Benefits of Adjustable Beds for Seniors

Fact-Checked

Finding the right mattress can make all the difference in a person’s sleep. For older adults looking to customize their sleeping position, an adjustable bed may increase bedtime comfort, improve sleep quality, and ease uncomfortable symptoms keeping them awake.

We discuss the benefits of adjustable beds, how to choose the right model, and when Medicare may help to cover the cost.

How an Adjustable Bed Can Improve Sleep

Instead of always lying flat like most beds, an adjustable bed allows sleepers to incrementally raise and lower the positions of the head and foot of their bed. Models of adjustable beds differ in price, design, and whether they include special features like built-in lighting or USB charging ports.

According to sleep experts, older adults need seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night. Unfortunately, research shows that trouble falling asleep and the tendency to wake up more often during the night is common for older adults. Sleep issues can be exacerbated by the effects of medications and chronic health issues, making it challenging for many older individuals to get the sleep they need.

Choosing the right bed can impact the quality of a person’s sleep. For older adults hoping to improve their sleep, elevating the upper body or legs may improve sleep quality and ease swelling, snoring, and acid reflux. An adjustable bed makes such elevation possible. There are several potential benefits an adjustable bed may provide older adults.

Relaxation

Relaxing before bed is an important part of healthy sleep hygiene. Whether a person relaxes by reading a book, listening to music, or meditating, an adjustable bed is designed to allow older adults to adjust their lounging position for optimal support, cushioning, and relaxation.

To further enhance relaxation, many models of adjustable beds have special features. A massage option can ease muscle tension, while a split design allows couples to independently adjust each side of the bed to get the right level of comfort. A customizable memory setting makes it easier to switch between pre-programmed lounging and sleep positions.

Circulation

Aging leads to changes in the heart and blood vessels that can increase the risk of health conditions like heart disease and stroke. Aging also affects the blood vessels in the legs and feet causing varicose veins and uncomfortable symptoms like pain, swelling, and muscle cramps in the lower limbs.

An adjustable bed lets sleepers keep their legs or head elevated above the heart, which may help alleviate symptoms of age-related changes in the veins. Elevating the legs can reduce swelling and the symptoms of varicose veins, making it easier to fall asleep more comfortably.

Pain Relief

Pain can make it challenging for older adults to get enough sleep at night. The most common causes of pain in older adults are musculoskeletal conditions that cause aches and pains in the joints, bones, and muscles.

An adjustable bed allows a sleeper to tailor their sleeping position to minimize discomfort. Some studies suggest that a person's sleep position can lessen back pain and that finding the right adjustments can reduce sleep loss caused by pain. In turn, getting better sleep may reduce pain from conditions like arthritis.

Snoring

Snoring is common in older adults and ranges in severity from a quiet hum to a noise loud enough to wake a bed partner. While most snoring is not harmful, snoring could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a more serious sleep disorder, when it is accompanied by gasping or choking, or when it wakes a sleeper up at night.

For older adults hoping to minimize snoring, it may be helpful to look for an adjustable bed with a wide range of motion for the head. Research shows that even slightly raising the head can improve snoring in healthy sleepers. Moreover, elevating the head while sleeping may be a helpful addition to standard treatments for obstructive sleep apnea.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux happens when the contents of the stomach leak back into the esophagus. Although it is common to experience acid reflux from time to time, many people who experience acid reflux at night report having trouble sleeping.

Managing acid reflux usually involves a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. In addition to weight management, quitting smoking, and monitoring eating habits, experts suggest raising the head while sleeping. Elevating the upper body allows gravity to help prevent stomach contents from flowing back into the esophagus.

Nocturia

Nocturia is the medical term for getting up frequently during the night to urinate. Around half of adults between the ages of 50 and 79 wake up two or more times at night to use the bathroom. Many older adults report that nocturia is the most common reason they lose sleep.

Nocturia has many possible causes, including an accumulation of fluids in the legs and feet. When a person lies down, fluid in these lower limbs flows towards the kidneys, where it becomes urine. If older adults lie down too late in the day, the need to urinate can wake them up during the night.

With an adjustable bed, older sleepers can easily adjust the foot of the bed to help them elevate their legs earlier in the day. Raising the feet after dinner or while relaxing may reduce nocturia and help people go to the bathroom before bedtime.

What Is an Adjustable Bed?

