Back Pain When Sleeping? Need a More Portable Bed?

Over the years as a college student, I have lived in many apartments. I can safely say one of the most stressful experiences is moving in/out of college apartments. I remember first stepping into my new room and when I noticed how it is literally just an empty space with a closet for clothes, I am already thinking about the items to get. At the minimum, I would need: a desk, a drawer, a bed, various kitchenware, and bathroom supplies.

For my first apartment, it was as if I brought everything from my actual home with me to the new place. When it came to moving out, it was a HUGE hassle because there were so many things I actually did not need. With time, I began to grow more efficient and wise with what items to bring. It was to the point where I was able to even eliminate a bed. Then, how did I sleep you may wonder? Well before I get into that, here is a history of the beds I used and why I prefer what I use today.

The Bed I Grew Up With

After a very long busy day, the first thing anyone would want to do upon arriving home is to jump onto that nice soft bouncy bed. At the time, soft, bouncy beds were like the thing. (Imagine renting a 5 star hotel and you see a big, soft bed). It feels extremely nice and as if sleeping on a cloud. To own one of those high quality soft beds would seem like a dream come true.

I guess whenever my family decides to go on long trips, we would rent a hotel. We would get to sleep on those really nice beds I had always dreamed of. Those beds feel GREAT compared to my own at home! But something came up after sleeping on those beds for several nights. My back became quite sore…

Perhaps it was from carrying around heavy luggage? I mean I was kind of fit so that shouldn’t be the case. I couldn’t figure out why at the time and my back got better eventually so it just left my mind.

What Happened With Time

As I grew older and reached adulthood, my body size and weight grew too and I was a little overweight as well. I didn’t have the body shape of a teenager anymore but was still exercising so I was still in fairly good shape. But, my back started to ache more and more with time.

I thought it was normal and perhaps from my exercise routines. Plus it was similar to the workout soreness I get so it was no big deal. When I had the opportunity to sleep on super soft hotel beds again (from going on trips), it was then that I realized how much more my back was hurting. After leaving the hotel to return home, my back would improve slightly. It was then that I realize…the possible reason for my back pain could be due to the soft bed!

Why I Developed Back Pain?

When I sleep on extra soft beds, my body has a tendency to sink into the center most likely just from my weight alone. The center of the bed also has a tendency to sink in just because of its infrastructure. The sides of the bed has a lot of structural support so it will not collapse in, but the only thing supporting the center of the bed is just the springs.

Naturally, our body prefers a fairly straight posture as it allows for optimal movement and distribution of body weight. However, since my body is sunk in the way it does on soft beds (a VERY rounded back), it puts a lot of strain on my back muscles. I imagine my body as if it were super slouching for 8 hours straight without moving while working on the computer and then trying to move after that. My back would ache like crazy (and it does!).

How Do Muscles Work?

Like with any muscle groups, when they are stretched beyond its limitation or normal positioning, it will tighten up and prevent normal contraction. It is when we try to perform our “normal” body positioning/movement (no longer normal) when it now can’t, that is when the tightness and pain will start to kick in.

This is pretty much the same as getting a muscle cramp when partaking in sports. Before the injury, the calf (let’s say) can contract and extend normally which is good for running. However, when the calf is injured, the muscle tightens up (the muscle fibers remain locked in place and refuses to let go) so much that it is not able to contract/extend as it normally would.

Normally, muscle fibers would glide past each other smoothly (during contraction). The calf muscle after the cramp injury would be so tight that trying to move in the normal manner is pretty much impossible and pain usually follows. This is why stretching after a muscle cramp is highly recommended to release those locked muscle fibers). You do not want those fibers to remain locked for a long period since it would lead to a longer period of soreness and pain.

What I did Next?

My mom and I have thought about it for a some time, but we’ve always wanted to switch to beds made of wood because of the firmness and health benefits. Health benefits of sleeping on firm beds include:

  • Improved back positioning/posture
  • Relief of neck and/or back pain
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved sleep

So when we finally did switch to those firmer beds, guess what? My back pain disappeared for good.

