Couch Ergonomics: The 3 Most Comfortable Sofas Under $1,000 And What To Look For

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Five main elements make up couch ergonomics: seat height, seat depth, armrest height, backrest, and backrest tension. Keep reading to learn what to look for, including specific use cases like gaming, watching TV, and reading.

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The 3 Best Inexpensive Couches For Ergonomics

What Is Couch Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the science of designing and arranging things (especially furniture) so people can use them efficiently, comfortably, and safely. Sofa ergonomics aims to decrease fatigue and discomfort with careful product design.

Most furniture is designed for the 5th percentile female to the 95th percentile male. This means most furniture accommodates 90% of the population, but not outliers like very short or tall people.

An ergonomic sofa is designed with the user’s needs in mind. No couch is one-size-fits-all, just like no pair of shoes is one-size-fits-all. So an ergonomic sofa is one that you get custom-made for your needs or a sofa that’s pre-made but checks off most or all of your ergonomic needs.

Some common ergonomic features on sofas are headrests, lumbar support, and stress-resistant foam.

What Should I Look For In An Ergonomic Couch For My Living Room?

Soft, squishy couches are comfortable at first but can cause pain over time. In the long run, it’s best to look for a couch that’s somewhat firm, so you get support while sitting on it. Some experts recommend looking for a sofa with a high density foam rating of at least 2.4 or hand-tied coil springs (available in some antiques and more expensive furniture). You can find examples from the Federal and midcentury periods of furniture design when styles were more firm and trim. Among contemporary designers, look at Natuzzi, R. Jones, and Poltrona Frau.

Another thing to look for is a couch that allows you to sit upright with your feet flat on the floor while your knees are at a 90° angle. Look for furniture that vertically aligns your ears over your shoulders over your hips.

When shopping for a couch, pay attention to these five elements:

  1. Couch height: the height should allow your feet to be on the ground with your legs parallel to the floor.
  2. Seat depth: ensure there are two inches from the back of your knees to the couch (in other words, your legs shouldn’t be pressed up right against the couch because they’ll get stiff this way).
  3. Armrest height: some sofas let you adjust the armrest, so it’s at your elbow height (not below or above your elbow).
  4. Backrest: the backrest or cushions should provide enough support for your back, especially your lower back.
  5. Backrest tension: The backrest should have a little movement or “give” to it (think of how uncomfortable a wood backrest like a church pew is — this is because it has no give).

What Will You Be Using The Couch For?

Look for a sofa that fits the activities you plan to use it for. A couch that’s good for gaming may differ from a sofa you plan to use primarily for reading or working on a laptop. Consider how you’ll need to sit on the sofa, e.g., where your TV will be in relation to the couch (so you don’t end up craning your neck all the time).

Ergonomic Couch For Watching TV Or Gaming

Man gaming comfortably on a sofa.

Look for a supportive chair or couch that can recline to relieve pressure on your back or neck or a firm sofa that allows you to fully extend your body in a reclining position.

Ergonomic Couch For Reading

Woman sitting on a couch reading a book that's propped up on a pillow on her lap.

For reading, it’s best to select upright chairs or sofas that support your lower back and to have a surface (even if just a pillow) on which to rest your book. Otherwise, you’ll strain your neck and shoulders by looking down at the book.

Ergonomic Couch For Knitting

Knitters might prefer a firm chair or sofa with armrests to support their elbows. This will allow you to knit without having to slouch over or shrug your shoulders as you knit.

Ergonomic Couch For Having People Over

If you plan to have friends over a lot, look for a setup that lets people sit so they can all see each other without having to twist around or crane their necks.

Ergonomic Couch For Using Your Phone, Laptop, Or Tablet

People often contort their bodies into bad posture when using electronic devices because they’re craning and twisting to see the screen. Try to sit without slouching, and use armrests or pillows to bring your devices up to eye level, if possible.

What Companies Make Ergonomic Sofas?

Fjords, Ekornes, Herman Miller, and Knoll make ergonomic sofas. With Fjords, you get built-in lumbar support and headrests, plus individually reclining sections so each family member can use the couch comfortably.

