When it’s time for a new mattress, we usually consider our weight, sleeping position, budget, and desired firmness and comfort level. However, one thing we may not consider upfront is our age. People aged 65 and older are more likely to have chronic pain conditions, poor circulation, and specific sleep position needs— all of which can be impacted by mattress choice. To get a better night’s sleep, seniors should choose a mattress with excellent pressure relief, even back support, and long-lasting materials.
According to the CDC, the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and “related dementias” will double by the year 2060. In the year 2014, 5 million people, or 1.6 percent of the US population, were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. While the connection between sleep and cognitive function is still being examined, researchers have already found quite a few links between poor sleep and the incidence of brain diseases later in life.
What’s more, seniors are also more likely to be affected by chronic diseases such as heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes, which are linked to poor sleep. Beyond choosing a good mattress, seniors can use other sleep accessories such as adjustable beds to ensure they get a good night’s sleep and improve their long-term health.
Amerisleep Mattresses for Seniors
For seniors who like a firm mattress, we recommend the Amerisleep AS2. It’s our medium-firm bed and all 3 of its layers work together to offer targeted support and balanced cushioning.
The two inches of plant-based Bio-Pur® on top bounce back in seconds, keeping you from feeling stuck or trapped in bed. In contrast, traditional memory foam takes up to a minute to regain its original shape. Bio-Pur® is manufactured using castor oil, which reduces the off-gassing smell associated with memory foam.
Beneath the Bio-Pur® layer sit 3 inches of Affinity foam with HIVE® technology. This layer is what keeps sleepers feeling supported and secure while preventing pressure build-up in the back, hips, and shoulders.
Finally, 7 inches of Bio-Core® act as the sturdy base— this layer allows Amerisleep to offer a 20-year warranty, which is 10 years longer than the industry standard. The Bio-Core® layer prevents sagging and indentations. Business Insider called the AS2 the “Best Mattress for Back Pain” — for seniors affected by back or other chronic pain, the AS2 is the best choice.
Every Amerisleep mattress is encased with a breathable cover to prevent heat retention and night sweats. Plus, our cover is soft-to-the-touch to deliver immediate comfort.
For seniors who like a medium feel, we recommend our medium AS3. This is our best-selling mattress thanks to its versatility. Side and combo sleepers, as well as couples, seem to enjoy this bed the most. It has all the foams found in the AS2— the only difference is the thickness of each layer.
The AS3’s top layer is three inches of Bio-Pur®. The extra inch of cushioning allows for slightly more sink and contouring without sacrificing support. The 2-inchAffinity layer with HIVE® technology supports the softer Bio-Pur® layer above it and draws heat and moisture away from the sleeper. 7 inches of Bio-Core® in the base support the sleeper and the other layers, preventing sags or indentations.
The Amerisleep AS4 is popular for side and combination sleepers who like a softer bed than the AS3, but not so soft that they might feel unsupported or “stuck.”
The AS4 has 4 inches of Bio-Pur®, a 1-inch thick Affinity layer, and 7 inches of Bio-Core®. Of the three mattresses listed here, this one has the thickest comfort layer, making it ideal for the side sleeper who wants to feel cradled in their mattress. And even though this comfort layer is thick, it won’t overheat thanks to the breathable construction of the Bio-Pur®.
All Amerisleep mattresses come with free shipping and free returns to the contiguous United States, a 20-year warranty, and a 100-night risk-free sleep trial.
How Does Age Affect Sleep?
As we age, our bodies are more susceptible to joint pain, arthritis, and other musculoskeletal diseases that inhibit movement. Additionally, many elderly patients are diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and other chronic illnesses.
According to The National Council on Aging, 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease and 77% have two. Not only do these diseases impact sleep, but some of them are even a precursor to bad sleep. No matter which comes first (the disease or the bad sleep), the key is educating yourself about ways you can sleep better starting as soon as tonight!
Arthritis is a degenerative disease affecting more than 50 million adults and even 300,000 children. More women than men have arthritis and the symptoms tend to worsen with age. The most common type is osteoarthritis, which occurs when bone cartilage begins to wear down, causing pain, swelling, and inflammation.
