Sciatica is a form of back pain caused by inflammation of the sciatic nerves, which run along the back, hips, and down the legs. Normally it only affects one side of the body, and severe cases may require surgery. Usually, sciatica is the result of a pinched nerve or herniated disc and, as you can imagine, this persistent pain can and does interrupt the sleep habits of those affected by it.
To ensure you get a good night’s rest, you need the best mattress for sciatica that relieves these sensitive pressure points and prevents any more back pain from developing. After all, your mattress is key to a comfortable, complete night of rest.
Amerisleep Mattresses for Sciatica
The AS2 is the perfect firmer mattress for sciatica patients— in fact, it was called “The Best Mattress for Back Pain” by Business Insider. Studies have shown a medium-firm mattress is the most effective firmness to alleviate back pain. This medium-firm mattress has 2 inches of Bio-Pur®, a 3-inch Affinity layer with HIVE® technology, and 7 inches of Bio-Core®.
The Amerisleep AS3 is our number one recommendation for sciatica patients. It’s our best-selling mattress because it appeals to side sleepers, combo sleepers, and couples with different sleep preferences. The perfect medium feel will appeal to those with back pain because it’s the perfect balance of softness and support. This medium mattress has 3 inches of Bio-Pur®, a 2-inch Affinity layer with HIVE®, and 7 inches of Bio-Core®.
For sciatica sufferers who need extra cushioning and a plush sleep surface, the Amerisleep AS5 will get the job done. This soft mattress contains one layer that the other four mattresses do not— the Active Flex. This layer acts as a responsive comfort foam, so while it’s keeping you cushioned, it also maintains even support under your back. The AS5 contains 3 inches of Bio-Pur®, 2 inches of Active Flex, a 2-inch Affinity layer with HIVE® technology, and 7 inches of Bio-Core®.
The comfort layer in each Amerisleep mattress is made using partially plant-based foam. Because of the additional plant-based oils in the foam, Bio-Pur® emits little to no off-gassing odor. This cooling, responsive layer bounces back five times faster than traditional memory foam, so you’ll feel cushioned and contoured without feeling stuck.
Active Flex Layer
The Active Flex Layer is only present in the Amerisleep AS5, our softest mattress. Even though the AS5 is super soft, the Active Flex Layer keeps the sleeper supported and steady on the surface of the mattress. It has a rapid response time, so combined with the Bio-Pur® and Affinity layers, those with sciatica can enjoy a cushioned surface without sinking down or feeling stuck.
Affinity Layer with HIVE® Technology
The Affinity layer with HIVE® acts as a transition layer between the soft Bio-Pur® and the firm Bio-Core®. HIVE® stands for Harnessing Intelligent Ventilation & Energy. The HIVE® technology in the Affinity layer contains hundreds of hexagonal-shaped cutouts that are more heavily concentrated where the body needs more support (in the hips, shoulders, and feet), and spaced further apart in areas where the body needs more cushioning.
Amerisleep’s Bio-Core® base layer supports all of their mattresses. Like the Bio-Pur®, Bio-Core® is made using low VPF manufacturing, exceeding the Clean Air Act standards. Bio-Pur® is the reason Amerisleep feels we can offer a 20-year warranty with all our beds— that’s 10 years longer than the industry standard.
What is Sciatica?
Because those with sciatica often deal with chronic back pain, their affliction is sometimes simply categorized under the umbrella of basic “back pain.” However, unlike back pain, sciatica always has a known source— the sciatic nerves.
The sciatic nerves are the body’s largest nerves. The five sciatic nerve roots run from the lower back and down the back of each leg, all the way to the toes. When they become compressed, it can lead to serious, uncomfortable pain. The most common symptoms of sciatica are:
- Lower back pain
- Radiating (throbbing) pain concentrated in areas where the sciatic nerves are
- Tingling and numbness
- Heat concentrated in sciatic nerve areas
- Muscle spasms
Many sciatica cases are caused by a herniated disc— “herniated” can mean the disc has slipped out of place, is inflamed, or has burst. This type of injury can be caused by physical trauma, such as a car accident, or other diseases like osteoarthritis, bone spurs, or spinal stenosis. However, most sciatica cases are caused by poor posture over a long period of time.
Sciatica can appear as early as young adulthood, but it most often flares up with older age (like many other back pain disorders). Other conditions that can cause sciatica include obesity, pregnancy, and diabetes.
Beyond physical conditions, sciatica can develop from prolonged sitting, such as in an office chair for many years. If your job is largely sedentary, take walking breaks or stand up every few hours to make sure you don’t get used to poor posture.
