The Best Mattresses for Seniors/Elderly Who Sleep On Their Sides

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

Side sleeping is a popular sleeping position for older adults so it’s important to choose a mattress that properly supports and comforts senior and elderly bodies. Here is important information on selecting a mattress for side sleepers plus a recommendations.

senior sleeping on side

Side sleeping is a popular sleeping position for older adults so it’s important to choose a mattress that properly supports and comforts senior and elderly bodies. Here is important information on selecting a mattress for side sleepers plus a recommendations.

Income Disclosure: I recommend products based on my personal experience working with seniors.
I may earn a commission on items purchased from affiliate links in this guide. Learn More.

As we age, our sleep architecture changes significantly. For instance, it becomes a tad more difficult to initiate sleep. Additionally, sleep efficiency and total sleep time dwindle greatly 1, resulting in seniors spending more time awake on their beds. That does not mean seniors need less sleep. Instead, it means seniors should find ways of improving their sleeping experience.

As you can appreciate, older adults might find it difficult to enjoy some shut-eye. It’s essential that you choose a comfortable sleeping posture and invest in a great mattress. Side sleeping is one of the most popular sleeping positions among the elderly 2

In this article, we’ll delve into side-sleeping and the best mattress for side-sleeping seniors. Keep in mind that there are plenty! 

nolah evolution mattress
Nolah Evolution 15″ Hybrid Mattress
Designed to support side sleepers with the perfect combination of support, pressure relief and comfort. You even have a choice of firmness levels! More Details
Available at:
ghostbed luxe mattress
GhostBed Luxe Memory Foam Mattress
Responsive and relieves pressure while also reducing motion transfer for co-sleepers. Hot sleepers will appreciate the cooling technology too. More Details
Available at:
layla memory foam mattress
Layla Memory Foam Mattress
With the Layla Hybrid, you get both a firm and softer mattress in one package by flipping the mattress in a cooling, affordable package. More Details
Available at:

How Does Sleeping On Your Side Affect A Senior’s Sleep? 

For a long time, sleeping experts preached the gospel of back sleeping. It is well known that back sleeping is overall the healthiest position to sleep in, whether young or old. However, with more research, it is now known that side sleeping has its own set of benefits.

Whether you prefer the fetal position, the log position, or the yearner position, one of the main benefits of sleeping on the side is improving sleep apnea symptoms. This condition can cause heart attacks, diabetes, and even cognitive issues. For instance, you will experience a reduction in snoring when you sleep on your side 3

Additionally, side sleeping can improve your gut health. This sleeping position helps the digestive system function better, reduces acid reflux, and helps prevent bloating and constipation 3

Sleeping on your side while paying attention to proper body alignment can reduce both lower back and joint pain 4. Sleeping on your back with a partial bend in the knees helps balance your body and, importantly, reduces the pressure exerted on your lumbar spine.

However, sleeping on your right side has been shown to exacerbate the symptoms of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) 5

While sleeping on your side can be easy on your neck, you can still injure your neck 6. A significant risk of side sleeping is neck soreness. Straining your muscles due to neck misalignment will cause neck pain as you sleep. Consequently, you should prevent neck soreness from side sleeping by supporting your neck well.

Another negative side effect of sleeping on your side is shoulder pain. When your shoulder collapses and sinks too much, it might misalign with your hips and spine. On the other hand, if the shoulders do not sink into the mattress to some extent, it will feel a lot of pressure. This creates tension in the shoulder region, which causes shoulder pain. 

The Bottom Line: Sleeping on your side can improve gut health, improve sleep apnea, reduce acid reflux, and reduce lower back and joint pain. However, it can exacerbate GERD and increase neck and shoulder pain.

What Types Of Mattresses Are Best For Older Side Sleepers? 

While it would be easy to have one type of mattress that best suits a particular sleeping position – in this case, the side sleeping – the reality is quite different. The best mattress for a side-sleeping senior varies from one senior to the next. Every senior will have a preference for a particular mattress. 