70% of osteoarthritis sufferers say it affects their sleep. It’s not so much that the pain keeps you awake, but rather that poor sleep makes the pain worse— perpetuating an awful cycle of exhaustion and discomfort. Poor sleep can lead to more serious issues as well, such as increased depression, a higher likelihood of heart disease, and poor cognitive function during waking hours.
To get better sleep, arthritis sufferers should look into a medium or medium-firm mattress that relieves pressure points (rather than causing them to build up). Memory foam or latex are both excellent materials that sink down just enough to relieve pain, and a medium or medium-firm mattress has enough support to prevent any spinal misalignment or a “stuck” feeling.
Fibromyalgia is a little more nuanced than arthritis as it does not usually stem from an isolated area on the body, but instead can be caused by physical injury, surgery, infection, or a physically traumatic event. Additionally, the symptoms of fibromyalgia can lead to misdiagnosis since they are associated with other diseases— symptoms like tension headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by pain or a dull ache all over, and those who have it usually deal with some form of sleep deprivation. Doctors aren’t sure what causes fibromyalgia, but researchers believe it has something to do with the neurotransmitters in the brain becoming more sensitive to pain. Age is a precursor to fibromyalgia since it often accompanies other age-specific diseases such as osteoarthritis.
Similar to osteoarthritis patients, those with fibromyalgia will need a bed with plenty of pressure-relieving qualities as well as one with soft cushioning, such as a memory foam mattress.
Over the decades, Americans’ sleep quality and duration have decreased. Even though the recommended time for sleep hasn’t changed (it’s still 7-9 hours a night for adults), the amount we actually get keeps dropping— in fact, most adults only get 6 hours a night on average.
Studies have shown a clear link between poor sleep and poor diet choices, as well as reduced physical activity— all of which are precursors to Type 2 diabetes. Our bodies perform critical functions during REM and non-REM sleep, including regulating our glucose levels.
A study measuring the effects of sleep deprivation on glucose levels found that glucose regulation was impaired during the day for those who got fewer hours of sleep than the recommended 7-9. The glucose levels in the sleep-deprived participants also exhibited physical symptoms consistent in pre-diabetic individuals.
Why are the elderly more affected by diabetes? Well, as we age, our glucose regulation function begins to decrease. While most diabetes diagnoses occur due to obesity, 22-33 percent of U.S. adults aged 65 years and older are diagnosed with diabetes due simply to age. Fortunately, Type 2 diabetes is preventable with proper nutrition, exercise, and healthy sleep habits.
If you suffer from diabetes, your sleep patterns are likely irregular because of numbness in the limbs (also known as “paresthesia” or neuropathy), dizziness, overheating or night sweats, and poor circulation.
Diabetes sufferers are more likely to be comfortable on a medium or medium-soft mattress that allows for pressure relief without overheating. Memory foam is known for trapping heat unless it’s infused with gel, copper, or graphite. Gel memory foam is the most popular type— made especially for those who need a breathable sleeping surface.
80 percent of those with End-Stage Renal Disease (stage four of kidney disease) report dealing with at least one sleep disorder (most commonly daytime sleepiness or insomnia). Old age is considered a factor for kidney disease, since our kidneys, just like our other organs, age right along with us! More than 50 percent of seniors aged 75 and older have kidney disease (although many who have it don’t know it).
The risk factors for kidney disease often appear in older adults, such as diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension). Sleep disorders linked to kidney disease include Restless Leg Syndrome, sleep apnea, and insomnia.
If you deal with kidney disease and poor sleep issues, you will probably benefit from a medium or medium-soft mattress with plenty of pressure relief and support. You might also consider an adjustable bed, since these allow for better circulation, breathing, and lower back support.
Elderly people are more likely to experience heart problems such as heart disease, stroke, heart attack, or even heart failure. The arteries harden and narrow over time and fat deposits build up, forcing your heart to work harder. Since the heart is usually weakened with age, this creates the perfect storm for heart disease.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology learned that sleeping on the right side was best for heart health; essentially, the heart didn’t have to work as hard when participants slept on their right sides.
Another study examined the sleep positions and habits of right and left-side sleepers and found that those who slept on the right side experienced fewer OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) symptoms. Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the more common sleep disorders, and, left untreated, it can lead to heart disease.