Unlike some types of back pain, sciatica can be treated and even eliminated with proper care. Always see a healthcare professional for the best individualized treatment.
If you’re just noticing the pain, you can start preventative measures such as:
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications (not a permanent solution)
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections (not a permanent solution)
If your pain is more severe and you’ve been diagnosed via x-ray or MRI, it might be time for surgery. Other less invasive treatment methods include:
- Ice packs
- Heating pads or hot packs
- Gentle stretching
How Sciatica Affects Sleep
Like most forms of back pain, sciatica can get better or worse when the patient lies down to sleep. Depending on their sleeping position, the already compressed nerves will either experience more pressure-build up or some kind of relief. Adjusting to the healthiest sleep position and choosing a mattress with the right firmness is critical for anyone with sciatica.
For further pain relief, those with sciatica may consider getting an adjustable base to go with their mattress, since this allows for specific posture adjustments.
Lower back pain is the most common symptom of sciatica, and studies have long linked this type of pain with insomnia (the most common sleep disorder). One 2015 study found that 43% of participants experienced insomnia due to chronic lower back pain, and 20% of that group was diagnosed with “clinically significant insomnia.”
The short-term effects of sleep deprivation are well known, and they include brain fog, daytime sleepiness, inability to make snap judgments, inability to pay attention, and slow reaction times. Left untreated, insomnia and sleep-deprivation can balloon to more serious issues, such as depression, anxiety, poor heart health, obesity, diabetes, and even increased mortality rates.
Besides investing in a comfortable, supportive mattress, you can develop bedtime habits targeted at pain relief and better sleep.
- Elevate the knees: Use a comfortable pillow between your legs to keep them slightly bent and elevated. This will release pressure off the back of your legs where the sciatic nerves run. Slightly elevating your legs also eases the pressure on your lower back.
- Take a warm bath: Not only can a warm bath help relieve muscle tension, but it also helps the body prepare for sleep. When you get out of a warm bath or shower, your body temperature begins to drop— this process initiates other mechanisms in the body that trigger sleep.
- Light stretching before bed: If your back feels stiff and achy after a long day, some light, gentle stretching before bed can ease the pain. However, stretching is not a permanent solution: sometimes it’s best to change your sleeping surface entirely.
Mattress Considerations for Sciatica Patients
Before you purchase the first mattress you see, you’ll need to consider a few mattress characteristics that could either help or hurt your condition. For instance, those with sciatica will want a bed with optimal pressure relief and little motion transfer— with this in mind, an innerspring mattress would be a poor choice.
Gone are the days when you could only try one type of mattress in a showroom— now, along with a variety of mattress types, customers have the option to buy their mattress online via bed in a box mattress brands who ship the mattress directly to the customer’s door. Buying a new mattress is no longer as stressful as it used to be, but knowing the basics of each mattress type will ensure you don’t have to try dozens of models before landing on the perfect one.
Like we mentioned earlier, innerspring mattresses are not the best choice for sciatica sufferers. That’s because their coil bases cause the surface to be incredibly responsive and bouncy— constant movements and jostling will irritate those already sensitive pressure points sciatica patients are so familiar with.
Innersprings are also more likely to develop sags quicker than any other mattress type— as a result, innersprings have the shortest lifespan of all mattress types (an average of 5 years). The steel coil support system offers little to no pressure relief, and over time the coils begin to permanently shape to the body, creating sags. An unsupportive, sagging mattress could lead to increased nerve pain and inflammation for those with sciatica.
Memory Foam and Other Foam Types
Memory foam is the most popular type of mattress for bed in a box brands, but you can also easily find them in mattress showrooms as demand for them grows. Memory foam is created with polyurethane foam processed with other chemicals to give it a viscoelastic feel— hence the more technical name of “viscoelastic foam.”
Memory foam responds quickly to pressure, contours closely to the body, and relieves pressure points without sacrificing any support. Though memory foam is known to trap body heat, many brands use cooling foams such as gel memory foam or copper-infused foam to mitigate this issue. Amerisleep’s Bio-Pur® foam is an advanced open-cell foam; the extra air channels within the material allow for excellent breathability.
While memory foam is the most popular type, mattresses utilize other foam types for different reasons, including cost and feel.