However, most side-sleeping seniors will feel much more comfortable sleeping on a soft to medium-soft mattress. Unlike sleeping on the back or stomach, sleeping on your side exposes the shoulder and hip region to pressure build-up. If you have a mattress that’s too firm, your shoulders and hips will not sink enough to provide pressure relief, and you will wake up numb.

Obviously, when choosing a mattress, you must be mindful of your weight. Lightweight individuals will be the most comfortable when sleeping on a soft mattress. Heavier seniors will be more comfortable sleeping on a mattress that’s firmer. You can see my recommended mattresses for overweight and heavy seniors here.

Hybrid Mattresses

Hybrid mattresses combine layers of foam with a core of pocketed springs. Manufacturers can fine-tune the qualities of their innerspring mattress using different types of foam and innerspring. The materials used to manufacture hybrid mattresses will influence whether it is suitable for side sleepers.

Innerspring Mattresses

Innerspring mattresses are made of a thick core of pocketed coils (or otherwise). While the coils are supportive and provide plenty of give to suit side sleepers, the thin comfort layer that accompanies the innerspring mattress takes some pressure relief, affecting the overall comfort elders experience.

Latex Mattresses

While latex yields plenty of give and contouring, there is a limit to how much it allows your shoulder to sink and relieve pressure. As such, many latex mattresses will be unsuitable for side sleepers.

Air Mattresses

Air mattresses allow users to adjust their mattress’s firmness level. By inflating or deflating the air pockets that make up the mattress, you can adjust the precise firmness level of your mattress. As such, you can fine-tune an air mattress to your exact liking. However, you should consider other aspects of the mattress that come with an air mattress, such as temperature regulation, motion isolation, ease of movement, etc.

Foam Mattresses

Foam mattresses can provide support and comfort for side sleepers. However, the mattress should use high-density foam to give you the right balance between support and conformity, and contouring.

Which Mattress Type Is Best For Side Sleepers With Shoulder Pain?

Among side sleepers, it’s easy to exacerbate shoulder pain by choosing the wrong mattress. To avoid shoulder pain, choose a mattress that performs well in pressure relief. Such a mattress should allow the shoulders to sink in while also providing plenty of support. A high-density foam mattress or hybrid mattress will suffice.

Which Mattress Type Is Best For Side Sleepers With Hip Pain?

If you suffer from hip pain, you should look for a mattress with a lot of support and pressure relief. As is the case with shoulder pain, you need a mattress that allows your hips to sink while providing plenty of support without creating a pressure point. Again, consider buying a memory foam or hybrid mattress.

Which Mattress Type Is Best For Side Sleepers With Back Pain?

To negate back pain, you should look for a mattress that supports back alignment. Such a mattress does not sink in too much and retains shape throughout the night to keep the spine aligned. A hybrid mattress is the best option if you have back pains.

The Bottom Line: Most side-sleeping seniors should choose a memory foam or hybrid mattress because these types of mattresses offer improved pressure relief, they contour well to older bodies, and they promote proper spinal/joint alignment.

How Firm Should A Mattress Be For Seniors Who Sleep On Their Sides? 

For the most part, the ideal firmness level of a mattress is a matter of personal preference. What feels comfortable for one senior could be unbelievably uncomfortable. As such, answering the question above is never easy. That being said, we can always guide you to choosing a mattress that will meet your needs as a side sleeping senior and protect your health. 

The best mattress for side sleeping is a medium-firm mattress in the spectrum of soft to firm. A soft and cushiony mattress will be comfortable during the first few hours of sleep. But as the night progresses, you will sink into the mattress, collapsing your joints, neck, and spine, which will cause pain and soreness. 

On the other hand, an extremely firm mattress is naturally uncomfortable as it will not contour your body. You need a mattress with some give to be comfortable throughout the night. With this in mind, a medium-firm mattress gives you the best of both worlds. 