Mattress Considerations for Seniors
We all think about personal circumstances and preferences before we buy a new mattress— after all, so much of our health depends on it, so it only makes sense that we take our time choosing the right one. For seniors, the best mattress should have at least some of the following qualities:
- Pressure relief
- Good back support, especially for back pain sufferers
- Durability (should last 7-10 years)
- Cooling and/or temperature regulation of some kind
- Minimal motion transfer and bounciness
Whether or not you find a mattress with these characteristics depends on the mattress type you choose.
Innerspring and foam mattresses dominate the mattress marketplace these days, but there are a few other mattress options in a wide variety of firmnesses to suit different needs and circumstances. Older couples or even singles can easily find a comfortable bed for improved sleep.
Memory foam mattresses are one of the most popular beds because they conform closely to the body and relieve pressure points in the lower back, shoulders, and other sensitive joints. Seniors with arthritis, fibromyalgia, scoliosis, or other musculoskeletal diseases will probably be comfortable on memory foam mattresses.
Note that there are two different types of foam used to make mattresses— memory foam, or viscoelastic foam, and polyurethane foam, or poly-foam. Viscoelastic foam starts as polyurethane foam, but then other chemicals are added to give it its soft, plush feel.
Poly-foam is made using petrochemicals such as petroleum— it feels similar to memory foam, but it’s cheaper to make and it doesn’t last as long.
Memory foam exists in more eco-friendly variations. Amerisleep’s Bio-Pur® foam is partially plant-based. During manufacturing, we replace some of the petroleum with castor oil, which reduces the off-gassing odor so common to memory foam.
Innerspring beds are made with steel coils in the base and a pillow or Euro top layer sewn on top. The coils are usually one of a few different types: Bonnell (hourglass-shaped and the cheapest to make), continuous (held together with one long wire; more sturdy than Bonnell coils), and offset coils (more durable than Bonnell or continuous coils).
Higher-end innerspring beds are made with individually-wrapped coils, which isolate motion much better than the typical coil mattress.
Even the highest quality innerspring mattress can begin sagging after just a few years. That’s why we caution against older people using them, as they can feel “stuck” in the middle of the mattress or experience increased lower back pain after sleeping on one.
Hybrid beds, despite their name, have little to do with the eco-friendly movement that’s taken hold of the consumer industry in recent years. Instead, hybrids combine two different features of the most popular mattress types— innersprings and memory foam— into one mattress.
A true hybrid is not a mixture of two different types of foam (although some brands market such mattresses as “hybrids”)— it must have at least 2-3 inches of foam in the top layers and then a coil base. Hybrids often contain wrapped coils, and with the addition of memory or latex foam in the top layers, they isolate motion much better than their innerspring counterparts.
Because they contain coils, hybrids are still much bouncier than a basic memory foam mattress, but they also have added pressure relief thanks to their layers of foam. Hybrids do have some contouring ability, but nowhere near as much as memory foam mattresses. Keep that in mind as you shop— pressure and pain relief is key for seniors.
Because latex feels similar to memory foam, you might have slept on it before without realizing it! The way it’s made is slightly different from memory foam, however, and the process is much more eco-friendly.
Latex is harvested from the sap of rubber trees and then processed one of a few different ways. The most popular types of latex are Talalay and Dunlop. Talalay is softer because of added synthetic materials— because of these additions, Talalay is not 100% natural. Dunlop latex is slightly firmer and bouncier than Talalay; it’s also completely natural, so eco-conscious customers may gravitate toward Dunlop latex mattresses.
Natural latex is quite durable— high-quality latex beds can last up to 8-10 years with proper maintenance and care. However, keep in mind that synthetic or blended latex beds have a slightly shorter lifespan and are more prone to sagging.
Seniors will find plenty of pressure relief, cushioning, and conformability in latex mattresses, but they do not have as much “sink” as memory foam. This can be a pro or a con depending on your preferences.
There are a few different ways you can determine how firm a mattress is. The most obvious way is to try one out— laying flat on a mattress in a showroom for a few minutes used to be the one and only way customers could try out a bed before buying it. Now, thanks to bed in a box online brands, customers can actually sleep on a potential choice for a few nights (up to three months) before they decide to keep the bed.
