- How Sleep Works
- Sleep Disorders
- Sleep Resources
- Sleep Health
- Sleep Medicine
A good night’s rest is essential for people aged 65 and older, particularly those who live with chronic pain. According to recent polls, more than half of seniors living on their own experience persistent chronic pain, while 80% of seniors living in nursing homes also deal with chronic pain. These individuals require a sleep surface that provides the support and comfort needed for healthy, restorative sleep. Some mattresses are designed to conform closely to the sleeper’s body, which can help align the spine and alleviate aches and pains in sensitive areas like the neck, shoulders, lower back, and hips. Other mattresses offer little to no conforming, and these models may exacerbate chronic pain symptoms.
This guide will look at key considerations for selecting a mattress for an older person, as well as our picks for the best mattresses for seniors. First, let’s look at the root causes behind some common sleep issues for seniors. Please note: for the purposes of this article, anyone aged 65 and older is considered a senior.
Insomnia is more common in seniors, according to recent polls. The causes vary; some experience insomnia due to health issues or anxiety about aging, while others have a hard time sleeping due to side effects of prescription medication. Seniors are also more susceptible to certain sleep disorders. These include sleep apnea, or temporary loss of breath during sleep, and restless legs syndrome, which is characterized by painful itching and numbness in one’s legs when they are laying in bed.
Other conditions that affect sleep in seniors may include:
The following characteristics and functions of mattresses can significantly affect sleep quality in older people.
Support: The term ‘mattress support’ refers to how even and stable the sleep surface is. A supportive mattress will keep the sleeper’s body level and flat throughout the night, which is instrumental in preventing and alleviating back pain. Unsupportive mattresses, on the other hand, tend to sag in the middle, creating an uneven sleep surface that can hinder spinal alignment and exacerbate existing aches and pains.
Sagging of less than one and a half inches (1 1/2″) may lead to some discomfort, but the greatest amounts of pain and pressure are associated with sagging that measures more than one and a half inches (1 1/2″). This is key to evaluating mattress warranties (see next section).
Conforming and pressure relief: Mattresses that conform closely will create a mold-like impression around the curves and contours of the sleeper’s body. This helps align the spine and alleviate pressure points, and also provides even support throughout the body.
Some mattresses do not conform much, if at all. Others may conform closely in some areas but not others, creating an uneven sleep surface that can increase pressure in sensitive areas of the body.
Firmness options: Mattress firmness is tied to support, and sleep surfaces that are either too soft or too firm will not provide adequate support for most sleepers. However, this is somewhat contingent on body weight. Heavier individuals (more than 230 pounds( tend to experience the most support on mattresses that are ‘Medium Firm’ or ‘Firm’; softer mattresses tend to sink too deeply. Likewise, lighter individuals (less than 130 pounds) typically prefer ‘Soft,’ ‘Medium Soft,’ or ‘Medium’ mattresses because they conform more closely; firmer mattresses may not sink deeply enough, depriving the sleeper of close conforming and targeted pain relief.
Preferred sleep position is also important for determining the proper firmness. Sleeping on one’s back is a position that naturally aligns the spine; those who sleep on their backs require a mattress that will provide even, level support, particularly in areas where their weight is concentrated. Other sleep positions do not align the spine. Side-sleeping puts most of the body’s weight on the shoulders, which can increase pressure in the head and neck, as well as the hips. Stomach-sleeping often results in sagging at the sleeper’s midsection, where most of their weight is usually concentrated, and this causes the spine to dip.
The table below lists the optimal firmness for each weight group and sleep position, based on mattress owner feedback. Please note that these ratings are subjective; the best way to determine the proper mattress firmness for you is to try out different designs and models.
|Weight Group||Back Sleeping||Side Sleeping||Stomach Sleeping|
|Less than 130 lbs||Medium Soft to Medium||Soft to Medium Soft||Medium Soft to Medium|
|130 to 230 lbs||Medium Soft to Medium Firm||Medium Soft to Medium||Medium to Medium Firm|
|More than 230 lbs||Medium Firm to Firm||Medium to Medium Firm||Medium Firm to Firm|
Some mattress models are available in multiple firmness options to accommodate sleepers with different preferences. Additionally, dual-firmness designs are ideal for couples with different preferences, and flippable designs allow owners to adjust the firmness by simply rotating the sleep surface.
