When I was preparing for college move-in, one of the main things I focused on was how I would set up my college bed for chronic pain management. Since I live with a neurological condition that causes chronic pain in my head, neck, shoulder, and back, as well as chronic migraines, having the coziest bed on campus wasn’t just a goal, but a necessity as well. Here is how I set up my college bed and the assorted items that I had on my bed during the four years that I lived on campus. It’s worth noting that I lived in a single dorm all four years, meaning that I had a bedroom to myself and shared a bathroom with 1-3 other people.
Can you request a larger mattress in college?
One of the first questions that people ask me when they hear that I lived in the dorms with chronic pain is whether I used the school-issued Twin XL bed. While students can request full-size beds or the use of a student-purchased mattress as part of their disability accommodations for housing, I just used the school-issued Twin XL bed and added items to it so that it would be more comfortable. Since I am a petite person, the smaller beds did not bother me or have any significant impact on my pain levels, though I did add a guardrail so that I wouldn’t accidentally roll out of bed- more on that later.
How tall are college beds?
Most dorms feature adjustable beds that can be put on risers so that they are higher, or that can be adjusted to be lower to the ground so that a student doesn’t have to jump to get on the bed. Bed height can be adjusted at any time during the school year, but adjustments must be done by maintenance or housing staff for safety reasons.
During my first year, I had my college bed about three feet off the ground because I lived in a small dorm and needed the extra under-the-bed storage. As my neurological condition continued to progress, I chose to have my bed be at a lower height, using my bed at home as a guide for how far it should be off the ground.
Choosing a mattress topper for college
I slept on the college mattress by itself when I stayed overnight for first-year student orientation, so I had a general idea of what the mattress was like and what I was looking for in additional cushioning/support. I decided to get a pillowtop mattress topper that was almost identical to the one I had on my larger bed at home and chose the Wamsutta Fiberbed in Twin/Twin XL for my college bed. This was purchased at Bed, Bath, and Beyond prior to move-in and I kept it for all four years- it made my bed super comfortable.
Using pocket sheets on a dorm bed
Pockets make everything better, including sheets! I purchased a fitted sheet for my bed as well as several pillowcases from the Room Essentials brand at Target, which is designed to be used in a dorm room. The deep side pockets on the sides of the sheets are great for holding items such as glasses or a cell phone, though since my bed was pushed against the wall, I only had access to one of the pockets. I bought two sets of fitted sheets prior to move-in since they were on sale, but in retrospect I should have only bought one set because I didn’t use the second set that much.
The best dorm blankets that I used
While I didn’t have them all on my bed at the same time, the best dorm blankets that I used on my bed included:
- Threshold fuzzy blanket from Target- this is the same blanket I had on my bed at home in a smaller size
- Twin XL heated blanket- check to make sure that this is permitted, as some colleges may ban them
- Yogibo Cozybo- the perfect light blanket
- Duvet cover with two Twin XL comforters stuffed inside- I did this in my third year of living on campus because I liked the effect of a weighted blanket, but traditional weighted blankets hurt my feet too much
I recommend avoiding blankets that feature sherpa/wool type material as the wool can get matted easily and attract a lot of lint.
Pillows for a college dorm
Because of my chronic pain, I would have a lot of pillows on my bed so that I could adjust support levels as needed or elevate different body parts. This is way more pillows than the traditional college student needs, but I used all of them frequently.
- Two sets of extra firm pillows, purchased at Costco
- Cooling pillow with cutout for neck support, purchased at Costco
- Sleepybo pillow, purchased from Yogibo following eye surgery in my second year
- Random pillow from home
- Caterpillar pillow to go alongside the length of the bed/prevent me from hitting the wall, purchased from Yogibo
Adding a safety bedrail
On the first morning I lived in a dorm, I remember I opened my eyes, rolled out of bed, and immediately fell on the floor because I forgot that my bed was higher than my bed at home. Because of this, my parents kindly went to Wal-Mart and purchased a safety bedrail that is designed to keep toddlers from rolling out of bed and added it to my bed later that day. I never rolled out of bed and fell on the floor again!
Should I have stuffed animals in college?
In the four years I lived on campus, my college bed (and even my desk) featured a variety of my favorite stuffed animals from home, as well as new plush that I would purchase in college. While I didn’t bring all my stuffed animals from home, I did bring several of my favorites including a small plush dog that I had gotten with one of my best friends in sixth grade. No one ever made fun of me for having the various stuffed animals, so students shouldn’t worry about bringing their favorite plush if they want to.
Other ways I adapted my college bed for chronic pain
- My college bed was pushed against the wall so that I could easily lean against the wall if I wanted to
- When putting items on the wall, I made sure that I did not put heavy items on the wall above my bed that could injure me if they fell while I was sleeping- items I would hang up include scarves or small photos
- There was a bin underneath my bed where I would store bed items that were not currently in use, i.e electric blanket
- When I would have friends in my dorm, people would typically sit at my desk or on the bed next to me
- My computer screen faced my bed so that I could watch videos while sitting in bed
- Even if a student is assigned to the same room the following year, students will have to remove bed linens during college move out