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What Older Adults Should Look for in a Mattress

Jan 24 2019

By Lisa Smalls

You know how the shoes and clothes you wear change with age? Same goes for the mattress you sleep in.

That’s because a host of things change within our bodies as we age that do make it more difficult for us to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Some 50 percent of older adults will complain of symptoms of insomnia, or the inability to fall or stay asleep. We are more susceptible to forces that contribute to insomnia because of the physical ailments we may be dealing with:

  • Arthritis;
  • Osteoporosis;
  • Depression or anxiety;
  • Restless leg syndrome;
  • Acid reflux;
  • Frequent urination;
  • Sleep apnea;
  • Medications for ailments that affect the elderly; and
  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

People’s internal clocks also evolve as they age. Older adults will want to go to sleep earlier and to wake up earlier. That is true of all aging adults whether they complain of not sleeping well or not. The good news here is that the most common sleep challenges don’t need a sleep-aid or medication to improve.

These age-specific concerns mean that older sleepers also need specific features in their mattresses to sleep effectively. The right mattress really can help people get good sleep.

  • Medium-soft firmness—cradles weaker bones & bodies with less muscle mass.
  • Adjustable base—raise feet (circulation to alleviate edema) or head (acid reflux).
  • Good contouring for side sleepers (gentle contouring for older shoulders, hips, knees).

You have so many options in mattress types:

  • Traditional innerspring types are familiar to all with great cooling & air flow.
  • All-foam types contour & reduce motion transfer when a partner moves around.
  • Hybrids use foam and coils to enhance both contouring and support.

Any mattress that an older adult uses has to keep their spine aligned and relieve pressure on the joints. If the mattress fails to do either, it will not work for an elderly person, no matter how expensive or fancy it seems. That is why hybrids probably offer the best approach.

Also, there is mobility to consider. Because our bones and muscles lose strength as we age, we just don’t move as well as a younger person. Getting into and out of bed is a dicier process than we might realize. Older people should be very careful to avoid falling and suffering a major injury like a broken hip or leg.

Because of that, you need a bed that will support you if you sit on the edge of it. Make sure you pay attention to the mattresses that have strong edge support. Those mattresses are made to keep you steady as you prepare to rise from the bed and steady you as you get into bed. They’ll also prevent you from slipping off the edge as you move around during sleep.

Finally, we all had to learn how to work well with others in the sandbox in kindergarten, after years of sharing absolutely nothing at home. We had to learn to wash our own clothes, after years of mom and dad doing it for us. Joining the cool folks in the 65+ set requires the same effort.

As we work for better sleep, know that anyone can benefit from:

  • Cutting caffeine, especially starting in the early evening.
  • Getting more sunshine; it helps keep the internal clock running accurately.
  • Getting regular exercise to burn fuel.
  • Establishing a firm and consistent bedtime.
  • Building a comfortable sleep environment that includes the right mattress.

Here’s wishing you regular, restorative sleep.