The Best Mattress Options For Seniors, Signs That You Need A New Bed, And Where To Buy- An Article Written By An Industry CEO And Proud Senior!

Being a senior citizen, and in our mind, that’s anyone over 45, is the great equalizer. We all have to get there and if we’re very lucky, we sleep like babies. Unfortunately, not the case for three out of five individuals, a pretty common problem. If you’ve led an active life, you’ve likely torn yourself up in the process, slowly. If you have led a rather sedentary life, you likely have other problems, like weight issues, respiratory complaints, maybe diabetes. Regardless, we all end up with a strong likelihood of having issues with sleep.

Studies show that up to 50% of older people have difficulty falling asleep (sleep induction) and or staying asleep, with women experiencing insomnia considerably more than men. While some older people experience insomnia as part of normal aging processes, many seniors have underlying medical conditions or take medications that can disrupt normal sleep patterns. Some common causes of sleep issues with seniors include:

  • Depression and/or Anxiety

  • Arthritis, Connective Tissue Issues

  • Poor Circulation, Numbness, Leg And Foot Pain

  • Sleep Apnea And COPD

  • Acid Reflux Or GERD

  • Frequent Urination

  • Snoring- Either Yourself Or Your Partner

  • Restless Leg Syndrome

  • Sleep-Walking (Rapid Eye Movement Sleep-Behavior Disorder)

  • Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease

  • 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 HYGIENE DUE TO AGING

The mechanism of sleep, and the activities that affect it, is known collectively as sleep hygiene or sleep architecture, and refers to the cyclic pattern of four sleep phases that repeats through the night. A normal sleep cycle consists of:

  1. Stage 1: Introduction to sleep when muscles begin to relax and brain activity slows, also called Sleep Induction

  2. Stage 2: Light, Drifting Sleep Phase

  3. Stages 3 and 4: Deep Sleep

  4. REM sleep: Lucid 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, often skipping them altogether. This change in their sleep hygiene can make them feel sleepy during the day and lead to excessive daytime napping. In addition, frequent sleep disturbances like those listed above disrupt seniors’ sleep cycles, leading to daytime sleepiness.

In addition, poor sleep hygiene includes disruptive mechanisms such as bright light from TV’s, computer monitors, and cell phone activity. Bright light and flickering light is well known for disrupting sleep and tricking your brain into thinking it’s daytime, and that you should be up and about.

About 1 out of 100 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, and sleep hygiene issues can be worsened by tampering with natural circadian rhythms that mammals are accustomed to using as cues for sleep schedules, like sunlight.

Although there is A LOT more information further below, we thought we’d provide our recommendations for the most ideal mattress options for seniors near the top. This carefully chosen handful of beds offers a variety of comfort options, including an adjustable air bed so each individual controls the support and comfort levels of their own sides. Each of these mattress options has been chosen personally, by our “senior” editor, Marc Anderson.

our 8 top picks for best beds for seniors

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:

  • Cutting Down On Caffeine, Especially After Noon

  • Increasing Exposure To Natural Light During The Day

  • Exercising Regularly- Walking One Mile Every Evening

  • Hitting The Hay At The Same Time Every Night, Waking At The Same Time

  • Creating A Comforting And Relaxing Routine 30 Minutes Prior To Bedtime

  • Owning A Quality Mattress Designed To Provide Support And Sumptuous Comfort

Is it true that a mattress really make much of a difference in sleep quality? Without question. As a bedding designer and CEO of many mattress companies, I was a very active individual and after 30 years in the business, and now at age 63, I personally have evolved my own mattress options to accommodate my own aging process. I’m going to give you six outstanding options for reasonably priced and high quality mattress that we recommend, right now. Read below the list if you want to learn more about seniors and choosing the correct mattress.

aging and its effect on sleep architecture: why its important to choose the perfect mattress

Along with the physical changes that happen as we get older, changes to our sleep patterns are a part of the normal aging process. As people age they tend to have a harder time falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep than when they were younger. It is a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age. In fact, research demonstrates that our sleep needs remain constant throughout adulthood. So, what's keeping our elder statesmen and women awake? Very simply, changes in our sleep patterns - what experts call "sleep architecture", happen as we age and this may contribute to sleep problems. Sleep occurs in several stages including periods of light and deep sleep where this is no dreaming, and occasional periods of prolific dreaming (REM or rapid eye movement sleep) where the brain is highly active. The sleep cycle is repeated multiple times during the night and although total sleep time tends to remain constant, seniors spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep than in restorative deep sleep. This means more overall time is needed to get the proper amount of deep sleep required to function crisply during the day.