An adjustable bed is a bed frame that allows the sleeper to independently adjust the angle of their mattress. On a standard bed, a person must sleep in a flat position unless they use a pillow or other bolster. With an adjustable bed, the position of both the upper body and lower body can be easily customized.

Types of Adjustable Beds

When purchasing an adjustable bed, it is important to understand the various components that can affect a sleeper’s experience.

All adjustable beds include a base and an adjustable sleeping surface. The base of an adjustable bed is similar to a standard bed frame. On top of the base is a sleeping surface with a series of joints that holds the mattress. In most models, the bed’s base and the adjustable sleeping surface are attached for ease of use.

A mattress is placed on top of the adjustable sleeping surface. Adjustable beds can be paired with a wide range of mattresses that are designed to be flexible and integrate with the bed’s special features. Options for mattresses include foam, latex, and hybrid models that are compatible with an adjustable bed.

Adjustable beds give sleepers an opportunity to get the most out of their bed with special attachments and features such as:

  • Wireless remotes
  • Massage functions
  • Warming and cooling abilities
  • Built-in lighting
  • Timed adjustments
  • Vibrating alarms
  • USB ports

How to Choose an Adjustable Bed for Seniors

When choosing an adjustable bed, older adults should consider their unique needs and preferences. Factors to consider include the sleeper’s medical and support needs, personal comfort preferences, and budget considerations.

Qualities to Consider

There are several qualities that sleepers may wish to consider when choosing an adjustable bed.

  • Mattress compatibility: The adjustable bed model should be compatible with the type of mattress that a sleeper prefers. Most adjustable bed frames can accommodate foam, latex, and hybrid mattresses.
  • Size: Adjustable beds come in the full range of standard mattress sizes, from twin to California king. Whether the bed is for a single person or a couple, each sleeper should have enough space to rest comfortably.
  • Split or single base: Couples planning to share an adjustable bed may want to consider a split base design. This feature allows each sleeper to individually adjust the position on their side of the bed.
  • Price: Adjustable beds typically cost between $1,000 and $3,000. Size, special features, and assembly can all impact the price-point. Setting a budget at the beginning of the shopping process can help narrow down which models to research.
  • Shipping and assembly: A large item like an adjustable bed can be expensive to ship and assemble, making it important to factor these costs into the purchase price of the bed.
  • Special features: Adjustable beds often come with additional features, such as a larger range of motion, USB charging ports, massage settings, or a built-in alarm clock.

How Much Is an Adjustable Bed?

Generally, adjustable beds cost between $1,000 and $3,000 depending on the size, brand, and special features included. The wide price range means most sleepers can find a model that fits in their budget. Additionally, adjustable beds are becoming more common and many major online mattress retailers now offer adjustable bed models at a range of price-points.

Adjustable Beds vs. Hospital Beds

For many people, the term adjustable bed conjures up the image of a hospital bed. While a hospital bed is one type of adjustable bed, it differs from other types in its features and intended use.

Hospital beds are generally designed based on U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifications and feature a simple, utilitarian design for easy maintenance and cleaning. They often come with wheels to move the bed around the room as needed and have a mechanism to raise or lower the height of the bed.

A hospital bed may be a good choice for older adults receiving medical care at home and those with mobility issues or serious medical conditions.

Using Medicare to Purchase a Bed

Medicare may help offset the cost of renting or purchasing a hospital bed. Medicare Part B covers the cost of durable medical equipment, which includes hospital beds. However, there are a few requirements that must be met in order to receive coverage.

To have a hospital bed covered by Medicare, the sleeper must have a documented medical condition that would benefit from a hospital bed. This can include any ailment that requires special body positioning beyond what a standard bed is capable of.

A detailed prescription from their physician should include a list of medical needs and how the individual can benefit from a hospital bed. The prescription should also include any special features or attachments that a person needs, like electronic controls or side rails. Both the physician and the bed manufacturer must be enrolled in Medicare for the bed cost to be covered.

Tips for Seniors Sleeping on an Adjustable Bed

Once an adjustable bed arrives, there are a few things older sleepers can do to ensure they get the most out of their new bed.

  • Schedule assembly: Coordinate the delivery and assembly of an adjustable bed with the removal of the old bed frame or mattress. This reduces clutter in the bedroom and allows sleepers to immediately begin using their adjustable bed.
  • Choose the right bedding: An adjustable bed undergoes much more movement than a standard bed frame and mattress. Deep pocket sheets or sheets with straps are more likely to stay in place.
  • Understand the trial and warranty policies: There is a chance that after delivery and assembly, some sleepers will not be happy with their new adjustable bed. Understanding the trial policy can help purchasers initiate a return and receive a refund in a timely manner. Likewise, shoppers should familiarize themselves with the warranty policy in case of manufacturing defects.
  • Consider safety rails: Bedroom safety is often a consideration for older adults. Side rails can make getting in and out of bed much safer. Many adjustable beds are compatible with third-party safety rails, but it is important to check that the rails fit the specific bed model.

