If you’ve spent any amount of time researching a quality mattress, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the term “pressure points” thrown around a fair bit.
It can sometimes seem like another one of those buzzwords in the mattress world – something bad that such-and-such brand of mattress is supposed to help with.
In reality, though, pressure points are actually a very real and serious issue, and a critical consideration you should take into account in your mattress buying process.
So just what are pressure points, anyway – and why do they matter to you?
What Are Pressure Points?
In mattress lingo, a pressure point is basically any area of the body that feels uncomfortable when you lie down.
They’re all the bits of your body that stick out and take on more pressure than the rest of you, and they’re most commonly found in the hips, shoulders, and knees.
We have pressure points because our bodies are bumpy, and if we lie down on a mattress that’s too soft or too hard, it’s pretty much impossible for us to evenly distribute weight across everything that’s in contact with the surface.
Why Do We Get Them?
Technically, you probably experience a ton of different pressure points throughout your average day.
If you’re sitting in a bad seat, for instance, your leg or buttocks might start to feel uncomfortable after a little while, and you’ll just shift positions to account for that.
You do this mostly unconsciously, and it’s not a big deal because you’re awake and moving around.
At night, though, it’s a whole different story.
Your body goes completely limp when you sleep.
You’re not fidgeting around like you do throughout the day, and your muscles can’t support you like they can when you’re sitting in a chair or on the floor.
This means that it’s all on your mattress to help out – and if you don’t have the right one, a bunch of soft tissues in your body are going to end up getting pinched because of the pressure between the mattress and your bones.
This restricts blood flow, leading to uncomfortable sleep and that awful stiffness and pins and needles feeling you sometimes get if you sleep wrong on a certain part of your body.
Where Are Your Pressure Points?
There are a lot of different factors that go into determining where all your different pressure points might be.
It all has to do with the shape of your body, the support provided by your mattress, and the position you prefer to sleep in.
Your Sleeping Position & Pressure Points
If you sleep on your back, for instance, you’re more likely to develop pressure points around areas like your heels, tailbone, and shoulders.
Stomach sleepers, on the other hand, run the risk of pressure points on their ribcage, thigh, and knees (especially if the mattress they’re sleeping on is too soft.)
And finally, if you sleep on your side, your hip and the knee and shoulder you sleep on are all much more at risk.
This is particularly true if your mattress is too firm.
Men’s vs. Women’s Pressure Points
Your pressure point positions also vary based on your sex.
Men tend to have higher centers of mass, meaning their shoulders and upper bodies are more likely to experience discomfort.
Women, on the other hand, tend to have pressure points more focused around their hips.
It all just has to do with your figure and the way your mattress responds to you.
How Good Mattresses Help with Pressure Points
Keep in mind, though – so far, we’ve just been talking about the parts of the body that are most likely to develop pressure points.
If you have a quality mattress, however, this isn’t something you’re going to have to worry about.
The best mattresses have the perfect amount of upward thrust – that is, they’re able to push up and provide support for every part of the body.
A mattress with proper give and support will totally eliminate pressure points while you sleep, leading to less tossing and turning, fewer aches and pains on waking, and overall better-quality rest.
Innerspring Mattress Pressure Points
Traditional innerspring mattresses – the cheapest, most popular style of mattress on the market, and the one you’re probably most familiar with – tend to fair the worst in the pressure point department.
Most kinds of coils provide the exact same amount of upward thrust at every point, which is actually bad for pressure points.
You want a mattress provides the same amount of pressure for every part of your body that’s in contact with it.
Your mattress should conform to you, not the other way round!
Some kinds of innerspring mattresses are better at this than others, though.
Pocket springs, for instance, are individually wrapped, which allows for much better support.
The springs sink in more with the parts of the body that are taking more weight, while the parts of the body taking less weight experience less upward thrust.
This allows for more even pressure distribution across your entire body.
Foam Mattress Pressure Points
But even the best innerspring mattresses don’t provide the same kind of even pressure relief as memory foam.
In theory, at least, memory foam mattresses conform perfectly to the shape of your body, totally eliminating the possibility of pressure points.
Basically, foam mattresses are made of a material that softens in response to heat and pressure.
This means that all the lumpy bits of your body can sink in instead of taking undue pressure, minimizing the risk of pressure points.
Latex Mattress Pressure Points
Latex mattresses take all the advantages of memory foam and go one step further.
Instead of requiring heat to let every part of your body sink as much as it needs, latex does this naturally.
By its very nature, latex gives and springs back into shape in response to your body.
This means latex mattresses (especially ones made from 100% natural materials) can provide the same kind of pressure point relief as foam mattress, only without the same tendency to sleep hot.
Pressure Points and Adjustable Beds
Pocket coils, memory foam, and latex all provide pretty solid solutions to the problem of pressure points.
If for some reason none of those work for you, though, you might want to consider investing in an adjustable bed and mattress.
To be clear, you probably don’t want to go around spending this much money because of pressure points alone.
Adjustable beds tend to be quite expensive, and they’re typically only necessary if you’re experiencing serious medical issues.
That said, certain conditions can exacerbate the discomfort of pressure points, making an adjustable bed more of a viable solution.
Adjustable beds can change the angle of your body while you sleep, relieving pressure on certain areas (most commonly the lower back).
Some of them also come with adjustable firmness levels, offering just another level of pressure relief for certain areas of your body.
You can read our full article on the pros and cons of adjustable beds, but keep in mind that there are a lot of other solutions out there for you.
Or read this if you’re looking for a mattress to help with your chronic back pain.
Switch Up Your Sleeping Position to Hit the Right Pressure Points
Now, no matter what kind of mattress you’re looking at, this is never a decision you can juts rush into.
There are a lot of things you have to consider, and this is a pretty serious investment!
That’s why it’s often in your best interests to try out every possible solution before shelling out however many hundred dollars that new mattress is going to cost.
One good way to go about doing this is simply by switching up your sleep position.
It might feel strange or uncomfortable at first, but simply adjusting the way your body lies at night can have a huge impact on your sleep.
Sleeping on your back is typically the best way to reduce the number of pressure points your body experiences.
This sleep position does a pretty good job of evenly distributing weight across a big chunk of your body, since your back has fewer bumps and hollows than either your stomach or your side.
Side sleeping, in fact, is probably the worst in terms of pressure points.
You’re concentrating your weight into a much smaller area, and there are just a lot more chances for parts of your body to accidentally get crushed during the night.
If you just can’t shake your side sleeping habit, though, consider putting a pillow, blanket, or towel in between your knees.
This should help some!
Conclusion About Pressure Points and Mattresses
Pressure points are tricky business, but they’re not something you should ever just accept.
There are plenty of options out there that can easily help relieve the pain that comes with sleeping on the wrong kind of mattress.
Never settle for less than the best when it comes to the quality of your sleep.
Just know your options, think things through, and kiss those awkward pressure points goodbye!
Founder and Owner
Ted is the founder and owner of Mattress Guides and is an expert in his field. Ted believes that having the right mattress is key to getting a good night’s sleep and feeling well-rested in the morning.
Updated at November 6, 2020