The Golden Years sound downright idyllic and relaxing, don’t they? No worries from work, playing with the grandkids, time to work on the golf swing, and the leisure and money to indulge the wanderlust — sounds like the perfect recipe for fun-filled days and restful nights. You’d think that seniors would have no trouble at all sleeping at night. But ask any person over 65 how they sleep, and chances are, you’ll hear a host of complaints.
Trouble falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and sleep disturbances are more common among the elderly than any other age group. And even though retirement may mean less stress from the challenges of achieving a healthy work/life balance, other stressors that come with age plague the elderly, making a good night’s sleep increasingly elusive.
Sleep difficulties are so common among the elderly that we often assume it’s just a normal part of aging. While changes in sleep architecture are normal as we age, sleep deprivation is not. Just because many adults function — often unwillingly — on less sleep as they get older, doesn’t mean it’s healthy for them. In fact, older adults require the same amount of sleep as they did in their 20s, and yet, for a host of reasons, they can’t get it.
Older adults require the same amount of sleep as they did in their 20s.
Alleviating troubled sleeping patterns for the elderly
Believe it or not, a change as simple as finding the best mattress for seniors could make a world of difference in your or a loved one’s sleep performance. But since there is no one mattress that will address all the various sleep challenges that seniors face, it’s helpful to understand just what is keeping older people up at night. Then see our recommendations for mattresses that will help.
Already know what keeps you or a loved one from getting a good night’s sleep? Click here to go directly to our mattress picks for seniors.
What keeps seniors up at night?
One consolation for seniors who can’t sleep at night is that they are not alone. Studies show that up to 50% of older people have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep with women experiencing insomnia more than men. While some older people experience insomnia for no apparent reason, many elderly people have underlying medical conditions or take medications that can disrupt normal sleep patterns. Some reasons for seniors to lose sleep include:
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Joint pain caused by arthritis
- Leg cramps caused by poor circulation
- Breathing issues related to COPD
- Acid reflux
- Frequent urination
- Obstructive sleep apnea and snoring
- Restless leg syndrome
- Sleep-walking (Rapid Eye Movement Sleep-Behavior Disorder)
- Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
- Parkinson’s disease
- Side effects from medications such as beta-blockers, bronchodilators, corticosteroids, decongestants, diuretics as well as medications for cardiovascular, neurologic, psychiatric and gastrointestinal conditions
Changes in sleep architecture due to aging
Sleep architecture refers to the cyclic pattern of four sleep phases that repeats through the night. A normal sleep cycle consists of:
- Stage 1: introduction to sleep when muscles begin to relax and brain activity slows
- Stage 2: light, dreamless sleep
- Stages 3 and 4: deep sleep or slow wave sleep
- REM sleep: includes dreaming and high brain activity
For people who experience healthy sleep patterns, this sleep cycle repeats four or five times each night. But as people age, they tend to spend less time in deep sleep stages, sometimes skipping them altogether. This change in their sleep architecture can make them feel sleepy during the day and lead to napping. In addition, frequent sleep disturbances like those listed above disrupt seniors’ sleep cycles, leading to daytime sleepiness.
About 1% of seniors also experience a circadian rhythm disorder called Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder (ASPD) that signals an earlier bedtime (between 7 and 9:00 pm) and an earlier rising time (about 3 or 5:00 am) than the rest of society. Now there’s nothing wrong with following an “early to bed, early to rise” schedule, but it can be isolating from family and friends.
As people age, they tend to spend less time in deep sleep stages, sometimes skipping them altogether.
How seniors can get a good night’s sleep
Certain lifestyle changes can help seniors overcome some of these sleep challenges. These improvements to sleep hygiene include:
- Limiting caffeine intake
- Increasing exposure to bright daylight
- Exercising regularly
- Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning
- Following a soothing bedtime routine every night
- Having a quiet, comfortable bedroom, including a comfortable mattress
Can a mattress really make much of a difference in sleep quality? Absolutely. A good mattress is crucial for healthy, restorative sleep. A study conducted at the Oklahoma State University found that newer, more comfortable mattresses reduced back pain and stress and improved sleep performance among participants with chronic aches and pains that compromised their sleep.
Older people can easily convince themselves that they don’t need a new mattress. Difficulty with mobility can make shopping at a brick and mortar store too taxing. Others may think a new mattress will cost too much money and may be reluctant to spend money on something they’re not sure they need.