Frequently Asked Questions About Seniors and Sleep

Are Adjustable Beds Worth It?

An adjustable bed can be a worthwhile purchase for anyone looking to increase their comfort as they sleep or lounge in bed. An adjustable bed may also help ease age-related concerns like swelling in the legs and feet, snoring, pain, nocturia, and acid reflux.

Do I Need a Box Spring for an Adjustable Bed?

The sleeping surface on an adjustable bed replaces the need for a box spring. As a result, sleepers do not need to combine a box spring with their adjustable bed.

Do I Need a Special Mattress for an Adjustable Bed?

Adjustable beds don’t need a specialized mattress unless the bed features a split design.

Some types of mattresses work better than others on an adjustable bed. The best types of mattresses to use with an adjustable bed base are made of foam or latex. These beds are flexible and can handle the frequent shape changes of an adjustable bed base.

Hybrid mattresses with foam comfort layers and pliable pocketed coils can also work well. Sleepers with an adjustable bed should generally avoid innerspring mattresses. Although not as common on the market today, innerspring mattresses are often too rigid to work well with an adjustable bed base.

Resources for Seniors

  • Find Medical Equipment & Suppliers: Medicare offers an online tool to help locate medical equipment suppliers. Search by item and zipcode to find suppliers of hospital beds covered by Medicare.
  • 10 Myths About Aging: The National Institute on Aging offers information about common misconceptions about aging.
  • Preventing Falls in Older Adults: Injuries from accidental falls are a major concern in older adults, and poor sleep can be a contributing factor. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) outlines the proactive steps aging adults can take to reduce their fall risk.
  • Alzheimer’s and Sleep: Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults and can cause changes to normal sleep patterns. The non-profit Alzheimer’s Association details strategies to help people experiencing Alzheimer’s get better sleep.

References

+ 28 Sources
  1. 1. Accessed on March 25, 2022.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29073412/
  2. 2. Accessed on March 25, 2022.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29412976/
  3. 3. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000064.htm
  4. 4. Accessed on March 25, 2022.https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003104.htm
  5. 5. Accessed on March 28, 2022.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26779317/
  6. 6. Accessed on March 25, 2022.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28127672/
  7. 7. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/esophageal-and-swallowing-disorders/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-gerd
  8. 8. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html
  9. 9. Accessed on March 25, 2022.https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/heart-health-and-aging
  10. 10. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-lower-extremity-chronic-venous-disease
  11. 11. Accessed on March 25, 2022.https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/varicose-veins
  12. 12. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/pain/overview-of-pain
  13. 13. Accessed on March 25, 2022.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26835867/
  14. 14. Accessed on March 25, 2022.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31256029/
  15. 15. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24793909/
  16. 16. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/sleep-and-wakefulness-disorders/snoring#v41413495
  17. 17. Accessed on March 25, 2022.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29948269/
  18. 18. Accessed on March 28, 2022.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28647854/
  19. 19. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/management-of-obstructive-sleep-apnea-in-adults
  20. 20. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000265.htm
  21. 21. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-in-adults-beyond-the-basics
  22. 22. Accessed on March 25, 2022.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12873567/
  23. 23. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/treatment
  24. 24. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/nocturia-clinical-presentation-evaluation-and-management-in-adults
  25. 25. Accessed on March 25, 2022.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK518987/
  26. 26. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/hospital-bed-system-dimensional-and-assessment-guidance-reduce-entrapment
  27. 27. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/durable-medical-equipment-dme-coverage
  28. 28. Accessed on March 25, 2022. https://www.cms.gov/medicare-coverage-database/view/ncd.aspx?NCDId=227

Related Reading:

  • Sleep and Bedroom Safety for Seniors

    Learn expert advice on making a bedroom easier to navigate for older adults with mobility issues, as well as practical tips for preventing and treating falls.

  • Guide to Sleep Studies for Seniors

    Older individuals face many sleep-related challenges, and a sleep study may help diagnose specific disorders that cause daytime drowsiness or disrupted sleep.