Pillows & Sleep Accessories for Seniors
In addition to their mattress selection, seniors can optimize the condition of their sleep surface by choosing the right pillows and toppers, as well as utilizing an adjustable bed.
As with mattresses, support is an important consideration when shopping for new pillows as a senior. The best pillows provide adequate support to the sleeper’s head, neck, and shoulders, but pillows that are too thick or too thin can cause discomfort and pressure buildup.
Pillow ‘loft,’ or thickness, can be used to determine the best pillow size. ‘High-loft pillows’ are five inches (5″) thicker, and ‘low-loft’ pillows are three inches (3″) or thinner. Factors that affect loft choice include:
- Head size: Seniors with heads that are larger than average usually prefer high-loft pillows because they provide more support. People with smaller than average heads tend to feel most comfortable on low-loft pillows.
- Body weight: Generally speaking, people who weigh more require less loft. They typically prefer thinner pillows, while those who weigh less may feel more comfortable on thicker, higher-loft pillows.
- Shoulder span: Seniors with broader shoulders often require high-loft pillows to feel sufficiently supported, while people with narrower shoulders usually feel more comfortable on low-loft pillows.
- Mattress firmness: Softer mattresses usually pair best with low-loft pillows because the pillow creates less space between the sleeper’s body and the mattress surface. Alternatively, high-loft pillows may be most suitable for firmer mattresses because the sleeper will not sink as deeply into the mattress surface.
The table below features a detailed breakdown for choosing the best pillow loft.
Another key consideration is the composition of the pillow. Certain pillow materials — such as buckwheat, latex, and memory foam — provide above-average support for sleepers and are fairly durable, but these models can be fairly expensive. Cheaper pillow types, such as down alternative and polyester, do not provide the same levels of support and tend to degrade quickly.
For more information, please check out our Best Pillows — Buying Guide and Information page.
A mattress ‘topper’ is an individual layer of cushioning that can be placed on top of the mattress to adjust the firmness and comfort levels, and also optimize the supportiveness of the sleep surface. Most toppers make the mattress feel less firm, but some models can increase the firmness for softer sleep surfaces. Toppers may rest freely on the top surface or feature elastic corners that can be tucked over the mattress like a fitted sheet.
Mattress toppers can be a good choice for seniors who have different firmness preferences than their partner, as toppers can be sized to fit for one side of the bed. They’re also helpful solutions when a senior experiences a temporary change in their firmness preferences, such as from illness or treatment, but doesn’t want to purchase a whole new mattress.
Topper composition is usually the most important factor. Topper materials like latex, memory foam, and wool tend to be the most popular options because they perform for several years, maintain a full shape, and produce very little noise, but they are also the most expensive options.
Other topper materials, such as feathers and polyester, are available at a lower price — but these toppers are not as durable, tend to develop lumps, and can be loud.
For more information about mattress toppers, please visit our Best Mattress Toppers guide.
Adjustable beds are a popular bedding accessory for seniors because they allow sleepers to customize the angle of the bed. In addition to a flat, standard sleep surface, adjustable beds can be raised or lowered at the head; some models allow users to raise or lower the feet, as well. Most adjustable beds today can be adjusted using remote controls or wireless apps, but some models feature manual controls.
The customizable firmness and support functions of adjustable beds can be quite beneficial for seniors with medical conditions that cause aches and pains, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, scoliosis, and restless legs syndrome.
Some models also come with ‘anti-snore presets,’ which elevate the area beneath the head; this can aid people with sleep apnea and others who are more prone to snoring. And because most adjustable beds support between 600 and 800 pounds of weight, they are considered suitable for most couples.
In addition to angle adjustment, today’s adjustable beds perform other functions as well. These may include:
- Customizable height
- Dual firmness adjustment (for couples)
- Built-in massage
- Silent, vibrating alarm
Most adjustable beds cost between $1,000 and $3,000, but this investment can pay off substantially for seniors with chronic pain and pressure. For more information, please visit our Adjustable Bed Reviews page.