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Pop quiz: how old is your mattress?
Unless you bought it within the past year, you’d probably have to count backward, and do some tricky memory math to try to figure it out.
Most of us don’t think much about our mattresses, which is odd, considering how much of our lives we spend on them. Just because we’re unconscious for most of those hours doesn’t make our beds any less important. It’s the opposite, in fact.
A good night of rest is one of the best things you can do for your health, so having a supportive bed is key. And it’s not just for your comfort, although that is one of the reasons. The effects of sleeping on a bad mattress extend beyond your bedtime and can even affect your breathing and mental health.
In this article, we’ll give you some guidelines on how to know when it’s time to say adios to your old bed and replace it with something new.
Life Expectancy of a Mattress
How long you can reasonably expect to keep your bed varies depending on who you ask. Mattress manufacturers will tell you once every eight years, but Consumer Reports says a quality bed should last for ten years. Call it paranoia, but it seems like the manufacturers are trying to steer us into replacing our beds more quickly than needed.
That being said, there are a lot of factors that can affect the life expectancy of your sleeping surface:
Quality: Usually, you get what you pay for.
Your age and weight: Heavier people will naturally make a mattress compress or sag more quickly. And as you age, you become more sensitive to subtle indentations.
Lifestyle: If you use your bed only for sleeping and take good care of it, it’ll outlive something that has kids jumping on it or sustains other bouncy extracurricular activities.
When to Ditch Your Old Bed
10 million. That’s the average number of sleeping partners you have on any given night. These microscopic dust mites feed on your dead skin cells and use your bed as a toilet. Gross, isn’t it. It’s a good thing you can’t see these guys because they’re downright gross.
Many of us unknowingly sleep right on top of them without realizing it, but if you’ve got allergies, asthma, skin rashes, or experience tightening in your chest when you lie down for sleep, you may be allergic to dust mites and their fecal matter.
To prevent their population from raging out of control, make sure you wash your sheets weekly in hot water, vacuum the surface of your bed, and keep the temperature and humidity in your room as low as possible.
Over the course of several years, these critters multiply. If you haven’t taken precautions to control their multiplication, it might be time to consider a new bed sooner rather than later.
An aging mattress often bows or sags in the middle where we put the most weight on it. When this happens, we might wake up with low back pain, stiffness or sore muscles.
If you find that you feel this way after a night of what should have been restful sleep, it might be time to find something new. If you put it off too long, the pain can become chronic and could increase your chances of injury.
Deformation, or sagging, occurs when the surface of the bed gets indents in it from years of bearing your weight. Take out your measuring tape and take a look at whether or not there are any visible areas of sagging. Some companies cover this under warranty provided you’ve taken good overall care of the rest of the surface.
Dust mites aren’t the only thing you have to worry about. As humans, we’re pretty gross ourselves. As we sleep, in addition to skin cells, we also secrete about a cup of water per night. What doesn’t evaporate, soaks right through our sheets and into our mattress. It encourages the growth of mold and mildew.
Thankfully, a waterproof mattress cover can prevent this issue from happening, but if you didn’t put one on your bed from day one, you’ve most likely got some spores sprouting up.
It’s not the dust mites themselves that people are allergic to, it’s their fecal matter that causes the itchy eyes, rashes and breathing challenges. Other culprits include mold, mildew, pet dander, dust, and pollen.
All of these things build up over time, so the longer you have your bed, the higher the chance of having an allergic reaction.
If you wake up in the morning or the middle of the night feeling any aches and pains, your bed could be the culprit. It’s likely that it’s not providing ample support to keep your spine in alignment. It’s natural for a sleeping surface to become softer over time, but if it becomes too soft, you’re in for a night of tossing and turning.
When you lie down, your spine should maintain a natural, relatively straight line. When a bed ages, it can cause your body to dip. If you spend hours in this position, you’ll likely feel the effects.
Lack of Sleep
If you’ve slept eight hours but still wake up groggy, it could be your bed’s fault. A night or two won’t kill you, but chronic sleep deprivation can lead to more serious health conditions. Not only are you depriving your body of the time it needs to repair and restore itself, lack of proper bedtime also results in daytime drowsiness, poor judgment, and mood swings.