- Latex foam: Latex foam is contouring like memory foam, but it does feel slightly firmer and bouncier depending on the type of latex. All-natural latex, otherwise known as Dunlop latex, is the most eco-friendly type and also the firmest. Talalay latex has other chemicals added to it to create a softer feel— as a result, Talalay is a bit more expensive. Other forms of latex are synthetic and while they feel similar to Talalay and Dunlop, they are not as expensive.
- Poly-foam: Poly-foam, or polyurethane foam, is the base “ingredient” for memory foam. However, unlike memory foam, there are no added chemicals to give it that soft, responsive feel. It still feels nice to sleep on, but it doesn’t last as long and is more prone to premature sagging than memory foam. Poly-foam is often found in the bottom layers of a memory foam mattress or in the pillow tops or Euro tops of hybrid beds.
- Convoluted foam: Very few, if any, mattresses use convoluted foam in every layer. Because of its stiff, contouring structure, convoluted foam (also known as egg-crate foam) is usually used for the transition layers that go between the soft comfort layers on top and the firmer, denser layer on the bottom. Additionally, many mattress toppers are made of convoluted foam.
Overall, we recommend memory foam mattresses for sciatica sufferers because they have the best pressure relief, contouring, and conformability of any mattress type. If you’re concerned about heat build-up, choose a mattress with cooling technologies such as advanced open-cell foam or gel foam.
A high-quality memory foam mattress, if well-maintained, can last up to 8 years before developing any sags.
Hybrid mattresses are made of 50% foam and 50% coils— in order to be classified as a true hybrid, a mattress must have at least 2-3 inches of foam in its layers, and most hybrids have even more foam than this.
Hybrids usually contain 2-3 layers of foam on the top for comfort and pressure relief; the most common foams used are memory foam, poly-foam, and latex foam (or even blended foams that combine two foam types).
The base of a hybrid is not just made of steel coils— many mattress brands have begun to use individually-wrapped coils. By wrapping each coil in fabric or foam, the mattress has fewer motion transfer issues. As a result, the hybrid responds much better to pressure, keeping the user on the surface without making them feel stuck. What’s more, the springs in the base allow for better airflow than a memory foam bed.
Because they contain lots of materials, hybrids can be a bit more expensive than the other options listed here. They’re also cumbersome to move, and if you’re dealing with lower back pain, this can be a concern.
Keep in mind that despite their ingenuity, hybrids have only a slightly longer lifespan than innerspring beds— high-quality hybrids usually last only 6-7 years.
Most of us choose our mattresses based on firmness, or the “feel” of the bed. One of the top questions sciatica patients ask regarding a new mattress is which firmness is best— soft or firm?
For a long time, most people thought a soft mattress was the best solution for chronic pain sufferers. However, clinical studies have learned that a medium-firm mattress is actually the best choice for alleviating back pain and spinal misalignment. That’s because medium-firm beds offer a balanced amount of support and softness— they aren’t so soft to allow the hips to sink down and the back to misalign, and they deter sag after years of use.
If you’re shopping online, you can’t try out the mattress until it’s at your front door. However, thanks to sleep trials, you can try out the bed risk-free and return it within a specified time window if it ends up being incompatible with your needs. To avoid having to return your mattress at all, it helps to understand mattress firmness.
Many mattress brands classify their mattress models as “soft, medium-soft, medium-firm,” and so on. In order to label their mattresses this way, they use a mattress scale that starts at 1 and ends at 10. 1 is the softest, 10 is the firmest, and a 5 is the perfect medium. Keep in mind that companies may interpret this scale differently— what one brand classifies as a perfect 5, another might say is closer to a 6 or 7.
Mattresses rating on the far ends of this scale (1 or 10) are not that common since an extremely plush or rock-hard mattress would be impractical for most.
|Firmness Scale Rating||Feel|
Best and Worst Sleeping Positions for Sciatica
Besides firmness and mattress type, your sleeping position will be a major factor in deciding which mattress you buy. Certain sleeping positions are less conducive to pain relief, and we caution against those whenever possible (especially for sciatica patients).
Side sleepers are in one of the healthiest positions for spinal alignment, back support, unobstructed breathing, and even heart health. However, they are also at a higher risk for numbness and tingling in the limbs, especially if they sleep with their arms under their pillows.
Because those with sciatica are already at risk for muscle pain and numbness, they should be careful not to choose a mattress that will increase pressure around sensitive pressure points— for side-sleepers, these are the legs, arms, head, neck, and lower back. Most side sleepers prefer a medium mattress, while lighter weight folks might like a medium-soft mattress for a bit of extra cushioning.