Of course, it’s a little more convenient when you already know which firmness is best before you get the bed delivered— after all, what if you sleep on it for a couple of months only to find out it’s too soft or too firm? Even if the sleep trial is risk-free and the company offers a full refund, you still have to arrange for a pick-up. Seniors, in particular, should avoid heavy lifting and moving, so the less they have to do, the better.
To help customers understand mattress firmness, most companies have a firmness scale on their website. This scale runs from 1-10, with 1 being extremely soft and 10 being extremely firm. Most mattresses fall between 3-8 on this scale with little variance— a mattress rated 1 or 10 would be uncomfortable or unsupportive for most.
In general, you can assume that a mattress marketed as “medium” will lie between 5-6.5 on the firmness scale. Medium is the most popular firmness choice because it appeals to couples, those with different sleep preferences, and side and combo-sleepers (the two most popular sleeping positions).
|Firmness||Firmness Scale Rating|
Remember that there is some variance in the application of this scale— one brand may call a mattress “medium” when it actually rates closer to a 7, or medium-firm. If you’re unsure, contact the customer service reps for more specific information about the feel. Some bed-in-a-box brands, including Amerisleep, have physical store locations where you can try out the mattresses in person before buying.
There is one other way to determine firmness, although it’s a bit more technical and not often advertised on mattress websites. However, you might come across the term in your search, so it helps to know exactly what it means.
The ILD, or Indentation Load Deflection rating, measures the firmness of the top comfort layers of a mattress. This is done by placing a small weight (usually shaped like a sphere) on top of the mattress and then measuring the depth of the indentation.
However much weight is needed to compress the mattress up to 25% of its thickness, or one inch, becomes the ILD rating. Therefore, the higher the weight, the firmer the mattress. Note that the ILD only measures the firmness of the top layers since that is what the sleeper will feel, so if you would like a better “overall” firmness rating, refer to the firmness scale.
Seniors often suffer from back pain or other degenerative issues, which will affect their choice of firmness. It used to be that most assumed a soft bed was the best mattress for back pain; however, recent data suggests a medium-firm mattress is best.
Next to firmness and mattress type, sleeping position is the key to how your mattress feels. What feels soft to a back-sleeper may feel much too firm or uncomfortable for a side-sleeper.
Back sleepers typically feel most comfortable and supported on medium-firm, firm, and sometimes medium mattresses. Keep in mind that mattress firmness is a little subjective depending on the brand— this is why knowing the firmness scale rating is helpful.
Sleeping on your back puts you in the best position for spinal alignment as long as your mattress doesn’t sink down too far or cause the hips to bow upward. Studies have shown the best firmness for back pain sufferers is medium-firm.
One drawback of sleeping in the supine position is that it can close off the airways— gravity presses down on the soft tissues of the throat, leading to or exacerbating snoring or sleep apnea. Sleep apnea affects up to 20% of adults ages 55-78, and one study found that the presence of sleep apnea in seniors can even increase their mortality risk.
As such, seniors should avoid back sleeping unless they use a mid to high-loft pillow that keeps their airways open. Additionally, seniors can invest in an adjustable base which allows you to keep your head elevated all night without any pillow adjustments.
Side sleeping is one of the healthiest positions overall— it keeps the spine in a neutral position, leaves the airways open, and even promotes better heart health (as long as you sleep on your right side). One recent study found that side-sleeping may even prevent the incidence of degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s because it allows the brain to clear out waste more effectively during sleep.
There are a few drawbacks to sleeping on your side, especially if your mattress is too firm. Side-sleepers most often choose a medium or medium-soft mattress that prevents paresthesia— that “pins and needles” feeling that occurs when you sleep with your arms under your head (like most side-sleepers do). If your mattress is too firm, it will press against your limbs and inflame pressure points.
To prevent this, side sleepers ought to choose a softer bed. We recommend The AS3 or AS4 for side-sleepers because both relieve pressure points and offer support without sinking down too far.