Additionally, you need to consider your weight. The more you weigh, the firmer your mattress should be. A lightweight senior will most likely feel the most comfortable when sleeping on a medium mattress. A firm mattress is most suitable for a heavier senior as it will provide the necessary support while the bodyweight will force the mattress to contour to your body.

The Bottom Line: Generally, side sleepers should choose a mattress that is in the middle of the firmness scale. Lighter weight seniors should fall more towards the softer side of the scale while heavier adults should choose a slightly firmer mattress.

Other Important Mattress Features For Senior Or Elderly Side Sleepers? 

Here are some additional features that older adults should consider when choosing a mattress.

Edge Support

Many seniors experience diminished strength and mobility as years progress. Getting in and out of bed becomes a hassle. Seniors need mattresses with sturdy edge support around the perimeter of the mattress to withstand your body weight with sinking. With a sturdy mattress perimeter, seniors can easily get up from their beds.

Breathability And Temperature Control

The materials used to manufacture your mattress will influence breathability and temperature control. Different materials will retain heat to varying degrees. Some materials absorb and keep the vast majority of the heat you emit. Materials that are inherently breathable will emit heat more readily, creating a comfortable sleeping environment.

Aside from the type of material a mattress is made of, qualities such as mattress thickness and availability or lack of air channels will influence the overall temperature control a mattress can achieve.

Pressure Relief

Pressure relief is the quality of the mattress to reduce pressure at the main pressure points. A mattress with excellent pressure relief properties will redistribute pressure away from your main pressure points, such as joints. Additionally, the mattress allows joints and bones to sink into the softness of the mattress rather than the mattress experiencing its weight-bearing on a hard surface

In a nutshell, pressure relief reduces the occurrence of bedsores and pain at pressure points.

Contouring

Contouring is the ability of the mattress to mold to your body form when you lie on the mattress. Every individual has a unique shape, and a mattress with contouring properties molds and conforms to your unique shape when you place your body weight on it. Contouring adds to the pressure relief a mattress yields and improves the overall comfort

Motion Isolation

Motion isolation refers to mattresses that isolate motion from being transferred from one part of the bed to the other in a process called motion transfer. A mattress with impeccable motion isolation allows couples to sleep on the same bed without disturbing the other. Your co-sleeper will not feel your movement.

Ease Of Movement

Seniors with limited mobility should look for a mattress with resilience and bounce. These qualities make it easier for seniors to move while lying on the mattress. However, you should be wary of mattresses with a lot of bounce as they tend to transfer a lot of movement. The goal is to find a mattress that balances ease of movement (a mattress with some bounce) and motion isolation.

Recommended Mattresses For Seniors / Elderly Who Sleep On Their Side

Here are my recommended mattresses for older adults who prefer to sleep on their sides based on the information and guidance above.

1. Nolah Evolution 15″ Hybrid Mattress

nolah evolution mattress
  • 120-Night Home Trial
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping & Returns
  • Available in Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Cal King
  • Cost: Mid Level
Where to Buy:

Why I recommend it: Everything about this mattress is designed to support side sleepers (especially sweaty sleepers) with the perfect combination of support and comfort. You even have a choice of firmness levels with this mattress.

Pros:

  • Excellent cooling enhances comfort 
  • Yields the right amount of give and sturdiness for excellent support for side sleepers 
  • The patented tri-zone support coils match the pressure relief you need for different parts of the body 
  • It comes in different firmness levels (plush – rated 5, luxury firm – rated 6, and firm – rated 8) to match different weight classes 

Cons:

  • The bulky mattress is challenging to unbox 

The Nolah Evolution is right up there in the list of the most advanced mattresses as far as mattress technology goes. It’s made of advanced mattress materials designed to yield excellent comfort, support, and temperature control.

