Best Mattresses for Sciatica

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Sciatica is a medical condition characterized by chronic pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve, which travels down the lower back, hips, buttocks, and legs. Most people with sciatica experience pain most prominently on one side of their body, although both sides may be affected. In addition to chronic pain, sciatica patients routine experience numbness and weakness on their affected side(s). More serious complications include loss of bladder and bowel function.

As with chronic back pain and other painful disorders like scoliosis, choosing the right mattress can significantly improve sleep quality and duration for people with sciatica. According to customer and owner experiences, people with sciatica typically prefer mattresses made of materials like memory foam and/or latex that conform closely and provide above-average pain and pressure relief. Additionally, mattresses that isolate motion and produce little to no noise are often most suitable for people with sciatica that need to frequently visit the bathroom during the night.

This guide will explore common causes and symptoms of sciatica, discuss unique sleep considerations linked to the condition, provide some tips for mattress buyers, and list our picks for the best mattresses for sciatica sold today.

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments of Sciatica

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of sciatica include:

  • Herniated disc: Intervertebral discs are round, fibrous areas of the spine containing a jelly-like substance. Herniated discs, also known as slipped or ruptured discs, occur when the tears develop in the exterior of the disc. This causes the rest of the disk to bulge, and it may cause sciatica if the bulging comes into contact with the sciatic nerve.
  • Bone spur: The term ‘bone spur’ (also known as exostosis) refers to irregular bone formations that develop on the surfaces of existing bones. Bone spurs on the spine often lead to sciatica.
  • Spinal stenosis: Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal becomes narrower. This process puts pressure on nearby nerves, including the sciatic nerve.

Additionally, the Mayo Clinic identifies the following risk factors for sciatica:

  • Age: Older people are at greater risk for sciatica due to natural changes that affect the spine over time.
  • Obesity: Excess weight creates stress that puts added pressure on the spine.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes poses a high risk of nerve damage throughout the body, so sciatica is more likely to occur with diabetic people.
  • Occupation: Jobs that include heavy lifting, pulling, and other types of manual labor can trigger sciatic nerve pain — as can jobs that require prolonged sitting, which puts more pressure on the spine.

The most telling symptom of sciatica is radiating pain that travels down the lower back and hips, then the buttocks and leg on one side (if not both). The pain may range from light to severe, but in most cases the condition will cause moderate discomfort or worse. Burning and shooting sensations in the affected areas often accompany the pain, as well as numbness and weakness. Some sciatica patients lose control of their bladder and bowel functions, but this symptom is less common.

Mild sciatica may not necessitate medical treatment. For more serious cases, the following treatments may be used:

  • Medication: Depending on the patient, medications for sciatica may include:
    • Anti-inflammatories
    • Muscle relaxants
    • Prescription narcotics
    • Antidepressants
    • Anti-seizure medications
  • Physical therapy: Rehabilitation regimens are commonly prescribed for sciatica patients. These routines often target flexibility, posture, and muscle strength.
  • Steroid injections: Corticosteroid injections may be prescribed in more severe sciatica cases. These involve an injection directly into the sciatic nerve root. These injections carry potentially serious side effects, and will usually be prescribed sparingly; the effects typically last for a few months.
  • Surgery: Serious sciatica cases that require surgery include those that involve loss of bladder or bowel control, as well as severe and persistent shooting pain due to bone spurs or herniated discs.

In order to reduce your risk of developing sciatic nerve pain, the following preventative measures can be taken:

  • Develop an exercise routine that emphasizes the back and lower abdomen muscles.
  • Maintain correct posture when working by sitting in a chair with lower back support and keeping your knees and hips aligned.
  • Employ proper techniques for strenuous activities, such as lifting heavy objects with your back and resting your feet if you stand for long periods of time

People with sciatica can also address their condition by improving their sleep. For many, a new mattress brings about positive changes in comfort, support, and sleep quality. In the next section, we’ll look at some mattress factors to consider for those affected by sciatic nerve pain.

Mattress and Sleep Factors for People with Sciatica

When shopping for a new mattress, people with sciatica are urged to inquire about the following qualities and characteristics:

  • Support: When discussing mattresses, ‘support’ refers to a bed’s ability to maintain an even, level surface. Supportive mattresses provide a stable surface throughout the night and help sleepers align their shoulders, spine, and hips; alleviates pain and pressure points throughout the body. Mattresses that are either too firm or too soft often lack proper support. The bed’s support core — the bottom layers — also impact support by reinforcing the topmost layers and bearing the sleeper’s weight.
  • Firmness: Firmness is often tied to support, but the two terms refer to different qualities. Firmness is how soft or firm a mattress feels to different sleepers, and is measured on a 1-10 scale with 1 being the softest and 10 being the firmest. Most mattresses sold today fall between a ‘3,’ or Soft, and an ‘8,’ or Firm. Generally, firmer mattresses are more suitable for heavier individuals (more than 230 pounds) because they provide a comfortable sleep surface without sinking too much. Lighter individuals (less than 130 pounds) may prefer softer mattresses instead; firmer models may not conform closely enough, and pressure points are likelier to develop.
  • Conforming ability: Some mattress types, such as memory foam and latex models, are designed to sink beneath the sleeper’s body and form a mold-shaped impression around their unique contours. This helps align the spine, and aids in pain and pressure relief. Hybrid mattresses with thick comfort layers also conform to a noticeable extent, but innersprings typically provide little to no conforming.
  • Thickness: In addition to the comfort layer thickness, overall mattress thickness is another important consideration for sleepers with sciatica. Thicker mattresses (10 inches or thicker) tend to provide better support and closer conforming compared to thinner models.
  • Durability: The average mattress needs to be replaced every seven years, but the lifespan of a given mattress model may be at least one to two years shorter. As mattresses age, their materials begin to degrade and break down; this can cause sagging and indentations to form in the sleep surface, which both compromise support and often lead to aches and pains.
  • Motion isolation: Motion transfer occurs when a sleeper gets into or out of bed, or shifts positions during the night. Some mattresses isolate this motion transfer and prevent it from spreading to other areas of the bed, while others do not minimize transfer to a noticeable extent. Motion isolation is important for sleepers with sciatica because they often toss and turn due to discomfort, especially if the sleeper shares his or her bed with another person.
  • Noise: Not surprisingly, louder mattresses tend to affect sleep quality more than quieter ones. Most mattresses made from foam and/or latex are virtually silent, while innersprings, hybrids, and airbeds tend to produce a fair amount of noise. Quieter beds also cause fewer sleep disruptions for people who share their bed with a sciatica patient who tosses and turns.

Important Considerations for Mattress Shoppers with Sciatica

Next, let’s look at some key variables for people with sciatica to consider when comparing different brands and models.

What is your mattress budget?

The average mattress costs more than $1,000 in a Queen size. However, some mattress types (such as memory foam and innerspring models) have lower-than-average price-points compared to other types (such as latex, hybrid, and airbed models). If you order your mattress online, also take shipping costs into account — especially if you live outside the contiguous U.S., since most U.S.-based brands will only ship mattresses for free within the lower 48 states.

Which mattress type is best for sciatica?

Memory foam, latex, innerspring, hybrid, and airbed mattresses all have unique pros and cons. For people with sciatica, it’s important to consider factors like support, durability, motion isolation, and noise; memory foam and latex mattresses tend to outperform other mattress types in these categories.

Do you toss and turn or experience bladder/bowel control issues due to sciatica?

If the answer is yes and sleep with someone else, then a mattress that isolates motion and produces little to no noise will likely be the best option. Memory foam and latex mattresses typically earn the highest customer ratings for motion isolation and noise potential.

How thick is the comfort layer of the mattress you're considering?

Thicker comfort layers — especially those containing memory foam and/or latex — tend to conform the closest, which helps align the spine and alleviate pressure in areas affected by sciatica.

Does the mattress come with a sleep trial?

The vast majority of today’s mattress brands offer sleep trials, which allow customers to test out the mattress for a given length of time (typically 90 nights or longer) and then return the mattress for a full or partial refund if they are not satisfied. Sleep trials can be a useful way to try out a mattress before committing to a full purchase — but beware of hidden costs, as some brands charge expensive return fees.

How long is the mattress covered under warranty?

The mattress warranty is an important consideration, even though most owners never have to use it. Most mattress warranties span 10 years or longer, and some surpass 20 years in length. However, the length of nonprorated coverage is more important than the overall length. During nonprorated coverage, mattress owners pay little (if anything) to have their bed repaired or replaced when defects occur. When prorated coverage kicks in, they must pay a percentage of the original price for repairs and replacements, and this percentage often increases with each passing year — resulting in hundreds of dollars in extra costs for some. Some mattress warranties last 10 or more years, but only provide one to two years of nonprorated coverage.

Best Mattresses for Sciatica: Brands and Models

Now, let’s look at the best mattresses for sciatica according to people who use them. The following five models have earned the highest satisfaction ratings from sleepers with sciatica. To read our reviews of these brands, please click the links found in the top row of the table.

Brand Layla Sleep Nectar Sleep Nest Bedding Purple Saatva
Model Layla Mattress Nectar Mattress Alexander Signature The New Purple Loom & Leaf Mattress
Price (Queen) $799 $824 $1,199 $1,599 to $2,799 $1,099
Mattress Type Memory foam
(Flippable)
Memory foam Memory foam Buckling column gel hybrid Memory foam
Thickness 10″ 11″ 12 1/2″ 11″
12″
13″
12″
Comfort Layer 1″ to 3″ memory foam
2″ polyfoam (Side 1 only)
4″ memory foam 2 1/2″ to 3 1/2″ memory foam
2″ polyfoam
2″ to 4″ Buckling column gel 4 1/2″ memory foam
Support Core 4 1/2″ polyfoam 7″ polyfoam 6″ to 7″ polyfoam 7 1/2″ pocketed coils 7 1/2″ polyfoam
Firmness Options Side 1: 4 (Medium Soft)
Side 2: 7 (Firm)
6 (Medium Firm) 5.5 (Medium)
7.5 (Firm)
4.5 (Medium Firm)
5.5 (Medium)
6.5 (Medium Firm)
5.5 (Medium)
8 (Firm)
Sleep Trial 120 nights 365 nights Lifetime guarantee
Free returns within 100 nights
100 nights 120 nights
Warranty Length Lifetime
All nonprorated
Lifetime
10 years nonprorated
Lifetime
All nonprorated
10 years
All nonprorated
15 years
2 nonprorated

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