Durability: The average mattress, regardless of design, will perform for six to seven years. Some mattress types, such as innersprings and polyfoam models, are associated with shorter lifespans, and may begin to sag and feel uncomfortable after as little as two to three years. Other types, such as latex or airbed models, may perform without issue for more than eight years. Airbeds are somewhat durable, but they are prone to breakdowns and malfunctions. Regardless of the mattress type, owners should plan to replace their mattress every seven to eight years, if not sooner.
Understanding mattress durability is important to evaluating a mattress warranty. Some more expensive mattress models come with warranties that span 20 years or longer, and often tout this extended coverage as a selling point. However, a 10-year warranty will be sufficient for the vast majority of mattresses sold today.
Temperature neutrality: Many individuals naturally sleep hot, and some medications for seniors have side effects that can affect sleep temperature. A mattress that is temperature-neutral is neither too warm nor too cold, and will provide a comfortable surface for sleeper’s throughout the night.
Mattresses with thick foam layers tend to sleep the warmest because solid foam absorbs and traps body heat. Mattresses may feature foam layers infused with cooling gels, but some owners claim these models sleep just as warm as those that do not contain gels. Mattresses with coil layers, such as innersprings and hybrids, tend to sleep cooler because of better air circulation through these layers.
Noise: Squeaks and creaks from mattresses are a major source of nighttime sleep disruptions, particularly from people who share their bed with another person. Innersprings and hybrids tend to be the loudest mattresses due to their steel components, and airbeds with electrical systems also tend to produce a fair amount of noise. Foam and latex mattresses, by comparison, are virtually silent when bearing weight.
Motion isolation: Like noise, motion transfer can cause nighttime sleep disruptions for couples. Motion transfer may occur when someone shifts positions, or gets out of or into bed. Mattresses that isolate motion will absorb the transfer and prevent it from spreading to other areas of the sleep surface. This can significantly decrease sleep disruptions.
Odor potential: Mattresses usually emit some light smells when they are new. These odors are known as ‘off-gassing.’ In most cases, these smells will dissipate after a couple of days, particularly in well-ventilated rooms. However, some mattress models — memory foam in particular — are associated with unpleasant, long-lasting odors that never fully go away. These models can cause sleep issues for people who are overly sensitive to bad smells.
Edge support: Mattresses may develop sinkage along the perimeter where people sit when they are getting into and out of bed. Over time, this sinkage can affect the shape of the sleep surface and undermine its supportive qualities. Some mattresses are reinforced along the edges to help reduce sinkage and maintain a flat, even surface.
Ease of movement: Seniors who experience chronic pain may roll over in bed or adjust their sleep position throughout the night in order to stay comfortable. Some mattresses offer little resistance and are much easier to move on as a result, while those that sink deeply may disrupt position changes and cause discomfort.
Price: A new mattress will be a major investment for most people. Shoppers should expect to pay at least $600 for a Queen-size memory foam or innerspring mattress, and price-points for other mattress types — such as latex and hybrid models — are more than double that amount.
Mattress budget will vary by household, but many seniors live on a fixed income that may prevent them from purchasing a high-end mattress model. However, shoppers should note that the price-point of a mattress does not necessarily correlate to quality. Most people will be able to find a mattress of any type that meets their physical needs and preferences for $1,500 or less — in some cases, much less.