The 15″ mattress comes with Nolah’s innovative Cooling ArcticTex™ Cover as the first cooling layer. The material is also soft to the touch, something that helps negate eczema flare-ups. Beneath the cover is the Premium HTC™️ Cooling Quilted Euro Topper️. 

This is a 2″ cooling foam with a quilted High Thermal Conductivity (HTC™️) Euro topper. It absorbs and draws heat away from your body for a cool sleeping experience. The HTC™️ layer has a perimeter of AirBreath™️ Heat Escape Gusset. The gusset is designed to let heat dissipate to the outside rather than accumulate in the mattress. 

A layer beneath the HTC™️ layer is the Cooling Nolah AirFoamICE™. This layer aids the top layers to draw out more heat from the mattress. It’s made using advanced graphite-infused foam, which helps cool the mattress even faster. Furthermore, the layer of memory foam is designed to enhance comfort and pressure relief.

The following layers are the supportive core layers. They consist of a 2″ high-resilience foam that provides lumbar and spinal support, a 1″ high-density foam, and Nolah’s patented HDMax™ Tri-Zone™️ Coils. This coil system is designed to increase support by 25%. It also comes with E.D.G.E™ rails for a superior and sturdy edge. Finally, there is a foundation layer made of recycled plant fiber.


2. GhostBed Luxe Memory Foam Mattress

gostbed luxe mattress
  • 101-Night Home Trial
  • 25-Year Warranty
  • White Glove Delivery Available
  • Available in Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Split King, Cal King
  • Cost: Mid Level
Where to Buy:
Click to Compare and Save

Why I recommend it: This mattress is responsive and relieves pressure while also reducing motion transfer for co-sleepers. Hot sleepers will appreciate the cooling technology too.

Pros:

  • Ideal for co-sleepers and couples who’ve experienced motion-related disturbances 
  • Excellent contouring and responsiveness 
  • Class-leading in pressure relief among side sleepers 
  • The mattress sleep cool and comfortable 

Cons:

  • Unreinforced edge support 

The GhostBed Luxe is a 13″ mattress made of 7 layers of different types of foam. The combination of the various layers is optimized to give side sleeping seniors a cool and comfortable sleeping experience. It is rated as a medium on the firmness scale, and it offers the optimal balance between a sturdy sleeping safe and contouring.

The top three layers of materials are designed to yield the best temperature regulation possible. The Ghost Ice Fabric is the outermost layer and consists of a plush cover that’s cool to the touch. The second layer is the 1″ Cooling Fiber. This is woven fiber incorporated directly to the cover with cooling airflow channels. The third layer to complete the mattress’ cover is the 1″ Gel Memory Foam.

After the series of layers that make up the cover, GhostBed Luxe has a Ghost Ice Layer which transfers heat to help keep the core cool. 

The core of the mattress is made of three layers of different materials. It starts with a 3″ Gel Memory Foam designed to evacuate heat as much as possible rather than trap the heat. The Ghost Bounce Layer is the next layer, which yields excellent countering and responsiveness. Finally, the foundation of the entire mattress is a 7.5″ High-Density Support Layer. 

The mixed-foam mattress is renowned for excellent motion isolation, support, and temperature regulation. And with a firmness rating of 5, the mattress is well-suited for lightweight and medium-weight seniors.


3. Layla Memory Foam Mattress

layla memory foam mattress
  • 120-Night Money Back Guarantee
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Available in Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Cal King
  • Cost: Mid-Level
Where to Buy:
Click to Compare and Save

Why I recommend it: With the Layla Hybrid, you get both a firm and softer mattress in one package by flipping the mattress in a cooling, affordable package.

Pros:

  • Sufficient motion isolation 
  • Sleeps cooler than most all-foam mattresses 
  • Relatively affordable compared to other all-memory foam mattresses 
  • Versatile firmness 

Cons:

  • Poor edge support 
  • Not suitable for heavy-weight seniors 

The Layla Memory Foam Mattress is a stand-out product in the all-memory foam segment for its innovative flappable design. By simply flipping the mattress, you can transform your mattress from a medium-soft firmness (6/10 rating) level that offers exceptional body contouring and pressure relief to a medium-hard (8/10 rating) mattress that provides support. The flappable feature is not a marketing gimmick; it really does work.

