It’s the place where we spent a third of our lives, and it’s central to our health and wellbeing. But curiously, most of us rarely think about replacing our mattress, even though doing so can bring huge benefits. If you do decide it's time to invest in a new one, head straight to our guide to the best mattress right now. If you're not sure, read on...
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How often should you change your mattress?
The industry consensus appears to be that you should change your mattress at least once a decade. For example, the Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, suggests that seven to 10 years as a good “rule of thumb”. Similarly the UK’s Sleep Council, which is funded by the National Bed Federation, recommends changing your mattress every seven to eight years.
However, finding the evidence or research behind such estimates is very tricky. The industry standard is to offering warranties of around 25-30 years on purchased mattresses, which suggests some people are keeping them much longer. However, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to avoid stretching the life of your mattress too far...
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Why should you change your mattress?
A 2008 study by Oklahoma State University, based on a control group of 59 people, found evidence that new mattresses have a significant impact on reduced back pain and improved sleep quality. And those initial benefits improved over time, regardless of the person’s age, weight, height or body mass index.
There's also the issue of hygiene. The average person sweats around half a pint every night and 1kg of skin cells a year, and that's not to mention dirt, saliva, body oils, hairs and more. All of this can become nourishment for microbes, dust mites and other insects. Regular laundering, vacuuming and turning can help minimise the impact, of course, but the older the mattress, the greater the chance it will become infected.
Factors to consider
In truth, how often you should change your mattress is going to vary wildly from person to person. Factors will include the type of mattress, how well it’s made, how often it’s used, and how well you care for it. So rather than focusing on a fixed figure, it’s better to base your decision on what your experience of your current mattress is actually like.
Obviously, if you can see visible tears, rips, holes, stains, sagging or other damage in your mattress, then it’s time to get a new one. Similarly, if it feels lumpy and isn’t supporting you in the right way, then don’t waste any more time on it. Your health and well-being just aren’t worth it.
However, even if those things aren’t the case, there are other signs you might need to change your mattress.
For example: do you often wake up with stiffness, numbness, or aches and pains? Are you always tired, despite getting the opportunity for a full night’s sleep? Do you have a hard time getting comfortable in bed? Do you often feel too hot or too cold? Does your partner complain about you moving about too much in the night? Have your allergies been getting worse of late? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s likely that you need a new mattress.
Of course, there may be other reasons for these symptoms. But certainly if you tend to get a better night’s sleep when you sleep in another bed, such as at a hotel, that’s a sure sign that your mattress has reached the end of its useful life. Time to read our guide to the best mattresses and check out the best cheap mattress deals.
How to extend the life of your mattress
There are plenty of ways you can make sure your mattress lasts as long as possible. One is to use a mattress protector, as they can be an important line of defence against dust-mite infestation, as well as protecting your mattress against spills and stains. Check out our guide to the best mattress protectors to find one that’s right for you.
If you're experiencing back or joint pain, a mattress topper can help, by adding a layer of softness or height to your mattress that makes it more comfortable. A mattress topper does not protect your mattress as a mattress protector does, but there's no reason you can’t use both. Check out our round-up of the best mattress toppers.
You should clean your bed linen at least once a week, to protect dirt, dust and bodily oils getting into your mattress. For similar reasons, you should vacuum your mattress at least once a month.
Airing is also important. Remove your duvet, sheets and pillows from your bed regularly (you can leave the mattress cover on) and expose it to air and sunlight, if possible, for a couple of hours at least. This allows bodily liquids to evaporate and reduces the chance of infestation.
How often should I turn my mattress?
Rotating and flipping is a more complex question. Traditionally, it was recommended that mattresses need to be flipped at least twice a year and rotated every three months. This evens out the pressure on the mattress, and protects the areas which are slept on most from sagging.
However, many modern mattresses are designed not to require flipping or rotating: indeed, for some brands of foam mattress you might end up damaging the mattress by flipping it. So it’s important that you first check the manufacturer’s instructions; if you don’t have the paper version any more you should be able to find this on their website.