Did you know that the mattress you sleep on is having a large impact on your health and well-being?
For some seniors, that impact is very positive, providing deep and comfortable sleep that leads to a higher quality of life. For others, the mattress they use is hindering their ability to lead happier, more fulfilling lives.
While that might sound like an exaggeration, there’s a lot of scientific research that proves the health benefits of a good mattress.
Want to know exactly how a good mattress can help you? Read on to learn about all the health benefits of mattresses for seniors!
How Does a Bad Mattress Hurt Seniors’ Health?
Of all the furniture in your home, your mattress and bed are the most important for your health. Think about it: not only is your mattress the place you spend around one-third of each day, but it’s also the place that your body is trying to recharge and recover from the day. If you have a bad mattress, you are preventing your body from being able to do what it needs to do while you sleep!
Bad mattresses- ones that are poorly made or have outlived their usefulness- prevent seniors from getting good sleep and can cause soreness, aches, and pains. Any health concerns you have can be exacerbated by poor sleep because your body is unable to get the rest it desperately needs. If you’ve noticed that you feel more tired and your health
How Do Good Mattresses Help Seniors?
Getting the right mattress is about more than just size and thickness- it’s about the quality of your life. When you have a mattress that works for you, your body can see some significant and sometimes immediate benefits:
Studies have shown that the majority of seniors likely don’t get enough sleep at night. Waking up through the night, restless legs, and other minor factors can compound to have significant negative effects. Poor mattresses are a leading contributing factor to poor sleep quality in seniors.
Lack of sleep is a direct contributor to irritability and general moodiness. This occurs because the brain isn’t able to fully recharge and leaves the person waking up without feeling better. If you’ve noticed changes in your mood that you know are unrelated to other conditions, getting better sleep might be exactly what you need!
Sleep is important for many things, one of them being your body’s immune system. People who are sleep deprived experience a weakened immune system that puts them at risk for developing sicknesses that they’d otherwise be able to fight off. One of the best things you can do for your immune health is to ensure that each night of sleep lets your body fight germs and wake up in tip-top shape!
Lack of sleep means that the brain isn’t functioning at full speed. This leads to daytime drowsiness and a general lack of alertness. For seniors, this can mean an increased risk of falls and injuries that could otherwise be avoided. Getting a new mattress is a simple way to increase your overall well-being day in and day out!
General Health Issues
For this article, “general health issues” describes any health issue or injury that would be aggravated or otherwise impacted by the quality of the mattress. For example, if you are wheelchair-bound or confined to a bed, the type of bed and mattress you have makes a world of difference.
Studies have proven that getting a hospital bed, rather than keeping your old traditional bed, can be beneficial to your health and overall comfort. They allow you to adjust to the most comfortable position and allow caregivers easy access for treatment and help with transitioning in/out of the bed. It is very important to ensure that the bed you are using is designed to help, rather than hurt!
It is estimated that 50 million adults in the US and 30% of all seniors experience chronic pain of some kind. While most chronic pain is minor and treatable, it is still hard to deal with and makes it very difficult to sleep. Chronic pain is made even worse when a person’s mattress doesn’t allow them to find a sleeping position that eases the pain.
When a mattress is uncomfortable, your spine and other joints won’t be able to find good positions, leading to restless tossing and turning. That can aggravate chronic pain, preventing deep sleep, and result in more pain the next day. If you experience chronic pain of any sort, it’s important to consider how your old innerspring mattress might be making things worse!
Even if you cannot afford to purchase a brand new mattress, getting a high-quality mattress topper can be quite effective at relieving chronic pain. One study found that chronic pain lessened and sleep improved in as little as four weeks when a soft, quality mattress topper was adopted!
Allergies and Asthma
Mattresses, especially older ones, collect a ton of dust over time. If you have dust allergies, this can turn every night into a potential disaster, closing up your airways and hindering any sort of restful sleep. Studies have shown that a dust and mite-proof mattress significantly improves the sleep and comfort of people who have dust allergies.
Allergy-proof mattresses are easy to find these days, and upgrading to one can be incredibly valuable to seniors with dust allergies. Dust and mite colonies form very easily on mattress surfaces, so mattresses that have a protective surface and are hypoallergenic are the first line of defense against them. If you want to experience a deeper, less allergy-aggravating sleep, consider upgrading to a new hypoallergenic mattress sooner rather than later!
Back Pain and Sciatica
The lower back is one of the most common sources of chronic pain, not just for seniors but people of any age. The position you sleep in, combined with the type of mattress, is a big factor in how much lower back/sciatica pain you feel while sleeping. Studies seem to indicate that changing to a mattress with a “medium-firm” rating can help stabilize and soothe lower back pain while sleeping.