Many older adults report being woozy and not fully rested upon waking and during the day. Studies on the sleep habits of older Americans demonstrate an increase in the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep induction), a significant reduction in REM sleep, and an increase in interrupted sleep with age. The incidence of sleep disorders also tends to increase with age. However, research suggests that many sleep problems among the elderly are likely caused by physical and psychiatric illnesses as well as medications.

In addition to changes in sleep dynamics that occur as we age, other factors affecting sleep are the biological circadian rhythms that coordinate the timing of our bodily functions, including sleep. Aging people tend to become sleepier in the early evening and wake up earlier in the morning compared to younger adults. This is known as advanced sleep phase syndrome. The sleep rhythm is shifted forward so that you will still receive 7-9 hours of sleep, but the individuals will wake up extremely early because they have gone to sleep too early. The reason for these changes in sleep and circadian rhythms as we age is not totally understood, but sleep experts believe it may have to do with disruptions in natural light exposure. This can be significantly altered and sleep patterns improved with bright light exposure.

The incidence of insomnia is also higher among seniors. As much as 48% of the aging population will experience one or more of the symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights per week or more. Insomnia may be chronic (lasting over one month) or acute (lasting a few days or weeks) and is typically related to an underlying cause such as a medical or psychiatric condition.

It is definitely beneficial to speak to your health care provider about insomnia issues and about any effects these symptoms may have. Your doctor can help assess how serious a problem it is and what to do about it. You might be advised to cut back on caffeine, take naps, or alter your sleep hygiene by removing the TV from your bedroom for example. Even light napping can help solve the problem. If insomnia is creating serious issues, and becomes disruptive enough to alter normal function during their waking hours, this would suggest that it is important to seek treatment. When symptoms are serious and untreated, insomnia can take a toll on a person's health. People with insomnia can experience excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and increased risk for accidents and illness as well as reduced quality of life. Behavioral therapies as well as prescription medications singly or in combination are considered productive means to treat insomnia; the right choice should be matched to a variety of factors in discussion with a physician.

Incredibly, snoring is the primary cause of sleep disruption for approximately 100 million American adults. It’s most commonly associated with persons who are obese and this condition can get much worse with age. Loud snoring is very serious as it can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea and is often associated with high blood pressure and other health problems. With sleep apnea, breathing stops - sometimes for as long as 10-60 seconds - and the amount of oxygen in the blood can drop dramatically. This alarms the brain, causing sudden awakening, and breathing resumes. These breathing interruptions often occur repeatedly, causing multiple sleep disruptions throughout the night and result in daytime drowsiness and impaired function.

Untreated sleep apnea poses a high risk for cardiovascular disease, severe headaches, memory loss, and clinical depression. It is a serious disorder-but can be easily treated. If you snore on a regular basis and it can be heard from beyond your bedroom, or you have been told you make gasping noises while you sleep, these are signs that you might have sleep apnea and you should discuss it with your doctor.

Another medical condition, restless leg syndrome (RLS), is a neurological movement condition which involves constant leg shaking or movement. It may cause unpleasant tingling and numbness in the legs, a strange crawling feeling on the skin, and it often becomes worse in the evening causing frequent tossing and turning and awakening. Its occurrence increases with age and about 10% of people in the U.S. report RLS symptoms. About 82% of people with RLS also have limb movement disorders.

As we age, there is an increased incidence of medical problems, which are often chronic. In general, people with poor health or chronic medical conditions have more sleep problems. For example, hypertension is associated with both snoring and OSA and heart failure - which affects approximately 5 million Americans - is linked with OSA. In addition, menopause and its accompanying hot flashes, changes in breathing, and decreasing hormone levels can lead to many restless nights.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is another frequent cause of sleep problems. This can often be easily solved by adding a wedge under the head of your bed to raise your head very slightly, helping stomach acid to stay in the stomach and out of your esophagus. Diabetes, renal failure, as well as respiratory diseases such as asthma, can all be associated with sleep problems and disorders. Conditions such as Parkinson's disease as well as multiple sclerosis can also create sleep architecture issues.