The table below rates each of the five most common mattress types based on the criteria listed above. For more information on these mattress types, please visit the links in the top row of the table.
|Construction||Foam comfort layers|
Steel coils in the support core
|Polyfoam and/or memory foam layers in the comfort layer|
Polyfoam layer(s) in the support core
|Latex layer(s) in the comfort layer|
Latex or polyfoam layers in the support core
|At least 2″ of memory foam or latex in the comfort layer, as well as other components (such as polyfoam or minicoils)|
Pocketed coils in the support core
|Foam comfort layers or no comfort layer|
Individualized adjustable air chambers in the support core
|Support||Fair to Good||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good|
|Conforming||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good||Fair to Good||Fair to Good|
|Pain/Pressure Relief||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good||Fair to Good|
|Firmness Options||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good|
|Light Sleeper Rating (Less than 130 lbs)||Fair to Good||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good|
|Heavy Sleeper Rating (More than 230 lbs)||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Poor to Fair|
|Durability||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good||Poor to Fair|
|Temperature Neutrality||Good to Very Good||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good|
|Noise||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good||Poor to Fair|
|Motion Isolation||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good||Fair to Good|
|Odor Potential||Good to Very Good||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Fair to Good||Fair to Good|
|Edge Support||Good to Very Good||Poor to Fair||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good|
|Ease of Movement||Good to Very Good||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good|
|Average Price (Queen)||$700 to $1,1000||$700 to $1,200||$1,500 to $2,000||$1,400 to $1,800||More than $2,000|
|Rating for Seniors||Poor to Fair||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good||Fair to Good|
Now that we’ve discussed the most important mattress qualities for seniors, let’s look at some strategies for evaluating and comparing different brands and models.
Think about medical history: If a senior lives with arthritis or fibromyalgia, then they require a mattress that conforms closely and alleviates aches and pains. If he or she experiences conditions that cause frequent nighttime urination, then a mattress that produces little noise and isolates motion transfer may be the most suitable option. Shoppers should take their entire medical history into consideration when selecting a mattress in order to find one that accommodates their various needs and preferences.
Explore payment options: As we’ve already discussed, many seniors are on a fixed budget. Rather than covering the entire cost up-front, most mattress brands allow purchasers to follow a payment plan, which involves paying off the mattress in monthly installments.
Inquire about the sleep trial: Most mattress brands and retailers allow customers to test out a new mattress by participating in a sleep trial, which may last anywhere from 30 to 365 nights. If the buyer is not satisfied with the mattress by the end of the sleep trial, they may return their mattress for a full refund or, in some cases, exchange it for a model with a different size or firmness. A sleep trial can be highly beneficial for any mattress shopper who is unsure about which models and mattress types will best meet their needs.
Warranty coverage: Most mattress warranties span 10 years in length, and guarantee that the mattress manufacturer will repair or replace any defective mattress as long as the warranty is valid. Mattress warranties typically list sagging as a potential defect, and will define sagging using minimum depth requirements. Some warranties cover sagging that measures as little as a half-inch (1/2″), while others will not cover sagging that measures less than one and a half inches (1 1/2″).
An important consideration with mattress warranties is the coverage type:
Most 10-year warranties are entirely nonprorated. Those that extend 15 years or longer are often nonprorated for 10 years, and prorated for the remainder of the coverage period. However, some mattress warranties offer as little as two to three years of nonprorated coverage, and will prorate the rest. Mattress warranties that are primarily prorated can lead to significant expenses for owners.
Now, let’s look at the top-ranked low-cost mattresses according to seniors. The five mattress models listed below are available for $1,200 or less in a Queen size. To learn more about these brands, please visit the product review links in the top row of the table. Please note: all customer satisfaction ratings are generated from authentic, verified customer and owner experiences.