Notably, the flippable mattress does not compromise the standard features we’ve grown to expect from modern mattresses. For instance, the mattress does incorporate some advanced cooling features. 

The innovative mattress is made of layers of different materials. With the soft-medium side on top, the mattress has a cooling cover with gray/white cover. Beneath the cover is the business end. 

The medium-soft has a 3″ copper-gel memory foam that’s soft and plush. The infusion of copper into the memory foam enhances heat evacuation. Moreover, since copper is an antimicrobial element, it prevents odor-causing bacteria from growing.

Below the memory foam layer is the Max airflow support foam. This is a transition layer with deep channels, forming a surface akin to an egg crate. The deep channels enhance airflow and heat evacuation.

The shared core is made of a 4.5″ support core foam. The polyfoam core is optimized for motion isolation and to provide sleepers with maximum support possible.

A 1″ layer of copper-gel memory foam provides the firm and supportive feel on the medium-firm side. This mattress side is covered with a black/gray cooling cover.


4. Helix Midnight Luxe Mattress

  • 100-Night Sleep Trial
  • 10-15 Year Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Available in Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Cal King
  • Cost: Lower End
Where to Buy:

Why I recommend it: The Helix Midnight offers a quality sleep surface with zoned support for side sleepers that need improved pressure relief and increased lumbar support.

Pros:

  • Its zoned support offers great pressure relief 
  • Excellent qualities for side sleepers 
  • Superior cooling technology ensures you sleep cooler 
  • Great body contouring 
  • The excellent lumbar support translates to excellent spinal alignment 

Cons:

  • Relatively more expensive compared to other options 
  • Poor motion isolation 

The Helix Midnight Luxe is a 12″ hybrid mattress that combines the excellent support performance of pocketed coils with the unmatched contouring performance of memory foam. Sleep experts have rated it as the top hybrid mattress for side sleepers.

Its setup consists of over 1000 pocketed coils as the mattress’s core, two layers of foam, and a soft and plush pillow top. The outer cover of the mattress is the helix soft-touch cover optimized for maximum airflow. 

The comfort layer of the Helix Midnight Luxe is the Memory Plus foam. It’s this layer that yields the medium feel of the mattress. The layer beneath the Helix Midnight Luxe is the High-Grade Polyfoam. It provides ergonomic support and cushioning while ensuring the mattress contours to your body. Beneath that is the 8″ layer of individually wrapped coils that provide unmatched support while cradling your body.

Finally, the foundation of the mattress is the layer of DuraDense Foam. The high-density foam provides base support to the entire mattress structure.


5. Nectar Mattress

nectar mattress
  • 365-Night Sleep Trial
  • “Forever” Warranty
  • Free Shipping & Return
  • Available in Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Cal King
  • Cost: Low-End
Where to Buy:
Click to Compare and Save

Why I recommend it: The Nectar mattresses hug and comfort back sleepers with a great contouring and pressure relief. But, because of it’s memory foam construction, it’s not the best choice for hot sleepers.

Pros:

  • Stellar contouring and pressure-relieving support 
  • The all-memory foam mattress structure cuts down on motion transfer 
  • Affordable 

Cons:

  • Poor edge support 
  • Average temperature regulation performance 

The Nectar Memory Foam Mattress is a medium-firm mattress that side sleepers have hailed as a supportive mattress with excellent contouring performance. Made of three layers of different foams, the 12″ Nectar Memory Foam Mattress brings together the best features you can accrue from memory foam. 

Beneath the heat-wicking cover made of polyethylene is the Nectar Comfort Layer. The comfort layer is a gel-infused memory foam designed to help cradle your body while evacuating the trapped heat. Unfortunately, this layer is not responsive fast enough and takes time to reform its original shape.