So What “Bed” Do I Use in the Apartments?

So now back to the apartment dilemma. The firmer beds can be a hassle to move just due to the sheer mass and heaviness of it. At home, it is nice to have a bed just out of formality. But as a college student living in the apartments, all we want is what does the job and is cheap. So what did I do?

A firmer, wooden bed is equivalent to sleeping on the floor. Pretty simple right? Unfortunately, the floor can be too hard and dirty so we may need some type of cover/cushion. A yoga mat or blanket can be good options. You might want to avoid the thin ones so the hardness of the floor doesn’t get to you. Some areas of our body have bony prominences (less cushion) so that is no fun either.

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Here is what I use: a futon mattress. It is about 3 inches thick and feels as if you are sleeping on a regular firm bed but…without the bed. When you do not need it anymore, you can just roll it up and clip the straps attached to the mattress. On move in/out day, that will be the bed you will be bringing to/from your apartment. Otherwise, you would need to rent a truck and bring people to help with moving a heavy mattress, heavy bed frames, various tools, etc. (This was from experience.)


Moving in/out of apartments is not the most enjoyable of all experiences. The weight of various furniture would leave you sore for a couple days and moving can take several days to weeks. But, if you can eliminate even just the HEAVY bed, you can save a lot of time, money, and effort! In addition, by replacing your usual soft, cushion beds with a more firm bed (or futon mattress), you can experience many health benefits.

Of course, everyone’s bodies are not the same and may have different needs. If soft, cushioned beds have been working well for you, please continue to use it. This is for those who have back pain from sleeping and soft beds may have been the culprit. Click here if you also have issues with sleeping and NOT related to back pain. By making that change, this was what helped me and I hope this can help you too!

Did you enjoy this life hack to get rid of back pain caused potentially by your bed? Please leave a comment below!

20 thoughts on “Back Pain When Sleeping? Need a More Portable Bed?”

  1. Me too. When I sleep in a bed that’s extra soft, my body just sinks into the bed. So I know that I need to improved back positioning/posture. But that requires firmer beds. Or an alternative that produces the same results. And I have found the futon mattress a great way to get around these heavy beds.

  2. Well, I never knew a bed has so much role to play in causing back pain. I am glad to be reading this article and gaining such vital knowledge. Thanks for sharing your experience on getting back pian from sleeping on a very soft bed. I have a friend who has a soft bed, but not so soft. Anyways, I am going to share this with him so he can avoid a case of back pain.

    • Hi there Nelson! I am glad to hear that this article has given you much insight! Thanks for sharing this post with your friend whose having back pain. I really hope this provides the solution for him and his back improves!

  3. I enjoy firm bedding but I usually sleep in fetal position. I don’t know if that affects the back as much. Probably from being hunched, I suppose. I like this article! It’s refreshing to see reviews about interesting stuff like bedding and back pain. You really don’t see a lot of wholesome reviews on the internet anymore. Thanks so much for “LAYING IT DOWN” ;). 

    • Hello there! I am glad you enjoyed this article. Sleeping in the fetal position should be fine, just make sure you stack extra pillows or fold your pillow (or use your arm) to support your head. Not doing so may lead to neck pain/soreness the next day (personal experience). 

  4. Hi,

    Great content here.

    The truth is one of the major causes of back pain is low-density mattresses. Over the years I have suffered from back and neck pain due to sleeping on low density 🛌. It was when I discovered that my bed is the root causes of the problem that I was set free. So I can Concord with your article. It’s very informative. 

    Hope it will be of help to a visitor of your site.


    • Hello Albright! Thanks for your comment and insight. That makes sense about the low density mattresses, I haven’t thought about it that way. I guess firmer beds would have more density to it than the extra soft beds so that also explains why it helps with taking away back pain. My sleeping location on the bedroom floor with a futon mattress padding would be considered extra dense in that case 🙂

  5. Thank you for this information. I like the layout of your website. This was one topic my group was giving in our class project last year. It’s good to have a nice bed and another way to have a good sleeping posture to avoid back pain. My story is that I recently change my bed to a bigger one and for the past 2 weeks, I have been having body pain so I don’t if I should change the bed or not. 