But buying a new mattress doesn’t have to be difficult or costly and could be the best investment in health seniors can make. Researching mattresses online before you shop will reduce the time spent trying mattresses in stores. Alternatively, online mattress companies offer some of the best mattresses for seniors, delivered right to your front door or set up in your home, at prices that often beat those at mattress stores.
How do you know if you need a new mattress? Even if you think a mattress is fine, the Better Sleep Council recommends replacing your mattress every seven years especially if:
- You wake up with aches and pains
- You sleep better away from home than you do in your own bed
- You are usually tired even though you had a full night’s sleep
These are all signs that a mattress should be replaced.
Finally, since a new mattress will improve sleep performance, seniors can reap significant health benefits from the investment. Consistently sleeping well on a comfortable mattress results in:
- Improved memory
- Lower stress
- Improved mood
- Better weight control
- Greater creativity
- Less inflammation
- Longer life span
On the other hand, according to WebMD, people who sleep poorly put themselves at risk for:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
With so much at stake, the cost of a mattress that will increase the quality of sleep seems well worth the money. In fact, a mattress that costs $1,000 and lasts seven years will cost about 40 cents per night — a small price to pay for a good health and well-being.
And while new mattresses will not overcome all sleep challenges seniors face, they can help alleviate some common issues that keep older people from getting the sleep they need.
A mattress that costs $1,000 and lasts seven years will cost about 40 cents per night.
What to look for in a mattress for seniors
In general, the best mattresses for seniors have sufficient support to maintain neutral spine alignment, enough contouring to relieve pressure points (think heels, hips, shoulders), and some means for regulating body temperature. Mattresses with firm edge support will not only prevent sagging and last longer but also make it easier to get in and out of bed.
For many seniors, the best mattress will address their individual sleep challenges. High-density memory and latex foam mattresses that are medium or medium firm are especially good choices for seniors who suffer from:
- Joint pain
- Back pain
High-density foam mattresses contour the body, gently supporting joints and the spine, and relieve pressure on compression points like heels, hips, and shoulders.
Adjustable beds are especially good choices for seniors who struggle with:
- Poor circulation
- Leg cramps
- Acid reflux
- Sleep apnea and snoring
- Back pain
Lying flat can be uncomfortable for many seniors, especially back sleepers. Raising the top portion of the bed and elevating the feet can take pressure off the back, and improve circulation. An elevated upper body helps to open airways, relieving sleep apnea and minimizing snoring, finally giving older people the solid night’s sleep they need and deserve. Take a look at our favorite adjustable beds here.
The best mattresses for seniors at a glance
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* Price for a queen size mattress.
Hybrid mattresses, or mattresses made of innerspring and foam, may be the best of all worlds for many seniors. They combine the firmness and “push-back” of an innerspring, making it easy to move around and get out of bed, with the “hug” of a foam mattress to relieve pressure points, which are important to people with aching joints. Coil support cores allow for significant airflow keeping sleepers cool and comfortable naturally.
The best hybrid mattresses for seniors
Just the facts
- Price: $999 (Queen)
- Trial Period: 120 nights
- Warranty: 15 years
why we like it
Saatva’s individually wrapped coils contour to each sleeper’s body providing support and contouring where you need it. Because the coils move independently and are covered with a plush euro pillow top, they allow sleepers to move without disturbing their partners. An additional memory foam layer provides lumbar support to reduce stress and tension in the lower back. Their Dual Perimeter Edge Support System prevents the edge from collapsing and makes it easy for sleepers to get out of bed.
And seniors can choose from three different comfort levels for a perfect match of sleep styles and firmness preferences. An optional adjustable base makes the Saatva mattress perfect for anyone looking for relief from leg cramps, acid reflux, snoring, and lower back pain. Reasonably priced and delivered to your home with free set-up and mattress removal, the Saatva mattress is tough to beat.
word on the street
- “The Saatva Luxury Firm Mattress has made a remarkable difference in my wife’s back pain. I sleep like a rock on it too! Wonderful company, speedy delivery, and great price. …Thanks for the peace you have given to us.” (Glen)
- “I have trouble with fibromyalgia as well as bad arthritis. I have struggled to get out of bed for years. This mattress has relieved a lot of pain I have in my hips in the morning. I am very pleased with this mattress.” (Molly)
Just the Facts
- Price: $995 for queen (price may vary based on customization)
- Trial Period: 100 nights
- Warranty: 10 years
Why We Like It
Helix takes the guesswork out of finding the right comfort level by simply asking customers what they like. By answering a few questions about sleep preferences and body types, seniors get a custom-made hybrid mattress that perfectly addresses their needs. Their combination of individually wrapped coils and personalized foam layer adjust to each sleeper’s weight and position without disturbing their partner. Extra cooling is provided by Helix’s own super cooling foam to prevent sleepers from sleeping hot. Couples can choose mattresses that blend their comfort preferences or dual comfort mattresses that deliver personalized comfort on each side.
