The Just Right Bed Height for Seniors

Key Points

  • If your bed height for seniors is too high or too low, it puts you at risk of falls and injuries.

  • Assistive devices help you access your bed independently and safely.

  • An adjustable bed is just the ticket if you suffer from medical conditions or mobility challenges.

  • Use the simple steps listed here to determine the right bed height for seniors that suits your size and mobility.

It’s common to lose strength and mobility as you age. Your declining ability affects many aspects of your life at home, from dressing to grooming to preparing your meals. If you find it increasingly difficult to get in and out of bed, getting the right bed height for seniors can make your efforts easier.

Your preferred bed height for seniors is unique and depends on your height, strength, mobility, and health conditions. Sleeping in a bed that is just right improves your safety, sleep quality, and comfort. 

Why Do You Need To Be Concerned With Bed Height?

Your bed is the centerpiece of your bedroom. You probably chose a bed frame and linens that complement your style and create a restful haven in your home. However, you may not have considered whether your bed meets your mobility, safety, and sleep quality needs.

You lose flexibility, muscle strength, and balance as you age. You may also contend with painful joints and various health conditions, from Parkinson’s to dementia. As a result, getting in or out of bed becomes more challenging and potentially accident-prone. 

Man sleeping

If you want to maintain your independence and feel safe in your bedroom, consider how your bed height functions. The wrong height can lead to falls and injuries and may even make your bedroom inaccessible.

It’s not just a fable girl in a house full of bears who needs a bed that’s just right. Make your own Goldilocks search for the perfect place to sleep.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Your Bed Height

You might find that proper bed height gets little attention when you shop for a bed. Traditional-style bed frames mounted with luxury-thickness box springs and mattresses end up at a towering height.

Conversely, sleekly modern platform beds with a single mattress hug the floor and are no more accessible for seniors.

The good news is that when your bed is at the right height, you can function more independently despite health and mobility challenges. Not too high and not too low is the key!

Implement the following guidelines to get it just right.

Beds That Are Too High

An excessively high bed puts you at greater risk of falls and injury. You may need to jump to get into bed or use a stool or bedside steps. When you need to visit the bathroom at night, your balance is unstable, and your body is stiff from immobility. Plus, some seniors are prone to falling out of bed.

Beds That Are Too Low

Rising from a low position requires strength, flexibility, and balance. If a bed is too low, you may strain your muscles getting in or out of bed, and it’s painful for weak joints — particularly your knees and hips. Crouching low to get in and out of bed may also hurt your back.

Beds That Are Just Right

Bed height is not a one-size-fits-all solution because your height and mobility limitations should inform your decision. Generally, a safe bed height is between 18 and 23 inches, about the same height as a chair. 

It all depends, though, on you. Consider these tests when you select your bed height:

  • When sitting on the bed, both your feet should rest flat and secure on the ground. 

  • In that sitting position, your knees should be level with your hips.

  • While standing on the floor without shoes, the bed should be about two inches higher than knee level. 

  • If you use a wheelchair, your bed should be roughly the height of the seat of your chair.

Senior waking up from bed

How To Adjust the Height of Your Bed

If your bed isn’t quite right, you may be able to adjust its height. Some solutions are quick and easy — simply recruit some bed-moving muscle — while others call for skilled help. 

How To Lower Your Bed 

If the bed is on a frame and you need to lower the bed a few inches, there are several things you can do.

If your bed has wooden legs on the frame, cut the legs shorter. If your bed sits on wheels, remove and replace them with flat flooring protectors. If your mattress sits on wooden slats, have a carpenter create indented slats that lower the mattress or box spring but keep the frame intact.

If your bed sits on a traditional frame, consider replacing it with a lower platform frame. A pedestal-style bed may be a better option so that you won’t trip or bump your feet on bed legs.

How To Raise Your Bed

If your bed is too low and you need to raise it, you also have a few remedies.

Add bed risers to raise the frame of the bed. Some risers are stackable to adjust your bed height with precision.

Use a mattress topper on top of the existing mattress. If you prefer the feel of your existing mattress, add a mattress topper below it. Choose a firm foam mattress topper that is less than three inches thick. Thick, soft toppers make it harder to get out of bed. 

If nothing else works, replace your existing bed frame with a new, higher one.

Opt for an Adjustable Bed

An adjustable bed will always be the right height, even as your needs change. It's also helpful if you suffer from medical disorders or mobility challenges, and an adjustable bed can improve your sleep quality.

“We talk frequently about beds and other technologies,” says Dr. Christopher Winter, MD, a neurologist and sleep expert at ​Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Charlottesville, North Carolina.

An adjustable bed sits on a multi-hinged platform and uses a wired or wireless push-button remote. Some adjustable beds only raise in the head area, while others allow you to raise both the head and the foot. Adaptable models have adjustable-height legs, just the feature to customize your bed height. 

Adjustable bed remote

Adjustable beds used to be the purview of hospitals and nursing homes, but now you can buy them in furniture and mattress stores. 