Stomach sleeping is not recommended for anyone— no matter your age— because it comes with the most risk for back, neck, and shoulder pain as well as serious injury or misalignment. In fact, the only potential benefit of sleeping on the stomach is that it may not cause snoring (however, some stomach sleepers sleep with their faces in their pillows, which doesn’t keep the airways open).
Seniors who sleep this way should try and train themselves to sleep another way by using a body pillow or even an adjustable base. If you’re having a hard time switching from stomach sleeping to another position, at least choose a mattress that is firm enough to keep the spine neutral— for stomach sleepers, this translates to a firm or medium-firm bed.
Certain medical conditions like those commonly afflicting elderly folks are exacerbated by overheating. Memory foam mattresses, especially those with a thick memory foam layer on top, are especially prone to trapping heat. For this reason, older people who suffer from diabetes (and subsequent night sweats), poor circulation, or chronic pain further irritated by heat should choose a mattress with cooling technologies.
Naturally cooling mattresses like innersprings and hybrids dissipate body heat through their open coil structures, but they also have less motion isolation and pressure relief than memory foam mattresses.
To enjoy the benefits of both pressure relief and cooling, we recommend seniors choose a memory foam mattress infused with gel or one with advanced open-cell technology. Look for foams that are CertiPUR-US® certified— this means they are tested for formaldehyde, phthalates, and other potential allergens and chemicals that can disrupt sleep.
Noise and Motion Isolation
A noisy mattress doesn’t appeal to anyone, but it can be especially bothersome to seniors whose sleep cycles are more fragile and prone to interruptions. Innerspring mattresses are the noisiest type because of their bouncy coils. Some hybrids can be noisy as well, although the foam layers on top may muffle some of the noise. The quietest mattress types are memory foam and latex.
If your mattress is noisy, chances are good that it also transfers motion fairly well— meaning if you share your bed, you will probably feel every movement your partner makes in the night. Again, opting for memory foam or latex beds will mitigate this issue since both mattress types absorb motion while conforming nicely to each individual in the bed.
Warranties, Return Policies, and Sleep Trials
Warranties protect against any damages or manufacturing defects your new mattress may have. Most mattresses come with a 10-year warranty, but some brands offer even longer warranty periods because they have that much more confidence in their product. However, beware of overlong warranties, like lifetime warranties— they seem like a great guarantee, but they’re more of a marketing tactic. Even the highest quality mattress doesn’t last that long.
If there is no sleep trial offered with your new mattress, look for a return policy or customer guarantee that allows you to return the bed for a refund within a certain trial period. We always recommend mattresses with sleep trials over customer guarantees— they have less risk and allow you to try out the bed for much longer than most return policies (up to 100 nights).
Do seniors need to be concerned about edge support?
Edge support is more commonly found in innerspring mattresses with pillow or Euro tops, but some memory foam beds may offer some form of it as well. Edge support keeps the sleeper from feeling like they will roll off the bed or makes it easier to sit on the bed’s edge.
Edge support isn’t an absolute necessity for seniors, but it can be nice if you move around a lot at night and want to avoid falling off the bed. Keep in mind that a bed with built-in edge support also has less surface area.
What mattress should I choose if I am overweight or petite?
Seniors who don’t fit the average “body type” may need to do some extra research before buying a new bed. In general, petite sleepers (weighing less than 130 pounds) should opt for a medium-soft or soft mattress. Heavier sleepers need a medium-firm or firm bed that supports their weight and does not sag even after years of use.
Do all bed in a box mattresses come with white glove delivery?
Seniors may pay closer attention to white glove delivery than the average mattress customer because they’ll want to avoid too much lifting or moving. Some companies offer white glove delivery as part of the mattress purchase, while others charge an extra fee. White glove delivery ensures someone will set up your new mattress and remove your old one— you don’t have to lift a finger!
Not all brands offer this service, so if it’s worth it to you, look for those that do.
What is the best mattress for seniors?
The right mattress for seniors should be supportive, isolate motion well, relieve pressure points, and deter sagging. To elevate their sleep experience even more, seniors should consider using their mattress with an adjustable bed base, which allows them to customize their posture while in bed. Adjustable beds work with most foam mattresses, but they are not always compatible with innersprings or hybrids— always check the company’s website for more info about compatibility.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.