After age 50, it can be tougher to get a great night’s sleep than it used to be. (If you’re reading this, perhaps that’s not news to you.) There are lots of reasons why, including normal age-related changes in circadian rhythms and a natural slowdown in the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, to say nothing of other common midlife complaints like hot flashes and body aches.
The the best mattress for baby boomers can go a long way toward improving the quality and quantity of your rest, says sleep medicine physician Jeffrey Durmer, MD, PhD, co-founder of corporate sleep wellness company FusionHealth. In general, he says, people 50-plus do best on a mattress firm enough for proper spinal support but soft enough to cushion sensitive joints. Beyond that, look for a mattress that addresses your specific sleep quirks, whether it’s arthritis or snoring or frequent trips to the bathroom.
Follow these tips for finding the right bed and sleeping (more) like a baby again.
If you have a health problem
Folks with medical issues like COPD, atrial fibrillation, or coronary artery disease often benefit from sleeping with their heads and chests slightly elevated, says Durmer. “If your heart isn’t working well and you lay flat, fluids that would normally distribute themselves around the body can get stuck in and around your heart and lungs,” he explains. Sleeping on a wedge-type pillow can help, as does an adjustable bed that allows you to elevate the upper body.
If you have mobility issues
If body size, arthritis, or other issues limit your mobility in bed or out, look for a mattress with good edge support. “The more you sink when sitting on the edge of the bed, the harder it is to get on your feet from the sitting position,” says Keith Cushner, the founder of Tuck, a sleep education site for healthcare pros and consumers. Opt for something with medium firmness; very soft beds or the hug of too-squishy memory foam can make you feel stuck when you try to stand up or switch positions while laying down.
Here too, an adjustable bed comes in handy. “If you can raise the head of the bed, it makes it a lot easier to change position,” says Durmer. (Check out these other ways an adjustable base makes life easier.)
If you get up a lot at night (or your spouse does) to pee
The name of the game here is stability. You want a sturdy frame that doesn’t squeak and a mattress that’s good at limiting “motion transfer”—aka that jiggle you feel when the person next to you moves. “Our internal testing and data collection point to traditional memory foam beds, as well as some hybrid models with a few inches of foam over a pocketed coil support core, as the best for cutting down on motion transfer,” Cushner says. (Here’s what you need to know about choosing a hybrid mattress.)
If you have a bad back
The best way to ease overnight back pain is to choose a mattress that works for your sleep position, says Terry Cralle, MS, RN, a certified sleep educator and Saatva’s sleep consultant. Side sleepers, for example, need a top layer of cushion or foam to ease pressure on the hips and shoulders, while stomach sleepers do best on a firm surface. If you’re a back sleeper, look for a Congress of Chiropractic State Associations Seal of Approval, which indicates that the mattress provides proper spinal support.
You may also want to raise your knees a bit, Durmer says. “A pillow or bolster under the knees reduces the impact on the lower back,” he explains. “Adjustable beds are great for people who need this too.” (Read more about exactly what to look for in a back-friendly mattress.)
If your knees are creaky
“Joint and muscle pain tend to occur naturally as we age, even in the most athletic of us,” says Durmer. The leading cause of knee pain at night is osteoarthritis. The joints can get very stiff after staying in one position for so many hours. If you sleep on your back, putting a pillow under your knees can ease some pressure. If you’re a side sleeper, put a pillow between your knees. Also take note of the height of your bed set-up, advises Cushner. A taller mattress and bed frame will be easier to stand up from in the morning (or during bathroom trips at night).
If you sweat a lot
Night sweats really mess with your sleep, leaving you exhausted, irritable, and foggy-headed the next day. It’s important to address the underlying cause of excessive nighttime sweating—such as certain medications, hyperhidrosis, or menopause—with your doctor. But in the meantime, there are a handful of things you can do to keep yourself a bit more comfortable.
First, choose an innerspring or hybrid mattress (one that combines coils and foam). They typically sleep cooler and help heat and sweat dissipate faster than most foam mattresses, although newer foam technology often incorporates some cooling features. (Here are the five key differences between innerspring and memory foam mattresses.)
If hot flashes or night sweats are really bad, consider investing in a temperature-control mattress pad such as the ChiliPAD, says Durmer. “My wife and I have been using the pads for two years now. You can turn the temperature down into the 50s. For post-menopausal women it’s a real plus. My wife runs hot, and her side of the bed is ridiculously cold!”
If you (or your spouse) snore
“Another change that happens with aging is that sleep disorders tend to occur much more often,” says Durmer. One of them is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder in which a person’s airway becomes blocked multiple times a night and causes them to gasp for air. It’s the most common cause of extreme snoring, Durmer explains, and is “associated with things like weight gain and diabetes and even strokes and heart attacks.”
OSA is a serious condition that needs to be treated with CPAP or other therapies, Durmer says. But, he adds, “we all have a little bit of apnea. That little kink in our airway is held open by a muscle. On your back, you increase the work for that muscle and it can collapse a bit.” That’s one of the reasons we sleep with pillows in the first place, he says: “The tilt helps keep our airway open during eight hours of sleep.” Whether you have OSA or simply snore, elevating your head and neck with pillows, a wedge, or an adjustable bed may help reduce symptoms. (Get more tips for how to sleep better with sleep apnea.)
Learn More About Saatva Mattresses
Our flagship luxury mattress is expertly engineered with coil-on-coil construction for durability, a layer of memory foam for enhanced back support, and a cushiony Euro pillow top for extra comfort.
Loom & Leaf Memory Foam
Premium memory foam, handcrafted in the U.S. with eco-friendly materials. Breathable organic cotton, cooling spinal gel, and layers of high-density support foam assure a cool, comfortable night’s sleep.
Zenhaven Latex Mattress
100% Talalay latex responds to every curve for pressure-free support and responsive comfort. Talalay latex is supple, resilient, and durable, for the ultimate in elevated sleep. (It’s naturally hypoallergenic too.)