    • Hello there! Thank you for your comment. I guess before we try anything too drastic, I recommend ruling out a few things first. Have you been having back pain prior to switching to the new bed (2 weeks prior)? This recent back pain, have you been doing more strenuous physical activities lately that could be causing pain? Have you been more stressed, dehydrated, eating less nutritious foods, sleep deprived, etc. lately that can lead to muscle stiffness?

      Before returning the bed to the company, you can try sleeping on a hard surface (bedroom floor) for a couple days up to a few weeks on a thick cushion (extra blankets, foam mats, yoga mat, etc.) to see if your back pain improves. If it gets better, then you are like me where we need to sleep on firmer beds. Once you find that out, I would then return the bed and switch to a firmer one. If in the rare case that you cannot return and you are stuck with the bed, we will have to try something creative. By that point, knowing that your body sinks into the center of the bed, we would have to try stuffing something underneath the mattress in the center like blocks of wood. This will help raise the center of the of the bed overall to make up for the insufficient firmness when you sink in. You can try laying several planks of wood, as much as needed until you find the right height and comfort. There will be a bit of a trial and error process. Another option would be to avoid sleeping in the center of the bed (not very ideal) and sleep closer to the edge. This can be all be quite inconvenient so hopefully the company will allow you to switch beds. Perhaps try switching to something smaller too since bigger beds have less infrastructural support in the center (mainly just springs holding up the center). Twin sized bed is small enough that the sides of the bed may help hold up the center so you sink in less. Hope that helps!

  6. Its quiet sad that you had to find out the hard way, the benefit of having a firm bed to sleep on. The best part is that you are sharing based on your experience to some that maybe experiencing the same difficulties and to that I give you a thumbs up.

    • Hello Volkert! Thanks for you comment! Yeah it is a bit unfortunate to find out the hard way, but better late than never. I am hoping others (especially those who are unaware of the bed potentially causing back pain issues) can read this article and find ways to be relieved of their back pain too.

  7. Thank you Mike for the article. I also love the idea about the futton matress, as I tend to sink into the softer matresses too. Waking up in the morning with back and neck pain is quite unpleasent. Over the years I changed several matresses, but, none of them helped me. Have a great day.

    • Hello there, Roberta! Waking up with back and neck pain is definitely unpleasant! Hope you are able to find something like the futon mattress to sleep on so that your back pain can reduce (or even be eliminated)!

  8. Thanks for sharing your experience on getting back pain from sleeping on a very soft bed, . I grew up sleeping on a futon and this one is pretty comfortable. I would say this one is denser and thinner than a regular futon mattress. Regular ones are thick and too soft for me.

    • Hello there! Oh wow, I am glad to know there is someone already utilizing this method to rid of back pain. I agree, the thicker futon mattresses do end up being closer to regular beds in terms of softness.

  9. My family has had its share of back pain AND issues with insomnia. Dealing with both of them at the same time is a challenge, but you present an interesting solution with the firm bedding. I have known a professional, adult friend who decided to go all-in with this solution and got rid of his regular bed for a futon mattress with a custom-built bedframe. He swore by it, so I imagine this could certainly be a solution for others as well.

    • Hi there, Aly. Oh wow, thanks for sharing about your friend who switched his regular bed to a futon mattress. Glad to hear that his back pain was rid of!

  10. That is a very useful hack.  As we spend so many hours in bed it should be one thing that we put a lot of thought into, but unfortunately we see it as just a ‘bed’ and dismiss it’s importance.

    Then when we continuously wake up with a sore back, or have restless sleep we blame our life activities.  Again we don’t stop to think about the bed!

    So thank you for this post and the very useful advice.  Let’s hope we all get a good sleep tonight.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Hi there, Geoff! I am happy to hear that you found this article and advices useful! And yes, let us get good sleep without back pain.


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