You may balk at the idea of an institution-style bed, but once you enjoy using it, you'll probably appreciate some of the benefits. These benefits include:

  • Quit struggling with pillows to raise your head so you can read or watch TV comfortably.

  • Get back relief by raising the foot of the bed.

  • Improve problems like poor circulation, leg swelling, acid reflux, or heartburn.

  • Get in and out of bed with more ease from a sitting position. 

If you share your bed with a partner, opt for a queen or king-size bed with a split mattress. Each side adjusts independently, so you both choose your preferred angle without giving up shared sleep time.

Bed Safety Products

Choosing the right bed height is your first step toward safer sleeping. Bed safety products give you an extra layer of security and assist you in various ways. 

Choose bed safety products with quality, sturdy construction, and easily adjustable settings.

Bed Safety Rails

Bed safety rails are metal or plastic bars positioned along the side of a bed. They may extend the length of the bed or less, such as a quarter or half-length. People may use bed rails to help pull themselves up or get out of bed. 

You frequently see bed safety rails on beds for seniors, but they are not the first choice for a safety device. People expect a bed rail prevents an older adult from falling out of bed or keeps an individual with dementia from getting out of bed and wandering. Unfortunately, bed rails can be risky for seniors.

An older adult may suffer strangulation or asphyxiation if trapped in the gap between the bed rail and the mattress. They may be too weak, frail, or confused to change position, and the mattress pressing against their chest can prevent them from breathing. 

A bed safety rail may also cause severe injury. If a person who is confused or has dementia wants to get out of bed but bed rails block their way, they frequently try to climb over the rails. They often fall while trying to do so and hit their head or suffer other injuries. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates adult portable bed rails marketed for medical purposes. A disabled or injured person, someone recovering from hospitalization, or at risk of falling due to a balance disorder or other medical condition qualifies for this bed type.

Senior sleeping in bed

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission governs bed rails not intended for medical purposes, as they consider these beds consumer products. Many products are available without a prescription on websites and in stores.

There are safer alternatives for bedside safety, like lowering the bed near the floor, cushioning beside the bed, a secured vertical pole to assist, or a bed trapeze.

Bedside Assist Rails

Bedside assist rails provide an easy-to-grip bar for increased stability when getting in and out of bed. The rail connects securely to your bed with a stabilizing bracket that slips under the mattress and rubber-tipped legs — no tools are required. The bedside assist rail is easy to remove and folds flat for storage when you don’t need it. Some designs even have side pockets to store frequently used items like remote controls, books, and medications.

Vertical Grab Bar

A vertical grab bar is a floor-to-ceiling pole that adjusts to any height ceiling and installs without tools or drilling. Also called a security pole, floor-to-ceiling grab bar, or support pole, the vertical grab bar provides stability when transitioning between standing, sitting, or getting into bed.

Trapeze Bar

A trapeze bar is a sturdy triangle trapeze attached to an overhead metal frame. The trapeze suspends over the bed and either anchors to the bed frame or connects to a stand-alone base. 

People confined to bed for long periods or with limited lower body mobility find the trapeze especially useful. Users need adequate upper body strength and the use of their extremities, and they need to be cooperative and able to follow instructions.

With a trapeze, you can reposition yourself in the bed and transfer into and out of bed. Using a trapeze bar also stretches and strengthens your muscles, a benefit if you are bedridden and have few opportunities to exercise.

Senior lying in bed

Fall Mat

Bedside fall mats lay on the floor beside your bed. These high-impact foam mats reduce fall injuries next to the bed, the most frequent location for falls.

If you can get out of bed by yourself, look for a mat that won’t impair your balance or gait. Many fall mats fold up for easy storage.

Defined Perimeter Mattress Cover

A defined perimeter mattress cover incorporates padded bolsters to define the bed's perimeter. It prevents falls without using restraints. The built-in medium-density foam safely and comfortably bolsters the edges of the bed.

Pressure Sensitive Bed Alarm

If you or someone you care for sleepwalks or roams, a pressure-sensitive bed alarm provides peace of mind. The pressure-sensitive pad senses when a person's weight leaves the bed and triggers a remote alarm, either a noise or a flashing light.

Overbed Table

Though not technically part of the bed, an overbed table can make your time in bed more comfortable and convenient. You can keep frequent-use items close by, so you don’t need someone to assist you multiple times daily.

The Best Mattress for Seniors

Having your bed at the perfect height is a faint victory if your mattress doesn’t give you a good night’s sleep. Make sure you choose the right mattress to keep you rested and pain-free.

It's difficult to choose the best mattress simply by lying on it in a showroom. For most people, a medium-firm mattress is the most comfortable choice because it improves sleep quality, reduces the risk of developing low back pain, and helps you fall asleep faster.

Senior in bed

Dial In the Right Height for Safe Sleeping

The right height bed provides optimal safety, comfort, and style. Ensure your bed height fits you correctly and that you have the assistive devices you need for independence.

Bed height is highly personal, so don’t settle for a bedroom design that makes your life more difficult or unsafe. Find your just right bed.

Follow GoldYears for more great safety tips for senior homes.

Was this article helpful?