Seniors may need help with set up. Helix beds are delivered in a convenient box to your door. Just unwrap and allow it to expand to its full size.
Word on the Street
- “The personalization is the coolest thing. My wife and I just love our mattress.” (Lawrence B.)
- “For the first time in a long time, I slept like a baby. Worth every penny!” (Donna P.)
Natural latex foam mattresses provide seniors the benefits of memory foam without some of the drawbacks. Latex provides the “hug” and contouring of memory foam without sleeping hot. It offers superior pressure point relief for those aching muscles and joints and virtually eliminates motion transfer. That means you won’t wake up every time your partner rolls over or goes to the bathroom.
The best latex mattress for seniors
Just the Facts
- Price: $1,899 (Queen)
- Trial Period: 120 nights
- Warranty: 20 years
Why We Like It
Zenhaven takes the two most preferred firmness levels and combines them on one mattress for two-sided comfort. Most seniors will find the Luxury Plush side perfectly suits them (80% of latex customers do). Others who prefer a slightly firmer feel can use the other side with the Gentle Firm comfort layer.
Older sleepers may like to have the different comfort levels in case their needs or preferences change, although some may need help flipping the mattress. Five distinct comfort zones provide greater support where you need it most for better spinal alignment and greater comfort overall.
Zenhaven latex mattresses are naturally hypoallergenic, resistant to mold, microbes and dust mites, and there are no harsh chemicals. Natural latex sleeps cools because of an open cell structure that allows air to circulate and dissipate body heat rather than trap it. An optional adjustable base allows seniors to choose the best possible sleep position for their individual needs. ZenHaven also comes with free white glove set-up and removal of your old mattress.
Word on the Street
- “Thank you so much for such a wonderful sleeping experience. My husband and I are in our 60s: I am considerably underweight and he quite overweight. Yet since May we are — for the first time ever — both sleeping beautifully on one supremely comfortable mattress and awaken fresh every morning. Another thing I love about the Zenhaven is that even when the temperatures soared this summer to high 90s (we live in the Midwest and don’t have a/c) the mattress didn’t feel hot underneath our bodies.” (Mary K.)
High-quality air beds use air chambers as their core support. They offer seniors a wide range of firmness levels that can be adjusted at any time by remote controls for each sleeper. Mattresses with air chambers on each side of the bed allow each sleeper to customize the firmness and support under shoulders, lumbar regions, and legs for totally individualized comfort.
The best air bed for seniors
Just the facts
- Price: $1,099 (Queen)
- Trial Period: 100 nights
- Warranty: 2 years
Finding your it Bed Sleep Number setting
Why we like it
The it Bed by Sleep Number is an excellent choice for seniors who are comfortable with technology and aren’t reluctant to learn how to control their comfort levels. The mattress comes with built-in biometric sensors that track your movement, heart rate, and breathing, before using this information to provide adjustments geared toward improving your sleep. For partners with varying sleep preferences, the bed’s dual zone temperature and firmness controls allow each person to sleep more comfortably.
The it Bed also integrates with FitBit, Nest thermostats, Apple Health, and other technologies. One thing to keep in mind is that this mattress doesn’t come with a remote, so you’ll need to get out of bed to make some adjustments, while others can be made from your phone.
Word on the Street
- “Easy to set up, from box to bed less than 30 minutes. Love that my smartphone operates and provides reports on my sleep habits. By making some small changes on my part has resulted in me being able to sleep sounder.”
- “My husband and I always fight over what makes a mattress comfortable. The it bed has solved that argument! We love being able to adjust the firmness levels and track our sleep with the Sleep app! I am so happy I found this bed. It sounds cheesy but this bed is life changing.”
Seniors need and deserve to get the good night’s sleep that a quality mattress can provide. While a mattress can’t solve all of your sleep challenges, a good mattress that suits your needs can give you the best shot at a good night’s sleep possible.
If you have any questions about any of our picks or other mattresses, drop us a line. We’ll do our best to answer your questions.
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