washable, can your machine do the job? A duvet — the fabric case for a plush comforter — solves this problem. You simply remove and wash as needed. Make sure it’s easy to take off and put on.