The next layer below that is the dynamic support layer. This is a 2″ layer of memory foam designed to support your body dynamically. Crucially, this layer reduces sinkage, which can be a massive problem for side-sleeping seniors. The final layer is a 7″ thick layer of high, durable memory foam. This foundation layer gives the mattress impeccable stability.


6. Zinus Pressure Relief Olive Oil Memory Foam Mattress

zinus olive oil mattress
  • 100-Night Home Trial
  • 10-Year Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Available in Full, Queen, King
  • Cost: Lower End
Where to Buy:
Click to Compare and Save

Why I recommend it: Seniors who want a cooling mattress with dependable edge support and independent support at a lower price should put this mattress on their short list.

Pros:

  • Provides excellent motion isolation 
  • Among the affordable hybrid mattresses 
  • Using renewable olive oil reduces the use of fossil fuels 
  • Comfortable for side sleepers 
  • Provides plenty of pressure relief for side sleepers 

Cons:

  • Edges are not sturdy and supportive for seniors with mobility problems

The Zinus Pressure Relief is manufactured in Italy. As a hybrid mattress, it features motion isolating independent coils and pressure-relieving comfort foam. Additionally, the mattress is made with 4″ of memory foam olive oil-infused.

The memory foam layer is optimized to yield the highest level of comfort, as the layer of 8″ coils helps to support side sleepers while providing motion isolation to prevent disturbances.

Aside from having luxury mattress features, the Zinus Pressure Relief Olive Oil Memory Foam Mattress is OEKO-TEX certified. As such, it meets all the necessary standards for a mattress free of harmful substances. 


Tips For Sleeping Better For Side Sleepers

The most important advice we can give any senior who sleeps on the side is to prioritize the alignment of their body. Your goals should be resting in a neutral position throughout the night for as much as possible. An aligned, neutral position helps negate body aches and pains from occurring.

Seniors and the elderly should use an appropriate number of pillows under your head to rest it in a neutral position. Supporting your head and aligning your neck will help align your spine. Use pillows to support your knees and lower back to keep your spine, pelvis, and hips aligned.

Improve your sleeping environment beyond your mattress. Take away sources of loud noises, excessive light (such as electronic devices), and ensure your bedroom is at the right sleeping temperature.

Take some time to exercise. Exercising can directly help you fall and stay asleep. Consider exercising in the morning if you fall asleep early. On the other hand, if you go to bed late, exercise later in the day.

Take care of your diet. Avoid excessive alcohol, sugars, and carbs as they might affect the quality of your sleep. 

Create and follow a regular sleeping pattern. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time every day.

You can see more sleep tips for seniors in this guide.

Summary And Final Recommendations:

As a side sleeping elderly, you should be interested in finding a mattress that meets all your needs. While it’s difficult for a mattress to perform well across all fronts, a good mattress will have balanced qualities that provide sleepers with a well-rounded sleeping experience. 

The mattresses we’ve covered in this article balance your need for support, comfort, durability, and other performance considerations, improving your sleeping experience. Whether you prefer an all-foam mattress or a hybrid, our list of the best mattresses for seniors who sleep on their sides has a mattress option that will meet your needs.

Sources:

  1. https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(05)01056-9/fulltext
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3774439/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/side-sleeper#benefits
  4. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/how-to-sleep-with-lower-back-pain
  5. https://www.everydayhealth.com/gerd/managing/sleep-tips-for-people-with-gerd.aspx
  6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/say-good-night-to-neck-pain
Photo of author

Scott Grant, CSA®, ATP, CRTS®

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Certified Rehab Technology Supplier (CRTS®)

I have been serving seniors and the elderly for over 20 years as a medical equipment and custom wheelchair specialist for a regional medical equipment company. I am also a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not helping older adult improve the quality of their lives, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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