Your Bed, Your Haven: Choosing the Right Sleep Surface

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
04/04/23  12:18 PM PST
Choosing the Right Mattress for Spinal Cord Injury

A Good Bed Can Enhance Your Life

When I think about where I spend most of my time, I can narrow it down to two places – my wheelchair or my bed. My wheelchair has been measured, designed and tested out for my exact liking, so why shouldn’t my bed be considered in the same way?

After six months of in-patient care, laying in a hospital bed, I moved temporarily to a motel bed that was far from comfortable or adjustable like the one in in my hospital room. I was propped up with pillows and rolled up towels in an attempt to give the same therapeutic support that the hospital bed allowed. Over time, I figured out what worked best for me as I moved from different homes to different mattresses.

Mattress and Frame

I have a cervical spinal cord injury, rendering reduced mobility of all four of my limbs. Thus, I rest heavily in one or two positions all through the night. I have hypersensitivity in my shoulders, tailbone, ankles and heels, so a plush, responsive air mattress that automatically adjusts to my body position throughout the night is my preference to prevent pressure sores. (I wrote a blog about pressure sores here.)

Additionally, I prefer a bed frame with a head and foot board to combat against foot drop. I wedge a pillow at the end of my bed to allow for my feet to be at a 90 degree angle while I sleep. I have also used what my wife calls “moon boots”. The searchable name is contracture boots, however I have found them to be difficult to maneuver in and out of bed since they are very bulky. If your feet need stability, I suggest using these while watching TV on the couch or chair.


Now that we have figured out the bed frame and the mattress, we need to decide on pillows. Currently, I use five every night. Each pillow has a different use, size and firmness. It may not look aesthetically pleasing, but they all serve a purpose! I believe switching out pillows regularly help with avoiding pressure sores and hot spots. I invest in high quality pillows. Since they are in rotation, they do not break down as quickly as lower quality pillows that are used daily, making them worth the dollar amount. When shopping for your pillows, or any bed related items, look for longer return windows. This will ensure that you buy what works for you and you are not out the money for something that ends up not working. In addition to the pillows, I keep a rolled up hand towel at my bedside which I use to help keep the natural curvature of my spine. Since my injury level is C4,5,6 and I have an anterior fusion, I am mindful of allowing my neck and spine the rest and relaxation it needs.

Bed Linens

As for sheets, my wife usually picks those! But I prefer 100% cotton as it breathes better and can deal with night sweats easily. Cotton sheets also wash nicely if there are any accidents resulting in stains. Speaking of stains, make sure to add a waterproof mattress cover! It is far easier to change (and spend money on) a ruined mattress pad than a new mattress.

Sleep Number Mattresses

Last year I had the privilege of working with Sleep Number on a commercial, “Rising to the Challenge”. You can watch the video here.

The Sleep Number adjustable bed frame and mattress has been the finest sleep solution I have ever experienced and has significantly improved my quality of rest, which in-turn enhances my vitality, activity and productivity throughout the day. I elaborate more on the importance of quality sleep in a blog titled “Sleeping With A Spinal Cord Injury”; you can read it here.

I am well aware of the luxury and the retail price tag of a hospital bed or high-end mattress. An alternative is simply an adjustable bed frame, which is a fraction of the cost of a Sleep Number and can offer many of the same benefits. Check out your local resale online site, or even a floor model from a mattress store!

My advice is to invest in your sanctuary, in your “zen zone” and a mattress that meets your needs. Your body and mind will thank you.

Rest well, friends.


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I have been paralyzed from the waist down since 2013. I’ve been steadily gaining weight since then, and I’m starting to get self-conscious about it, especially since people already stare at me in my wheelchair. What are some exercises, things I can do to help me lose this extra weight?
Hi James! I'm sorry to hear about your accident, but it sounds like you're motivated to be as strong as possible. Good man! I also had a lean body before my injury. In my experience, nutrition and physical activity are the most effective ways to manage my weight. I have learned that by eating...


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