|Brand||Leesa||Loom & Leaf||Nest Bedding||Sleep on Latex||Tuft & Needle|
|Model||Leesa Foam Mattress||Loom & Leaf by Saatva||Alexander Signature||Pure Green||T&N Mattress|
|Price (Queen)||$940||$1,099||$1,199||$899 (7″)|
|Mattress Type||Mixed foam||Memory foam||Memory foam||Latex||Polyfoam|
|Comfort Layer||3″ Memory foam||2 1/2″ Gel memory foam|
2″ Memory foam
|1″ to 2 1/2″ Gel memory foam|
1″ to 1 1/2″ Memory foam
|No comfort layer (7″)|
2″ Latex (9″)
|Support Core||9″ Polyfoam||7 1/2″ Polyfoam||6″ to 7″ Polyfoam||6″ Latex||7″ Polyfoam|
|Support Rating||Very Good||Good||Good||Very Good||Good|
|Conforming Ability Rating||Very Good||Very Good||Very Good||Good||Very Good|
|Firmness Options||Medium Firm||Medium Firm||Medium|
|Temperature Neutrality Rating||Good||Fair||Fair||Good||Good|
|Motion Isolation Rating||Very Good||Excellent||Very Good||Good||Very Good|
|Odor Potential Rating||Fair||Fair||Fair||Good||Good|
|Edge Support Rating||Poor||Poor||Poor||Good||Poor|
|Ease of Movement Rating||Good||Good||Good||Good||Good|
|Sleep Trial Length||100 nights||120 nights||‘Lifetime Comfort Guarantee’|
(Full refund within 100 nights)
|100 nights||100 nights|
|Warranty Indentation Depth||1″||1″||1″||1″||3/4″|
|Warranty Coverage||10 years|
|Tuck Customer Satisfaction Rating||77% (1,012 customer reviews)||72% (113 customer reviews)||76% (322 customer reviews)||85% (61 customer reviews)||80% (2,857 customer reviews)|
The next table includes five mattress models that are priced at $1,200 or higher for a Queen-size model.
|Model||AS3 (Liberty)||EOS Trilux||Natural Latex Mattress||TEMPUR-Contour Elite||Zenhaven Mattress|
|Mattress Type||Memory foam||Latex||Latex||Memory foam||Latex|
|Comfort Layer||3″ Memory foam||PLA Material|
3″ Organic latex
|3x 3″ Latex layers||N/A||2x 1 1/2″ Latex|
(Each side has a different firmness)
|Support Core||9″ Polyfoam||2x 3″ Organic Latex||No support core||N/A||6″ Latex|
Both sides share the support core
|Support Rating||Very Good||Very Good||Very Good||Very Good||Good|
|Conforming Ability Rating||Very Good||Very Good||Very Good||Very Good||Good|
|Firmness Options||Medium Firm||Medium Soft|
|Firm||Side 1: Medium Soft|
Side 2: Medium Firm
|Durability Rating||Good||Very Good||Very Good||Very Good||Very Good|
|Temperature Neutrality Rating||Fair||Good||Good||Fair||Good|
|Motion Isolation Rating||Very Good||Very Good||Very Good||Excellent||Very Good|
|Odor Potential Rating||Good||Good||Good||Fair||Good|
|Edge Support Rating||Poor||Poor||Fair||Good||Poor|
|Ease of Movement Rating||Good||Good||Good||Good||Good|
|Sleep Trial Length||100 nights||90 nights||365-night comfort adjustment (replace one latex layer)|
25-year comfort life (replace unlimited latex layers)
|90 nights||120 nights|
|Warranty Indentation Depth||3/4″||1 1/2″||3/4″||3/4″||3/4″|
|Warranty Coverage||20 years|
|Tuck Customer Satisfaction Rating||82% (4,055 customer reviews)||76% (201 customer reviews)||75% (98 customer reviews)||74% (637 customer reviews)||80% (924 customer reviews)|
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.
Pillows: As with mattresses, support is an important consideration when shopping for new pillows. 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:
The table below features a detailed breakdown for choosing the best pillow loft.
|Loft||Thickness||Optimal Head Size||Optimal Weight||Optimal Shoulder Width||Optimal Mattress Firmness|
|Low||Less than 3″||Small||More than 230 lbs.||Narrow||Soft to Medium Soft|
|Medium||3″ to 5″||Average||130 to 230 lbs.||Average||Medium|
|High||More than 5″||Large||Less than 130 lbs.||Broad||Medium Firm to Firm|
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.
Toppers: 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.
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 no 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: Adjustable beds are a popular bedding accessory 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:
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.