Fatigue is the ever-present companion of chronic illness, and if you suffer from a medical condition, odds are you are no stranger to it either. In fact, you may sometimes feel you spend more hours of your day in the bed than out of it.
With so much time devoted to rest, finding comfortable bedding is a wise investment. We live in an old house that has definite hot and cold spots, and no spot is colder than the master bedroom in the winter. Overnight, our room temperature routinely sits around 53 degrees F, and it doesn’t climb much higher during the day. For years we made do with whatever blankets and sheets we previously owned, but the cold didn’t do any favors for my symptoms. Last year we decided to splurge on some new sheets, and to say that they have been a game changer would be an understatement!
So, with that in mind, here are a few ideas for ways to make your bed more comfortable and chronic illness-friendly.
These are the sheets that changed my life (although I don’t have them in this fabric, and I wish I did!). If you live anywhere in a cold climate, I can’t recommend enough that you invest in fleece sheets. Unlike flannel, these are warm to the touch almost immediately. They’re soft and cushiony, and feel like wrapping up in your favorite broken-in sweatshirt or sweater. They’re inexpensive and hard-wearing, and hold up fantastically well even to frequent washing. If you suffer from neuropathy, the smoothness of the fleece fabric may also be helpful to you, since they’re less abrasive and irritating than cotton or flannel sheets. I will never again not own fleece sheets!
On the other end of the spectrum, in warmer weather nothing beats a nice soft cotton sheet. While there are certainly luxury high-thread count sheets out there, sometimes you can find something just as workable at a lower price point. These cotton sheets are soft and breezy, and stay nice and cool in the summer. They’re washable and easy to maintain and come in a variety of styles. If you suffer from night sweats, hot flashes, or sensory issues related to heat, then cotton is probably going to be your best friend.
What if you share a bed with someone who is warmer blooded than you? Or colder? In all honesty, this seller beat me to an idea I’ve had for years: sheets that are half flannel and half cotton! This shop will create sheets that are warm on one side and cool on the other. You can customize what type of fabric, which side, and just about everything else. If bedding and temperature have been a battle zone in your bedroom, this may be a great solution.
Blankets and Comforters
If you suffer from pain or a neurological condition, it’s possible that the sensation of weight can be comforting to you. While a down comforter has long been the gold standard in bedding, sometimes a down alternative comforter is the more practical option. A comforter such as this one provides the warmth and weight of a down comforter, but is likely to be hypoallergenic and far easier to wash. Cover it in a soft flannel duvet cover to make it even easier to clean, or even to switch out with the seasons. For my neuropathic symptoms, I often find it comforting to have the slight weight of a comforter like this pressing on me while I sleep.
This is the duvet cover I’ve owned for the past twelve years. It is incredibly well-made, easy to wash and replace, and so very comfortable. In time, some of the softness of the flannel has worn down so that the fabric resembles a regular heavy cotton. But it has held up to all sorts of abuse in my house and lived to tell the tale! L.L.Bean has some great policies for replacing worn and damaged products, too, so the higher initial outlay may be worth it in the end when it comes to the longevity you get out of their products.
For ultimate comfort and warmth, does anything beat a Sherpa blanket? These babies are soft, heavy, and easy to wash. If you suffer from neuropathy or chronic pain, you may find the fluffy weight comforting and soothing. They come in a variety of styles, colors, and sizes to work with any room.
Sometimes for a nap, all you need is a good throw blanket. I challenge you to find a better blanket than this one. This company, Sackloth + Ashes, is one of the companies at the top of my list of favorites. Their blankets are all made from recycled, eco-friendly products. Many are designed by indigenous people, and reflect the colors and patterns in their region. For each blanket purchased, the company will donate one of their beautiful blankets to a homeless shelter in your local area. With some purchases, the company will also donate firewood to local Native American elders in the region where the blanket was designed. As if all of that weren’t enough, the blankets are some of the warmest, softest, most durable I have ever found. If you are looking for a worthwhile splurge, this is absolutely the place to spend your money! While the photo link will take you to World Market, these blankets are also widely available in local shops and boutiques, and I encourage you to shop locally!
Pillows are such an individual thing, and the wrong pillow can affect sleep more than any other factor. Some people prefer a hard pillow, others prefer it soft. Everyone has a preference for pillow height and length and just about every other specification you can imagine. But for an excellent, basic pillow that meets everyone in the middle, I can’t think of a better option than this one. I bought it a few years ago, and it has given me many, many nights (and days!) of good sleep. It holds its shape without being too firm. The combination of memory foam and bamboo provides just enough support, but also has a little give when I press my face into it. And I can mold it and shape it under my head or neck to support me the way I need when I’m sleeping.
If you suffer from pain or spasticity, sometimes versatility and support are the name of the game. Wedge pillows, especially in a variety of shapes and sizes such as this set, can help with positioning and relieving pressure. The different configuration options with a wedge pillow allow you to change up your arrangement depending on your symptoms or pain severity on any given day. They are also helpful for anyone with immobility issues or paralysis, since positioning with pillows like this can relieve pressure points and reduce the risk of pressure ulcers and sores.
Whether you are spending your time in bed sleeping, resting, or reading, it’s important to have good support. A padded or tufted headboard is a great option to make an extended period in bed more comfortable. Styles, sizes, and colors vary widely. Look for something that is supportive and comfortable, and that can be wiped clean if needed. When you are spending extended periods of time in bed, you are likely to put more wear and tear on a headboard or bedframe than usual, so make sure the construction is solid enough to hold up.
If you already have a headboard you love, but you don’t find it particularly comfortable, a bolster pillow is another great option. This provides the function of a padded headboard, but can be removed when not in use. As an added bonus, many bolsters come with removable covers, so they’re easy to wash. They can also be positioned in different ways for maximum comfort. They come in a variety of colors and styles: from streamlined like this one, to tufted or tasseled, or everything in between.
Let me just take a minute to step away from the practical details to say something I suspect you may need to hear as much as I do: it’s ok to rest.
It’s ok if you have to cancel plans. It’s ok if the housework doesn’t get done today. It’s ok if full-time work just isn’t possible for you right now. It’s ok if your schedule isn’t brimming with activities like your friends’ and families’. It’s ok if you’re not there for every moment with your family. It’s ok if you aren’t doing all the things you used to do. It’s ok.
Rest is not an indulgence or selfishness or laziness. Rest is a need. It is an unavoidable part of chronic illness, and it is essential. So let me say it again: it’s ok to rest.
And now I’ll confess that I wrote those words with tears in my eyes, because I know that rest always seems to come with strings attached. I often feel guilty, sad, grief-filled, selfish, and all kinds of things about the amount of time I spend resting. But I seldom feel permission to rest.
So I hope you find the bedding and the environment to enhance your rest and ease your symptoms just a little. But most of all, I hope you feel you have the permission that you need to get the rest that your condition requires. This is all a part of chronic illness, and we all must do what we can to make even this part more livable.