Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) struggle to sleep well. If bladder problems, spasticity, pain, or other sleep disturbances related to MS keep you awake at night, you aren’t alone. Because poor sleep can exacerbate MS symptoms during the day, it’s important to rest well.
“Up all night again,” one MyMSTeam member wrote. “I want to sleep so badly, but I’m not falling asleep.” Another said, “Can’t sleep, and I should be SO asleep after a very busy day, but no.”
Here’s what you need to know to find the best possible mattress for you. Doing so may help you improve your quality of sleep, quality of life, and overall sense of well-being with MS.
Many MyMSTeam members report having trouble sleeping. As one wrote, this is often due to discomfort: “I have so much pain I use five pillows, but still can’t sleep well. Sometimes, I sleep in a chair or propped up on pillows in the guest bed in a corner, so most of my weight is on my butt and not on my back.”
“I cannot get comfortable,” wrote another member, adding that they experience “sleepless nights tumbling, trying to get comfortable.”
A number of members have given up on sleeping in a bed because they can’t find a comfortable mattress or position. One explained, “I’ve been sleeping on the couch for a couple of reasons, but one is I can’t get comfortable in my bed at all.” Another added, “It’s just so annoying trying to sleep, and then, when I do, I wake up so sore, and it's harder and harder getting out of bed. I’ve tried different mattress pads and sleeping on the couch when I just can’t sleep in bed anymore, and that is OK until I have to wake up and try to get up (sore again).”
Sleep problems can be so frustrating that many members jump online to ask about beds that work for other people. Some are willing to try almost anything just to sleep better, like one member who asked, “Has anyone tried a magnetic mattress pad, and did you notice any difference? I’m wondering if it would decrease my back muscle spasms. I know many things are just gimmicks, but some actually do help.”
MyMSTeam members say people with MS should weigh several factors before buying a mattress.
The wide variety of mattresses out there includes foam, latex, traditional innerspring, and hybrid types. Some people swear by a certain kind of mattress because it works so well for them.
One member shared, “Personally, I have fallen in love with a foam mattress.” Another wrote that they “have a sleep number (Select Comfort). I love it.”
Even if one type of mattress brings good results, it’s worth trying something else now and then, as one member found: “A Tempur-Pedic helped for a while, but now a twin memory foam with gel helps the most.”
Many mattress companies offer trials so you can see how a mattress might work for you long term. These trial periods, which typically range from one month to several months, can give you a better sense of a mattress’s comfort than you would get by testing it for a few minutes in a store.
If you tend to get too hot or too cold in bed, you may want to try a mattress with cooling technology or one that is breathable and does not absorb body heat. This is another reason to choose a mattress that you can test for a while and then return if it doesn’t work for you.
One MyMSTeam member discovered that the bed they wanted caused overheating. “I really wanted to like the Tempur-Pedic,” they shared, “but I get night sweats and cramps in my legs, and the few times I slept on one in a relative’s guest room, I found it to be too hot!”
Mattresses come in different levels of firmness, which relates to how much support they offer your body. Your preference may have to do with your sleeping position. Back sleepers, for instance, may need a different amount of firmness than side sleepers.
Many MyMSTeam members love medium-firm or firm mattresses, though there’s no research available regarding what people with MS prefer overall.
“I have a firm Sealy Posturepedic. Love it!” one member shared. Another wrote, “Memory foam, very firm,” when asked about their type of mattress. “Firmness is much better for my back,” explained another member.
Some people noted that their mattress preferences have evolved. “I’ve found that my MS has changed over the years,” one member wrote. “I used to require a very hard mattress to be comfortable. Then I required a very soft mattress. No, it doesn’t really matter, but I prefer a memory foam mattress.”
Others find that their firmness needs can change based on how they feel from day to day. “We bought a Tempur-Pedic that has adjustable firmness and an adjustable mattress,” one member explained. “I wanted something that would give me good support but that I could make less firm if I needed.” With a bed like this, you can alleviate stress on pressure points or find pressure relief when you need it.
Many people with MS find that they prefer beds they can adjust based on changing comfort needs. One MyMSTeam member summed it up this way: “A quality adjustable bed is the best for my MS aches and pains. Considerable improvement.”
“I have a firm Tempur-Pedic,” another member shared. “I LOVE it. The head of the bed and the feet can raise or lower.“ Another wrote, “We have Sleep Comfort adjustable beds, and they were well worth the investment!”
Yet another member added, “I ended up purchasing a Tempur-Pedic mattress. I haven’t been able to sleep flat for years, and the investment has finally brought sleep back to me for most nights.”
A final factor to consider when buying a bed is how easily you can move around on it and get out of it. Contouring beds may be good for some but not others, especially people with mobility issues.
Ease of movement can be a significant problem for some people with MS. “I have been through about four beds over the last two years, due to me not being able to move around in it or get out of the beds,” one member wrote. Another added, “With a pillow top, I couldn’t roll over at all!“
People with MS may want to choose a bed that is easier to get out of to conserve strength for the rest of the day. As one member explained, “I have a Vera Wang Serta memory foam. The one downside is I have problems turning over or just rising up to get out of bed. It really does mold around you and uses a lot of what strength you have to start your day with.”
If you can’t afford a new mattress or don’t want to buy one right now, you have other options for getting comfortable at night.
Many members love using mattress toppers to improve sleep and comfort. “Try the foam toppers. They are very comfortable,” one recommended. Another said, “I got a gel memory foam topper from the Amazon marketplace warehouse,” while another member wrote, “We got one of those mattress toppers at Costco — just like Tempur-Pedic, but cheaper.”
You may also choose a mattress topper for other reasons, such as cooling your bed. This worked for one member, who explained, “I bought a cool blue cooling gel mattress topper at the Sleep Number store. It has made all the difference in the world. It doesn’t make you hot, yet it cushions the bed, so I feel like I’m sleeping on a cloud.”
Some people find that pillows can give them support exactly where they need it.
One MyMSTeam member explained how she arranges pillows under her legs and lower back: “I suggest sleeping with your torso and head slightly elevated. To do this, I turn a king-size pillow lengthwise, and not crosswise like normal. I place one end of the lengthwise pillow at the small of my back. Then, I add a second pillow crossways, directly on top of the first pillow. Next, I use the third pillow to tent my knees. Place it in the crook of the knees. It props the knees up pretty high.”
Another member shared their tips: “If I sleep on my side, I need a pillow that holds my head up high enough to be in perfect alignment with my back. I do this position by doubling the pillow onto itself under my head. I also use a squishy pillow to cushion my knees to keep my legs level with both sides of my hips.”
Are you or a loved one living with multiple sclerosis? Consider joining MyMSTeam today. Here, you can share your story, ask questions, and join conversations. You’ll find yourself surrounded by a team of people who know exactly what it’s like to live with MS every day.
Do you have trouble sleeping at night because of MS? Do you want to find a new mattress, but you’re not sure where to start? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or by posting on MyMSTeam.