When shopping for an ergonomic couch, go in person and sit on each couch for at least 20 minutes. If you buy online, make sure the company has a solid return and refund policy so you can return it if it’s uncomfortable.

What Are The Best Ergonomic Couches?

Best Ergonomic Couch For Small Areas: Rivet Sloane Mid-Century Modern Loveseat Sofa, 64.2″W

Type of couch: two-person

Pros: this couch has a 4.5 rating, and people like that it’s firm yet comfortable.

Cons: dimensions are small for people on the taller or heavier side.

Best Memory Foam Ergonomic Sofa: Serta Palisades Sofa

Type of couch: three-person

Pros: a wide variety of color options, good balance of firm yet not too hard

Cons: seat isn’t deep enough for taller people, hard to assemble

Best Ergonomic Sofa For Shorter People: Lifestyle Solutions Austin Sofas

Type of couch: three-person

Pros: low height from the ground is suitable for shorter people, easy to assemble, memory foam is comfortable

Cons: the color isn’t accurate to how the listing describes it, the back is too low for some people

How I Chose These Ergonomic Couches

When looking for the best ergonomic couches, I looked at sofa size, customer reviews on comfort, and for a price under $1,000. I also looked for couches with different options, like various fabric colors and two-person and three-person seating options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Different Types Of Couches?

Sofas are typically defined by the seating area’s width and how many people the couch can fit. Here are the main types of sofas:

  • Two-person: also called a loveseat, this couch type usually has a 50- to 58-inch seat width (excluding the arms).
  • Three-person: this sofa type usually has a seating width of 78 inches (excluding the arms).
  • Four-person: this couch usually has a seating width of 90 inches (excluding the arms).
  • Five-person: this sofa usually has a 108-inch seating width (excluding arms).
  • Sectional: these sofas come in a variety of sizes. A sectional usually fits three or more people and are either L or U-shaped. Many are configurable to fit your space, but others are fixed (meaning that you can’t change which way the L-shape faces).
  • Recliner: these couches come in various sizes and can be tilted backward so you can adjust your position.

How Do You Sit Ergonomically On A Couch And Provide Lumbar Support?

If you’re sitting with your feet on the floor, put a small cushion behind your lower back to provide lumbar support.

When reading, avoid straining your neck by putting your book, tablet, or e-reader on a cushion. You can also use a book stand to maintain good posture.

If you’re sitting with your feet kicked up on the sofa, try these tips:

  • Put a small cushion behind your lower back to maintain the natural curve of your back.
  • To support your knees put cushions underneath them.
  • Switch up your position occasionally, so you’re not sitting with your feet up for too long because this position puts strain on your back.

Is There A Way To Make A Sofa More Comfortable (Especially For Back Support)?

Here are five ways to make a sofa more comfortable:

  1. Put some long, low lumbar pillows on your couch to support your lower back.
  2. Place throw pillows near the arms of the couch for additional cushioning and to support your head when lying down.
  3. If you have foam cushions that have flattened over time and you’ve already fluffed and rotated them as much as you can, try replacing the foam. Look for high-resiliency foam and measure your existing cushions to get the right size foam.
  4. If your couch has wobbly legs, put non-slip furniture pads underneath the legs to even out shorter ones. The pads will also stop your couch from sliding if you have hard floors.
  5. If you don’t have enough room to stretch out, try getting an ottoman to put your feet up on. You can look for an ottoman that’s as similar-looking to your couch as possible or go for something completely different to add some interesting contrast to your living room. Another option is getting a sofa with an extra-long chaise end.

Can I Sleep On A Couch?

Floppy-eared dog having an ergonomic snooze on a couch.

You shouldn’t regularly sleep on a couch not designed for sleeping (leave that to your dog), but if you like lying on your couch on your side, put a pillow between your knees and another under your head.

How High Should My TV Be Compared To My Sofa?

The most ergonomic place for your TV is having the middle of the screen at your eye level when you’re sitting on your couch. Tilting your head up or down can strain your neck and upper back.

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Lucy Henderson is a Seattle-based home décor expert and creator of Palladio Interiors. She loves writing about design trends, home-interior inspiration, and home-decorating tips. She's a fan of coziness and simplicity.