A bedroom is our sanctuary. A place where we go on retreat to unwind and relax from the stresses of the day. Although we aren’t awake for most it, it is unsurprising that this hideaway is where we spend most of our time. In fact, the average person spends almost 26 years sleeping in their bedroom. That’s 9,490 days or 227,760 hours! This doesn’t even factor in the seven additional years we spend in our beds just trying to get to sleep!

The importance of getting adequate sleep is something we can all agree on, and this remains true the older we get. Unfortunately for many older adults, bed mobility challenges become a real problem that prevents much-needed sleep. Simple problems like joint pain, decreased flexibility, night-terrors, and Sundowning Syndrome can contribute to dangerous falls from bed. When these challenges present themselves, it can become impossible to enjoy a good night’s rest. The same also can also be said for caregivers. A caregiver is all too familiar with restless nights spent worrying about a loved one who is at risk for falling out of bed. A popular and effective way to combat such challenges and instill peace of mind for both loved one and caregiver is through the use of bed rails.

Bed rails come in all shapes and sizes and can be used for various purposes. Such a large range of options can make it difficult to pinpoint the bed rail most effective for your situation. When looking to rent or purchase a bed rail for yourself or for a loved one, it is important to have a basic understanding of how bed rails work.

An essential piece to pre-bed rail purchase homework is learning about entrapment. Entrapment is a situation where an individual can become caught in the tight spaces around the rail. Reputable manufacturers ensure that their bed rails meet guidelines set forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for reducing the seven risks of entrapment. As a showing of compliance, bed rails that meet FDA Guidelines will be accompanied by manufacturer recommendations regarding bed types and mattress thicknesses. If a product listing is not forthcoming about such recommendations, it is safe to assume that the proper steps were not taken to comply with entrapment guidelines. To reduce the risk of entrapment, it is crucial to follow the recommendations set forth by the manufacturer regarding bed type, mattress thickness, and rail placement.

With so much to think about, it can be intimidating trying to find the perfect bed rail. To make the process easier, we have identified five important things you should identify about your situation and your bed before purchasing a bed rail. Answering the following questions will help you identify the safest bed rail option for you.

What is the intended purpose of the bed rail?

All bed rails are designed for three purposes:

    1. To assist the user in repositioning him or herself while lying in bed
    2. To reduce the risk of falling out of bed during the night
    3. To provide reliable assistance when transferring to and from the bed

It would be unfair to say that every bed rail completely satisfies all three purposes. To further illustrate this point, we can assign most bed rails to one of two categories: 1) safety railings or 2) bedside handles.

Safety Railings:

Safety railings are intended to decrease the risk from falling out of bed during the night. These railings generally span the length of the bed and are most often associated with what is seen on hospital beds. These rails are most commonly correlated with long-term care.

Bedside Handles:

Bedside handles are generally smaller with a lower-profile design. Their intended purpose is to offer sturdy support when transferring in and out of bed. Bed handles are usually used by those recovering from injury or surgery and need short-term assistance.

You may find yourself in a category needing both fall prevention and transfer assistance. For such occasions, we recommend the Bedside Extend-A-Rail, one of the most versatile bed rails available. This bed rail can adjust in length from a bedside handle at 20 inches long to a full-sized safety railing of 30” long. With a versatile adjustment range, the Extend-A-Rail can offer both full fall protection and transfer assistance.

What type of bed do you own?

Bed rails are designed to be used on traditional flat surfaces as to ensure that all possible zones of entrapment are mitigated. This means that bed rails are most safely used on traditional beds with mattresses that sit on box springs or slats.

Hospital beds are generally accompanied by bed rails that are produced by the same manufacturer and designed specifically for use on that bed. Regular adjustable beds, or beds with platforms that adjust the angle of mattress that are commonly found in homes, can void a bed rail’s safety measure and create additional zones of entrapment. For such adjustable beds, we recommend using an alternative solution. The Universal Floor to Ceiling Grab Bar has been used for nearly 20 years to provide transfer assistance in and out of bed. The tension-mounted design allows it to be temporarily installed next to a bed and supports up to 300 pounds.

How thick is your mattress?

Another way to help avoid entrapment is by following the manufacturer’s recommended mattress heights. Because most bed rails are installed below the mattress, the mattress thickness can affect the level of protection provided by the bed rail.

For example, If a bed rail intended for a mattress 8-16 inches thick is installed on a mattress of 20 inches, the bed rail will provide an insufficient amount of railing above the mattress to effectively prevent falls. Likewise, a bed rail purchased for a mattress that is too short for its intended use can create gaps below the railing.

Reputable bed rail manufacturers will clearly indicate intended mattress thicknesses on product pages and packaging. To ensure compatibility, be sure to measure your mattress thickness before purchasing.

What is your preferred weight capacity?

Just like any piece of durable medical equipment, bed rails are designed and meticulously tested for defined weight capacities. The majority of bed rails have weight capacities of 300 pounds, but we recommend double checking product listings and ensuring adequate weight support before purchasing.

If you are in need of bariatric support, there are various bariatric bed rails available that support up to 400 pounds.

Will you need a bed rail away from home?

We often see bed rails as permanent fixtures of the home, so what are we to do when traveling on vacation? There are several bed rail options designed to be small, foldable, and lightweight to make it easy to take with you on vacation. If you are planning on traveling frequently, we recommend purchasing a portable travel rail separate from the rail that is used at home.

A prime example of a travel rail is the Bedside Mighty Rail. The Mighty Rail weighs just 1.5 pounds and can be broken down in seconds using a simple snap-button assembly and carried in a suit case or travel tote.

Bed rails can be effective tools for providing peace of mind, better sleep, and safer mobility for anyone needing assistance around the bed. Like any assistive device, it’s important to find the right fit for your needs and environment. For that reason, we suggest paying close attention to the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding bed type, mattress height, and weight capacity to find the bed rail that best aligns with your needs and your bed.