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The Role of Sleep in Aging Gracefully

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

Did you know that the popular idea that older adults need less sleep is actually a myth? In fact, supporting and protecting good quality sleep as you age is a great way to protect overall health. Older adults have evolving sleep health needs as they age, including accommodating the symptoms of certain medical conditions, supporting joint health and encouraging deep sleep.

Slow down the aging process with good quality sleep

Aging is like wisdom—it's the gift of living a long life. And to some extent, it is an unavoidable truth, whether we appreciate that gift or not! But there is some evidence to suggest that healthy sleep habits like getting a full 7-9 hours of sleep each night can slow the aging process, particularly in the realm of accessing memories and retaining mental sharpness. Getting the right amount of deep sleep is essential to accessing those protective benefits.

Deep sleep occurs when breathing rates and pulse are at their lowest throughout the night; sleepers are difficult to awaken in this stage. Anything that pulls you out of deep sleep—like unexpected noises, physical pain, or temperature discomfort—is potentially putting you at risk for accelerated effects of aging. Think through the problem events that tend to awaken you in the night—how many of them are fixable?

Invest in a memory foam mattress for comfort and support

Research says that only around 1 in 5 people with arthritis are sleeping well. That leaves the other 4 out of 5 reporting pain, sleeplessness and inadequate rest. Doctors and patient advocates help manage daytime symptoms and can make recommendations for how to manage this condition through diet, appropriate exercise and even surgery. The bottom line for nighttime bed comfort is to find the combination of softness and support that enables you to relax and stay immobilized in the joints that experience pain most often as you sleep.

Sleeping on a bad mattress can mess you up - literally. Bad sleep is related to several long-term health issues like increased stress, memory impairment and weight gain. And if your mattress is uncomfortable or old and worn out, it’s only going to exacerbate these issues.

Custom-made memory foam mattresses allow you to sink deeply into the surface of the mattress while molding to your shape and keeping you cradled in place. And now, some custom mattress manufacturers are using layers of natural latex in their mattresses for the same reason. Many of us have parents and grandparents that are still sleeping on old, worn spring mattresses, and that’s just not good for their health – or anyone’s, really. It may sound like a luxury to buy something like a custom latex mattress, but it’s actually an investment in mitigating the effects of degrading joints and chronic pain. Mattress materials that immobilize your body in a soft but firm way allow your body to experience periods of complete rest, because there is no pressure on those joints.

Hot or cold? Protect joint health with the right temperature.

Do you like the cold side of the pillow? Differences in memory foam can support your temperature preferences. Gel memory foam doesn’t absorb much heat, so those who tend to feel overheated at night prefer it as the top layer closest to their bodies to fight inflammation. On the other hand, traditional memory foam retains some body heat as it molds around your shape, and some people find that heat assists with joint pain through the night. If you find yourself reaching for heated blankets and cozy socks at bedtime, your custom mattress top can help keep you warm, too. Similarly, bed sheets can affect temperature retention in bed. High-quality cotton sheets breathe and don’t trap heat, whereas microfiber and sateen retain more body heat.

Investing in good sleep supports like a quality mattress custom made to your needs is important. It is nothing less than investing in prolonged health throughout your golden years.

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