Sleeping on the back is relatively healthy, especially for anyone with sciatica since it allows for even pressure across the back and consistent back support. However, back sleeping can be a risk factor for snoring and sleep apnea.
Someone who sleeps on their back should choose a medium-firm or even a firm mattress for the best, most consistent support— however, back sleepers with sciatica should consider a medium-firm mattress only, as a firm bed could irritate those already sensitive pressure points.
We do not recommend stomach sleeping, especially for anyone with chronic back pain. Sleeping on the stomach causes gravity to press down on the midsection, forcing it to sink down into the mattress and curving the spine unnaturally. As a result, stomach sleepers often wake up with stiff, achy joints.
If you sleep on your stomach, try and teach yourself to sleep in a different position, like on your side. You can train yourself to sleep this way by using a pillow between your legs or trying out an adjustable bed, which lets you elevate your legs and head to a customized angle.
The last thing to consider before you make a big purchase is the company you’re buying from— what is their warranty? How long does the sleep trial last? Do they have a return policy? All of these things should influence your purchase.
The standard for mattress brands everywhere is a 10-year warranty— this length of time matches up with the average mattress lifespan (around 7-10 years). If the mattress you’re considering has a warranty shorter than this, we suggest looking elsewhere.
Most mattress warranties cover the same things, with a few variations, additions, and exclusions depending on the brand:
- Sagging: Most brands cover sags measuring 1 inch or deeper; however, if you’re experiencing aggravated back pain, waiting for a sag to get to this point could make your pain and sleep worse. We recommend choosing companies with more generous sag protection, such as those that cover sagging of less than 1 inch.
- Tears or rips: If your mattress arrives with cosmetic damage, most, if not all companies will repair or replace the mattress at no cost to you. Keep in mind that any damages like this caused by you are not covered by the warranty.
- Broken zippers: If the mattress has a removable cover and the zipper is broken, this is typically covered in the warranty.
To protect your warranty, use your mattress on the correct base (outlined in the warranty) and put a mattress protector on the bed as soon as you get it. A mattress protector will repel any stains, bed bugs, or other things that could damage the mattress.
A trial period of 30-90 days is typical for brands that offer sleep trials. We recommend choosing one with a sleep trial of at least 90 days since this gives you a full three months to try out the bed and then return it within that time frame if you find it’s not suitable. Amerisleep offers a 100-night trial, during which the customer may initiate a pick-up and receive a full refund.
If a company has a sleep trial, the return policy usually works in tandem with that trial period. However, some brands do not offer any sleep trial, replacing it instead with a customer satisfaction guarantee. Most guarantees like this only allow the customer 30 days to try out and return the mattress, and they aren’t always risk-free. If you’re buying your mattress online, we recommend choosing one with a sleep trial and a generous return policy.
Can adjustable beds help with sciatica?
Adjustable beds are a great investment for anyone with lower back pain, including those with sciatica. Adjustable beds allow you to elevate your head and legs to a healthy posture, allowing you to sleep pain-free. Adjustable beds are remote-controlled and even work with split king or split queen beds— that means couples with different sleep preferences can both rest easy with an adjustable bed.
What is the best type of mattress for back pain?
For back pain sufferers, we recommend a mattress with excellent pressure relief, contouring, ample back support, and a long lifespan (at least 7-10 years). As for mattress type, the best mattress for back pain is memory foam or latex foam. Some hybrids may also work for sciatica, but they are more prone to sagging than memory foam or latex beds.
What mattress firmness is best for lower back pain?
Sciatica pain often originates in the lower back, and so a mattress that supports this area and eases pressure on it will be a welcome relief. We recommend a medium-firm or medium mattress for those with lower back pain, as these firmnesses offer a balance of support and softness.
Is a hard or soft bed better for sciatica?
If you’re dealing with sciatica, we recommend a medium mattress like the Amerisleep AS3. However, if you prefer a firmer surface with less give, we recommend a medium-firm bed, which has just a little bit less cushioning but an equal amount of support from the Bio-Core® base. Finally, if you prefer a softer bed, the AS5 is a soft mattress with an Active Flex® layer which keeps you supported while cushioning those sensitive pressure points.
Sleeping Better with Sciatic Nerve Pain
If you’re dealing with sciatic pain, sleeping soundly can be a struggle. Thankfully, there are plenty of firmness options and mattress types available to meet your needs. Pay special attention to mattresses that offer motion isolation, pressure relief, and a breathable, soft top layer for cushioning. You’ll soon be on your way to a good night’s sleep!
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.