How to Fix a Bad Mattress
If you’re not quite ready to invest in a whole new bed, you can extend its life by about a year if you add a mattress topper. It can smooth out any dips and sags and provide extra cushion and support.
Look for one that doesn’t trap your body heat. That way you’ll sleep both comfortable and cool.
If you’re suffering from allergies, you can create a barrier between yourself and those icky dust mites by adding a mattress cover to your bed. Some even have a bit of padding to make your experience extra comfortable.
Make sure the one you get is waterproof to prevent even more moisture from sinking down into bed.
The right pillow can work wonders. If you feel yourself dipping down into the surface, relieve the pressure by placing a pillow between your knees for side sleeping. If you’re more of a back sleeper, put the pillow underneath your knees to give you a bit of lift and take the strain off of your lower back.
For those who sleep on their stomach, a pillow placed at the pelvic area helps prevent your body from bowing or arching.
Even if you have the best and newest mattress money can buy, you won’t rest well if your sleep environment is subpar. Here are a few tips to prepare your bedroom for a night of blissful shuteye:
- Room temperature: cooler rooms help you sleep better than warm ones. This is because our body’s temp naturally drops at night. By keeping your bedroom cool, you allow nature to take its course.
- Remove distractions: kick the television out of your room, or at least turn it off by a certain time. The same goes for electronic devices like smartphones and tablets. The last thing you need to do before your bedtime is stalking your high school ex on Facebook.
- Eat and drink appropriately: avoid drinking a gallon of water before bed. The same goes for caffeine and excessively spicy foods. All of these serve to keep you awake and could send you to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Tell if My Mattress is Bad?
There are some telltale signs that you’ve got a bad mattress. Some of them may surprise you. Here are our top five things to look for:
- It takes you a long time to fall asleep: if you’re not comfortable, it’s more difficult to fall asleep.
- You wake up tired: your old mattress could be causing things like sleep apnea or other breathing issues that compromise the quality of your sleep.
- Your sex drive is low: this is surefire sign that you’re not getting enough Zzz's
- You wake up feeling congested or with a stuffy nose: Unless it’s allergy season and you’ve got hay fever, waking up congested or stuffy is a common symptom of a dust mite invasion.
- Your skin looks lackluster or even starts breaking out: lack of quality sleep increase stress hormones, which result in acne, a loss of skin elasticity, and even wrinkles.
Can It Possibly Cause Sciatica?
If you know anyone that has sciatica, you’ll probably hear them complain about it constantly. It’s quite painful. Sciatica is a painful, tingly or numbing sensation down the side or back of the legs that runs down the sciatic nerve (the nerve that starts at the low back and runs down to the feet).
It’s caused by degenerative disc disease and sleeping on a bad mattress can accelerate or exacerbate sciatica symptoms. Therefore, indirectly, you could say that it can cause sciatica. It certainly won’t help!
Sleep is an essential function for everyday health. And as you’ve read here, not getting adequate sleep can cause wrinkles. Nobody likes wrinkles.
Think back to when you purchased your bed. If it’s been more than five years or you’ve cut some corners on its care maintenance, it might be time for something new. Your health is your greatest asset, and a new bed is a simple and inexpensive way to protect it.
Sources and References:
- Changes in back pain, sleep quality, and perceived stress after introduction of new bedding systems – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- How to Find Bed Bugs – epa.gov
Author: Sleep Advisor
Our team covers as many areas of expertise as we do time zones, but none of us started here as a so-called expert on sleep. What we do share is a willingness to ask questions (lots of them), seek experts, and dig deep into conventional wisdom to see if maybe there might be a better path towards healthy living. We apply what we learn not only to our company culture, but also how we deliver information to our over 12.7M readers.
Sleep research is changing all the time, and we are 100% dedicated to keeping up with breakthroughs and innovations. You live better if you sleep better. Whatever has brought you here, we wish you luck on your journey towards better rest.