‘I’m an Orthopedic Spine Surgeon, and Here Are My Tips for Finding the Best Bed Frame Height To Support Your Back and Knee Health’

Photo: Stocksy/Studio Firma
Your bed is meant to be a sanctuary, where your body and brain recover from the physical and mental stresses of the day. If you’re bed shopping though, you may get stressed out by everything you need to think about, including bed frame height. And then there are cloud beds, a relatively new bed style that has become a fan fave on Tik Tok and Instagram. In case you missed it, cloud beds are a type of platform bed that sits low to the floor. Like futons, they offer little to no bed frame height, and no edge support. Good edge support is what keeps you from sliding off your mattress., but cloud beds have mattresses that roll over the side of the bed to create a cozy, cocoon-like environment. They differ from cloud mattresses, which are placed on traditional bed frames. Regardless of what kind of bed you choose, considering the bed frame height is important for your back and knee health.

Experts In This Article
  • Rahul Shah, MD, board-certified orthopaedic spine surgeon at Premier Orthopedic Spine Associates in New Jersey

So, we wondered what bed frame height is best, and if cloud beds are a good choice for people with back, hip, or knee issues. To find out, we spoke to a certified orthopedic spine surgeon, Rahul Shah, MD of Premiere Orthopaedic Associates in New Jersey. Here’s his take on the best bed height, safety, and even those ever-so-popular cloud beds.

“Getting on and off a bed that’s too high for you can be difficult. You don’t want to find yourself having to hop onto your bed, or needing to hoist yourself up.”—Rahul Shah, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon.

What is bed height and why does it matter?

Bed height refers to the distance between the floor and your sleeping surface. It’s comprised of several elements. These differ from bed to bed but typically include a bed frame, a box spring, in some instances, and a mattress.

The height of your bed determines how easy or hard it will be for you to get in and out of bed. “Getting on and off a bed that’s too high for you can be difficult. You don’t want to find yourself having to hop onto your bed, or needing to hoist yourself up,” says Dr. Shah. He also cautions that high beds can be dangerous for people who might fall off during sleep.

So, what about mattresses that are close to the floor, like cloud beds? Dr. Shah cautions that getting in and out can be hard on the knees, hips, and lower back, for some people. However, other people may enjoy them safely. “Many societies sleep on futons and do fine. If you can get up from a seated position to a standing position without difficulty, low-to-the-ground beds are an okay choice, assuming your back and spine are supported and in alignment,” he says. The trick is to determine your ability to go from the ground to an upright position easily and painlessly. “The inability to perform that movement is a predictor of frailty. If you’re too frail to get up from the floor without difficulty, you’re too frail for a low bed,” he says.

Dr. Shah says it’s especially important to make sure you choose a bed that keeps you safe from falling, especially if you’re a restless sleeper or an older adult. “Getting up out of a too-low bed won’t ruin you, even if it’s hard on your body. Falling out of a too-high bed, however, can cause real damage,” he explains.

So, what bed frame height is best for back and knee health?

When it comes to bed height, there’s no magic number. Your height, and most specifically your knee height, should be taken into account. If you have a partner, their height should also become part of the equation. In general, taller people may find higher beds easiest to get in and out of. Shorter people and children may find getting in and out of a shorter bed easier to manage with less strain. To figure this out, sit on the edge of the bed. If your feet can comfortably touch the ground and you have stability in that position, you’ve found a good bed height for you, says Dr. Shah.

If kids or pets routinely sneak into bed with you, keep their safety, flexibility, and mobility needs in mind as well. Small or aging fur babies can hurt themselves jumping on or off a high bed—not to mention little humans.

Other things to consider when deciding on a bed frame height for back health

A low bed, or one that’s flush to the ground, can be challenging to get in and out of for people with arthritis, back pain, or cranky knees. If you’ve had a knee or hip replacement, or injuries to those areas, low beds can be especially difficult to get on and off of. “If you want to figure out the best bed height for you, look at your own constraints,” suggests Dr. Shah. Conversely, some people find it easiest to roll in and out of bed. If that’s you, and you can get up from a lying down position to standing easily, a low bed may be a great fit.

Bedframes and mattresses are often purchased online, but Dr. Shah recommends trying beds out in person if that’s an option. “Shop at the end of the day, when you’re tired. That’s the best time to try out bed frames and mattresses for comfort and ease of use,” he suggests.

Dr. Shah also stresses that the bed you choose conforms to your body. If you’re twisting or contorting yourself to get in or out, that’s going to put a strain on your lower and middle back. It may also put a big strain on your knee joints. If you need to use your arms for hoisting, you may further strain your shoulders or back.

That said, cloud beds may look awesome, but they’re not a great choice for nightly sleeping if you have mobility issues. If you love the idea of a cozy, snuggly bed (and who doesn’t?) you can simulate the feeling of a cloud bed with a cloud mattress that hugs your body, or with a mattress topper placed over a more supportive mattress and bed frame.

As we all know, you spend about a third of your life in bed. Before you chalk up a third of your salary (beds are super expensive these days, after all) make sure you consider safety as well as comfort.

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