These improvements in sleep quality and pain reduction aren’t just anecdotal; one study found that changing to a medium-firm mattress resulted in an average of 48% reduction of lower back pain! It’s not hard to imagine the kind of relief and deeper sleep that cutting lower back pain in half can provide. If you’ve been suffering from the effects of chronic lower back pain for too long, it might be time to upgrade!
Finally, you should consider your sleeping position before buying a new mattress. While people who sleep on their side will feel more comfortable in a medium-firm mattress, back/stomach sleepers generally like more softness. The reason for this is that each sleeping position changes the way the mattress makes contact with your spine and can change the alignment. Firm mattresses more perfectly align the spine of side sleepers; soft (sometimes labeled as “plush”) by manufacturers) mattresses are better for spinal alignment of back and stomach sleepers.
This little-understood condition causes pain all over the body and can be very disruptive both to sleep and waking life. Fibromyalgia is more likely to be diagnosed in older people and is estimated to affect about 4 million people in the US. Research into how mattresses/sleep surfaces can relieve or treat fibromyalgia is still ongoing, but there are some promising results.
One study into fibromyalgia and sleep studied the way using a magnetic mattress pad might be able to relieve pain. In the study, patients used a magnetic mattress pad and recorded the ways in which their pain changed. The result was a significant reduction in pain without any recorded adverse effects. This means. strange as they sound, that magnetic mattress pads can be of great relief to people suffering from fibromyalgia!
Pressure Sores and Ulcers
Pressure sores are a serious issue for seniors. Over 2.5 million pressure sores require the treatment of a doctor each year in the US alone. Fortunately, while not completely avoidable, there are very effective ways to prevent them. An alternating pressure mattress is considered the first line of defense against pressure sores, and can sometimes be the only thing needed to avoid them.
Alternating pressure mattresses are typically made with a series of air channels that inflate and deflate on a timed cycle. This stimulates muscle tissue and shifts the balance of bodyweight in slight ways that improve blood flow and circulation. Even an air mattress topper, while quite inexpensive, can be very effective at preventing the development of pressure sores.
Using an alternating pressure mattress does not completely stop pressure sores from forming, but it does delay them considerably. In addition, for seniors who may not have access to a caretaker, an alternating pressure mattress is a suitable alternative for preventing (and even healing) pressure sores!
For people confined to hospital beds, getting a hospital bed mattress made of more supportive foam or even latex foam can help evenly distribute pressure and prevent sores/ulcers. These materials function a bit better than basic hospital bed mattresses and can be a source of great comfort and relief.
Long story short, if you are confined to a bed for any amount of time, pressure sores and ulcers are a serious threat. By investing in a high-quality mattress or mattress topper for your hospital bed, you can effectively prevent and treat pressure sores.
There are two ways to tell if you might have sleep apnea without it being confirmed by a doctor. First, if you are known as a chronic snorer, chances are high that you have, at least, mild sleep apnea. Second, if you frequently feel fatigued or tired throughout the day without a more logical explanation, it’s likely that sleep apnea is hindering your sleep.
This condition prevents your body from getting enough oxygen at night, disturbing your sleep cycles and hindering your ability to rest and wake up refreshed. The most effective way to treat sleep apnea is with a CPAP machine that helps you breathe at night. However, those machines are expensive and uncomfortable, and many people who have one elect not to use them due to sheer inconvenience.
A study conducted in 2014 found that sleeping in the “prone” position- that is, on your stomach with the head to one side- is effective at treating sleep apnea and providing deeper sleep. However, this position is quite uncomfortable with normal mattresses and pillows. Thus, using a mattress and pillow that facilitates sleeping in the prone position is ideal for people who have sleep apnea and want to find a low-key home remedy.
Benefits of Mattress Toppers for Seniors
Mattress toppers provide many of the same benefits as full mattresses but don’t carry the same price tags. Whereas a good mattress usually costs at least $550, a high-quality mattress topper can be found for less than $200- often less than $100. For people who do not have the ability to purchase an expensive, brand-new mattress, a well-chosen mattress topper is an ideal compromise.
There is one caveat: mattress toppers cannot solve all the problems of an old and degraded mattress. If your old mattress is sagging in the middle or otherwise losing its shape, there is little a mattress topper can do to fix it. In those cases, it is best to bite the bullet and opt for a brand new mattress.
Alternating pressure mattress overlays and air mattress toppers are much less expensive than a full air mattress. For people who use hospital beds and are worried about pressure sores, these toppers are no less effective than full air mattresses. If you use a hospital bed but cannot afford to buy an air mattress (typically more than $400), an air mattress topper/overlay is an ideal solution for preventing pressure sores!
Conclusion: How the Right Mattress Helps
It can’t be overstated- the way you sleep matters! From simple things like mood and alertness to immune system health and the treatment of serious conditions, the difference between using a good mattress and a bad one is vast. If you have more questions about which mattress is right for you or other health benefits of mattresses, feel free to leave them in the comments section below!