Veronica With Four Eyes

Bedding Hacks For Chiari Malformation

I love the look and feeling of a freshly-made bed, but I’ve found that many of my Chiari Malformation symptoms like neck/shoulder pain, headaches, and poor strength/coordination in hands are aggravated when I make my bed using traditional methods. Over the years, I’ve received tips from other friends with Chiari Malformation and come up with my own ideas so that I can make my bed almost every day without starting off my day with a chronic pain flare. Here are some of my favorite bedding hacks for Chiari Malformation and similar chronic pain conditions, shared for Chiari Malformation Awareness Month.


Put pillowcases on inside out

Instead of fighting to shake a pillowcase onto a pillow, I learned a cool trick to put pillowcases on inside out so that they are able to stay in place more easily. There are options to either wash the pillowcase while inside out or to turn the pillowcase inside out after it has been washed, but either will work for this tip.

To make a pillowcase easier to put on the pillow:

  1. Start with an inside out pillowcase laying on the bed with the pillow next to it
  2. Put your arms inside the pillowcase and grab the corners, lining them up with the corners of the pillow
  3. Grab the pillow by its corners, flipping the pillowcase over the pillow
  4. Pull the edge of the pillowcase over the pillow, smoothing out any bumps as needed

Use a t-shirt as a pillowcase

One of my friends likes to switch out their pillowcase daily, and the easiest way for them to do this is to use a t-shirt as a pillowcase. Unlike traditional t-shirt pillowcases that require sewing, my friend would simply slide their pillow into the inside of a t-shirt, and put the shirt in the laundry the next morning. This works well for people who are irritated by certain types of fabrics or weaves, or for people with face nerve issues such as trigeminal neuralgia, a condition that can sometimes co-exist with Chiari Malformation.

Stack pillows vertically

Instead of stacking pillows horizontally (i.e one on top of the other), I prefer to stack pillows vertically, leaning them against the headboard/wall so that they can provide more support for the back- this is how pillows are arranged in hotels. This is great for when I want to rest on my bed during the day, and it makes it easier for me to rearrange pillows at night as well.

Color-code pillows

Depending on my pain levels on a given day, I might prefer a different type of pillow or pillow combinations. One of the things that helps me figure out what pillow firmness works best for me is to color-code pillows with different pillowcases so that way I can easily find the pillow I am looking for, or someone else can help me locate it. As an example, my memory foam pillow is currently in a red pillowcase, my least firm pillow is in a gray pillowcase, my standard pillows are in a blue pillowcase, and so on.

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Use a flat sheet instead of a fitted sheet

When I had to change my sheets every day in the days leading up to a surgery (per surgeon’s instructions), I quickly realized how frustrating it was to add a fitted sheet to a bed every day. One of the bed making hacks that helped to make this easier was to use a flat sheet instead of a fitted sheet, tucking the corners of the flat sheet into the mattress so that it would remain secure. Users can choose to add another flat sheet on top or to sleep underneath another blanket that can be easily washed.

Put the flat sheet printed side down

When I was helping one of my friends make their bed, they kept telling me that I had to make sure I put the flat sheet on the “right side,” something I had never heard of before. What my friend was trying to communicate was that the flat sheet should be put on upside down, meaning that the side with the most vibrant color/pattern and smooth seams should be facing down, as this often feels more comfortable. This isn’t just beneficial to people with Chiari Malformation, but this information certainly helps!

Put the fitted sheet on diagonally

When I do put a fitted sheet on the bed, one of the things that can help me with making sure that corners don’t unexpectedly pop up is to put the fitted sheet on diagonally. This means that I start with the bottom left corner of the sheet, tucking it underneath the mattress, before moving on to the top right corner and securing that side. This way, the corners are less likely to pop up and it takes less time to change the sheets.

Use a zip-top fitted sheet

This is a specialty item, but it’s super helpful for people who want to make it easier to change their fitted sheet. Zip-top fitted sheets can be changed by zipping off the top part of the sheet for cleaning and keeping the elastic/fitted part on the mattress. Once the top part of the sheet is clean, users can zip the sheet back on and have it be easily secured. There are a few different brands that make zip-top sheets that can be found online- I currently don’t have a pair myself, but will be looking into getting some soon!

Comforters/duvet covers

Consider using a duvet cover instead of a traditional comforter

A lot of people find it easier to make a bed using a duvet compared to a traditional comforter as they are less bulky and easier to wash. I recommend choosing a duvet with a zipper closure or small opening for the insert instead of a button closure, as those types of closures can be difficult to manipulate- which is something I discovered after buying a duvet cover with a button closure in college.

Create a DIY weighted blanket

While traditional weighted blankets can be therapeutic for many conditions, I discovered that a lot of weighted blankets hurt my feet or aggravated back pain with Chiari Malformation. I still liked the idea of having a heavier blanket though, so I added 2-3 additional inserts to a duvet cover so that it would be overstuffed and provide a nice amount of weight without triggering additional pain.

Use the “roll and fold” method for duvet covers

Trying to get a duvet insert inside a duvet cover can be very difficult- to illustrate this, one of my friends has a photo of me trapped inside a duvet cover trying to straighten the corners out as my feet dangle from the bottom. Shortly after that, I found a video that better explains how to use a rolling method or “roll and fold” method for adding an insert to a duvet cover, and it has to be one of my favorite bedding hacks I’ve ever learned, as it is less stress on my shoulders than trying to stuff a cover inside.

How to put on a duvet cover more easily:

  1. Turn the duvet cover inside out and lay it flat on the bed, with the closed end closest to you
  2. Lay your duvet insert on top of the cover, aligning the corners. If the cover has an option for securing the bed corners (i.e ties), fasten those now
  3. Starting from the closed end up, roll up the covers together similar to a burrito or jelly roll, making sure that the corners remain aligned
  4. Pull the cover towards yourself as you roll it, until you see the open end of the duvet cover
  5. Fold one side of the open end over the entire roll, like a sandwich bag
  6. Secure the duvet cover- zip or button it closed
  7. Unroll until the covered duvet is flat on the bed, and position the cover as needed

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More bedding hacks for Chiari Malformation

  • If possible, have at least two sets of sheets available so that there is always a clean set available
  • Change the bedding in stages to avoid exhaustion- start with the sheets and take a break before adding blankets, for example
  • For people that need a warm duvet/comforter that is still lightweight, consider using an unzipped sleeping bag and putting it on top of the bed

My favorite bedding hacks that make it easier to make the bed and keep it clean and comfortable with Chiari Malformation and other chronic pain conditions