Senior Health

5/23/2022 | By Megan Mullen

Sleep helps to heal and rejuvenate our bodies and minds. In fact, adequate sleep reduces the risk of dementia, an important consideration for older adults. If you have sleep problems regularly, you can try targeted lifestyle modifications – or consider these five sleep products, including weighted blankets, PEMF therapy, masks, and white noise machines. But before you do, it’s important to understand how much of their claims is hype and how much is truly helpful.

Did you know that as many as 57% of older adults complain of significant sleep disruption, 29% struggle to fall asleep, and 19% complain of early-morning awakening? It’s true. In fact, some complain about all three.

Older adults need the same amount of sleep as younger adults – 7 to 9 hours a night. But sleep patterns tend to change as we age. You might have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. You go to bed earlier than you used to and sleep late or wake early. And you sometimes nap during the day, which can further disrupt nighttime sleep.

There’s some encouraging news, though. Sleep changes should only concern older adults if those changes cause difficulties. If this isn’t the case, your sleep routine probably doesn’t need to change.

However, if your ability to function while awake or your quality of life decreases because of insufficient sleep, you should take steps to change the pattern. We’ve discovered a few non-medical sleep products that might help.

Weighted Blankets

Woman sleeping under a blanket. Photo by Geargodz. Older adults with sleep problems can try non-medical sleep products like weighted blankets, PEMF therapy, masks, and white noise machines.

Heavy weighted blankets mimic deep pressure stimulation. This therapeutic technique produces serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone known to counteract the stress hormone cortisol and increase melatonin, the sleep hormone.

Also, by distributing weight and pressure evenly across the body, weighted blankets as sleep products may calm the fight-or-flight response and, instead, activate the relaxing parasympathetic nervous system to prepare for sleep.

Yet, while many claim these trendy blankets have relaxed them and helped them sleep, debate remains over whether and how weighted blankets offer all the benefits that manufacturers say they do. And there’s the rub, literally and metaphorically, since our needs and wishes can help us convince ourselves that we feel better.

There are doubters, of course. But weighted blankets have shown positive results for conditions, including anxiety and sleep problems and, for older adults, conditions like osteoarthritis and chronic pain. Moreover, research on the effectiveness of weighted blankets is growing. Though they use mainly small groups, some studies “support the anecdotal experience of many who say weighted blankets can help relieve physical pain, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep.”

Eye Masks

A variety of eye masks offer a variety of benefits.

Bedtime light exposure can interrupt your body’s natural sleep triggers, but an eye mask can block the artificial light that prevents you from falling asleep. A mask can also have a calming effect and help you fall asleep faster.

woman sleeping with a sleep mask, photo by Fizkes Dreamstime. Older adults with sleep problems can try non-medical sleep products like weighted blankets, PEMF therapy, masks, and white noise machines.

Weighted eye masks can be used as beneficial sleep products, too. They have a similar calming effect as weighted blankets and may also have tiny beads inside to create a heavy sensation.

Still, sleep eye masks have specific attributes that may or may not suit the individuals wearing them:

  • Light-blocking ability: If you prefer complete darkness while sleeping, avoid eye masks made of lighter fabrics since they don’t block light as effectively as dark ones. And look for a mask that will fully cover your eyes, with nose contours for a close fit.
  • Material: Cotton is a breathable fabric, but it may be harsh on sensitive skin and eyebrows. Satin is gentler but can cause you to get hot at night. Choose the material that works best for you.
  • Purpose: If you want to reduce puffiness or avoid headaches, look for a gel eye mask that can be chilled or heated.
  • Size: A sleeping mask that’s too small can put unnecessary pressure on your eyes and thus blur vision or cause headaches. For the best fit, look for eye masks with adjustable straps.
  • Shape: An eye mask’s shape determines whether it lies flat or provides space around your eyes and nose.
  • Weight: A weighted eye mask can help relax tension around your eyes and help you sleep more soundly.

Know what you want and need before buying. Read reviews to learn the benefits and drawbacks of each type.

Sleep Gummies and Supplements

Most sleep gummies are made from a lab-synthesized version of melatonin. These gummies are marketed as helpful sleep products. But they can be addictive, cause morning drowsiness, headaches, and dizziness, and they might even wreak havoc on your sleep cycle.

You should approach sleep gummies and other sleep supplements, such as valerian and other forms of melatonin, cautiously. First, they are not certified by the FDA or other regulatory bodies, leading to the possibility of unknown or potentially dangerous ingredients. Older adults and others taking medications for specific chronic health issues should not take these supplements without a doctor’s go-ahead as they might negatively interact with those medications.

People who should consult a medical professional before using over-the-counter sleep supplements include:

  • People taking blood pressure medication or blood thinners.
  • Those with type 1 diabetes or autoimmune diseases.
  • Those with epilepsy.

White Noise Machines

White noise includes all frequencies audible to the human ear played at an equal intensity or amplitude, making an “sss” sound like radio static.

As a sleep product, white noise machines mask ambient noises that might disturb sleep. As a result, they can help you get to sleep and remain asleep. They may even help train your brain to know when to retire for the day.

Several factors go into choosing a white noise machine, so read up and pick one that best meets your needs.


Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field (PEMF) therapy sends magnetic energy into the body. These energy waves engage with your body’s natural magnetic field for better healing. Because the magnetic fields increase electrolytes and ions, they naturally affect cellular metabolism and electrical change at the cellular level.

PEMF therapy offers benefits when treating health conditions common to older adults. In addition to its proven functions of easing moderate pain, assisting with sleep, promoting concentration, and encouraging more profound meditation, it may help treat chronic pain, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions.

This technology has been FDA-approved and is regularly used by medical practitioners for decades. What’s new is NeoRhythm, comfortable wearable technology for home use. In addition to improving sleep, it claims to boost physical wellbeing, energy, focus, and relaxation.

On a final note, if any or all of these sleep products let you down, don’t lost sleep over it! Visit your primary care doctor or sleep medicine specialist for more recommendations.

Megan Mullen

Megan Mullen is a freelance writer, librarian, and former college professor. Senior life is one of her niches (and a personal interest). Megan enjoys using her writing and research skills to create well-crafted web content and other publications.