According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three adults in the U.S. isn’t getting enough sleep, and for some of those people, an old mattress may be the culprit.
Poor sleeping habits affect your health, your mood, and your overall enjoyment of life. Healthy adults should get around seven hours of sleep each night, and good sleep hygiene — including going to bed at the same time every night, waking at the same time each morning, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol — can help you get the sleep you need.
But what if you’re doing everything right but still having trouble falling asleep, or you sleep poorly and wake up feeling unrested? The issue may be your mattress. A mattress that is lumpy, saggy, or otherwise uncomfortable may be the cause of your poor sleep.
Is it time to replace your mattress? Here’s what you need to know.
How to know if you need a new mattress
If you are kind of comfortable most of the time, it’s easy to put off buying a new mattress for another year or two. The Better Sleep Council recommends that you replace your mattress every seven to 10 years.
It smells bad – If your mattress isn’t smelling its freshest, it’s time for a change. Can you refresh it with baking soda and sunlight? Sure, temporarily. But a stinky mattress may rife with bacteria and mold, so an odoriferous bed indicates it’s probably time to get a new one.
It makes a lot of noise – Are you sleeping on a festival of noise? You really don’t need to be. With all of the newest technologies and lots of options for springs and things, a silent night no longer has to be a thing of your dreams.
It sags – A saggy mattress is no bueno for your body or your quality of sleep. A mattress topper or a heavy-duty bed frame may be a good solution to get you through if you’re not ready to replace your mattress just yet, but getting a new mattress should be at the top of your to-do list.
It’s aggravating your allergies – If your allergies are acting up, your mattress may be the culprit. A dust mite allergy causes a runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. If your bed leaves you feeling stuffy each morning, you may be allergic to these microscopic arachnids who live in giant populations in old mattresses. A new bed may be the solution to worsening allergies.
Your back pain is real – Turns out, your tossing and turning — and your weight — affects your sleep comfort. If your weight or preferred sleeping position has changed since you last bought a mattress, it may be time to upgrade to a new one. An old mattress could be the cause of your back pain.
How to choose the right mattress for a good night’s sleep
When you are kind of comfortable most of the time, it’s easy to put off buying a new mattress for another year or two. After all, a new mattress can be a big expense, and if you’re not fully mattress-literate, making sense of all of the many features and options can feel a bit mind-numbing. But it’s really not that complicated, as you’ll soon see.
Do you need a soft or firm mattress?
The ideal firmness of your new mattress depends on your weight and your preferred sleeping position.
A firmer mattress is generally better for people who are stomach or back sleepers or who weigh more than 230 pounds. On a firm surface, your frame absorbs most of the pressure, since the weight of your body is distributed more evenly. This helps reduce stress on muscles, veins, and arteries. A firm mattress supports your lower back and promotes better oxygen intake while you’re sleeping.
A softer mattress may be more suitable for lighter bodies, especially those weighing 130 pounds or less. Side sleepers may be more comfortable on a soft or medium-firm mattress.
For couples with different sleep needs, a dual-firmness mattress — such as one that’s soft on one side and medium-firm on the other — may be the solution to accommodate both of you at the same time.
What size mattress do you need?
Size matters when you’re buying a new mattress.
Twin and Twin XL mattresses are suitable for one person. A full or double-sized bed will comfortably sleep two small adults — or one adult and a pet or two. A queen mattress easily fits two adults and one pet. A king bed is the roomiest of all — you can pile a couple of adults, a few cats or dogs, and all of the offspring in a king-sized bed and still have a little room to move.
You will want to allow for around 30 to 36 inches of space around each side of the bed, so keep the size of your room in mind when choosing the size of your new mattress.
Mattress materials 101: What’s best for you?
There are many mattress materials available to choose from. You can buy mattresses online, or head to a physical location where you can try out the wares. Most mattresses come with a five- to 10-year warranty.
Pocketed coil mattress. Pocket-coil innerspring mattresses are classic, comfortable, and supportive. Each coil inside the mattress is wrapped in a flexible, breathable fabric. The coils contour to the body for optimal motion transfer and they promote cool, restful sleep. This design is also referred to as wrapped coil, Marshall coil, or encased spring mattress. Pocket coils contour to the body and help to keep motion transfer to a minimum.
- Pros: Available in a variety of firmness levels, inexpensive
- Cons: Below-average life span, high noise potential
Natural fiber mattress. If the rest of your life is mostly organic, why not choose a mattress that is made from natural fibers? Wool, cotton, and latex are common materials found in natural fiber mattresses. Eco-friendly and non-toxic, organic materials and organic fillers are an excellent choice if you are concerned about the health of your sleep and of the planet.
- Pros: No off-gassing, environmentally friendly
- Cons: Expensive, mostly available for purchase online only
SomniGel – This is a scientifically-engineered material that is created from hollow gel columns. It provides lasting support and bounces back easily without taking an impression. SomniGel is breathable and transfers heat away from the body for a cooler sleep than latex provides.
- Pros: Bouncy, no “sinking” feeling, cooling
- Cons: Higher than the average price point
Latex mattress. Latex mattresses are assigned an indentation load deflection (ILD) score. An ILD rating of 16 or lower is considered to be the softest latex, while a rating of 39 or more is firm. Latex mattresses are made of two to four layers of foam and can be constructed from synthetic or natural latex, or a blend of both.
- Pros: Longer than the average life span
- Cons: Potential for strong odors and off-gassing
How to maintain your mattress
Once you have chosen the mattress that’s right for you, it’s important to protect your investment so you can sleep soundly for years to come. Here’s how to maintain your mattress.
Invest in a mattress protector. A mattress protector, which will keep your mattress stain-free and fresh, and it’ll extend its life. If your mattress does get a stain, treat it right away with an appropriate stain remover.
Clean your mattress. Twice a year — or quarterly, if you prefer — give your mattress a thorough cleaning to remove dirt, dust, dust mites, hair, and dead skin cells that collect in the crevices over time. Whenever you change the sheets, run the vacuum cleaner over the mattress to help keep it clean and fresh between deep-cleanings.
Rotate your mattress regularly – Each time you deep-clean your mattress, rotate and flip it to prevent sagging and wear from becoming a problem. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for rotating and flipping, though, since some mattresses may not need to be flipped, and some may require more frequent rotation. Follow those recommendations in order to keep your warranty in effect.
What can you do with your old mattress?
You’ve made your new mattress choice, and it’s time to say sayonara to your old one.
In the US, we toss 18.2 million mattresses in the landfill every year — and that’s something to lose sleep over. If your old mattress is still in good condition, you may want to consider reselling or donating it to a local charity or thrift shop.
If your mattress is no longer suitable for use, contact your local waste disposal facility to see what your options are for disposal. You may need to arrange for a special pickup and pay a disposal fee. You can also consider recycling it and regaining some sleep.
What are you waiting for?
A good night’s sleep is just as important to your health as exercising and eating properly. If you know it’s time for a new mattress, go ahead and take the plunge. Imagine how wonderful you’ll feel each day, waking up from a comfortable, deep sleep. The wide range of new mattress options allows you to dial in just what you need, and if you order online, you can usually return it for free if it’s not exactly what you want. So why wait? A new mattress might just be the transformative life upgrade you didn’t know you needed.