Between the Sheets


Let’s face it: you have a relationship with your mattress. And like any relationship, you look for creative ways to prolong it, including flipping and rotating it, steam cleaning it, and wrapping it in plastic. Still, some relationships aren’t meant to last forever, and this one comes with an eight-to-ten year expiration date. If your mattress has been with you longer than this, the relationship may have turned toxic. The health risks of an old mattress are many.

Neck or Back Pain

You can spot an old mattress fast by whether or not it’s sagging in certain places. The only people who benefit from this type of mattress are chiropractors. According to medical journal Spine Health, mattresses that sag in the middle have an especially disastrous affect on spine health, since none of the natural sleep positions can be accommodated. Long-term studies also support this finding. Oklahoma State University conducted a study where they asked subjects to replace their mattress every five years. Each time the group replaced their mattresses, participants reported decreased back pain, and better sleep. Those who selected medium-firm mattresses were especially happy with mattress replacement. The National Sleep Foundation reports that those who continue to sleep on bad mattresses ultimately get less sleep, and suffer the medical effects of insomnia, which include mood disruption, inflammation, and increased risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Dust Mites

Dust mites are always your bedmates, as your body oils and skin are some of the things they like to snack on. This means that over time, your bed will become a grand buffet to more and more mites, sometimes up to 10 million at once, that eagerly feast on your accumulated skin. These mites also use your mattress as a toilet, so you’re rolling around in that, too. Excessive dust mites produce an allergic response in many people, including itchy eyes, runny nose, and eczema. According to Ohio State University researchers, dust mites are especially dangerous to asthmatics, who often have a stronger allergic response to their expanding population than the average person. While regular vacuuming will prolong the life of your mattress, after a number of years these efforts aren’t enough to stop the problem, and it’s time to go mattress shopping. 

Bacteria and Mold

University of South Manchester researchers discovered that the average person produces 26 gallons of sweat during their sleeping hours each year. This moisture, combined with heat from your sleeping body, creates the perfect environment for mold and fungus. This is especially disastrous to the one-in-six Americans suffering from allergies. The European Center for Allergy and Immunology conducted a study that revealed that the average seven-year-old mattress plays host to 47 different types of fungi, some of which worsen lung infections and sinus congestion. Strep or staph infections can also be easily spread to your bedmate, or children jumping on your bed. In addition to regular mattress replacement, you should regularly wash all bedding in hot water to minimize this problem. Allergy sufferers should also consider adding a HEPA air filter to the bedroom.

Sleep experts all agree that you should plan to replace your mattress often, spending as much as you can afford to ensure a great night’s sleep. Replacement doesn’t even have to mean waste; North America boasts over 50 mattress recycling programs, and many mattress manufacturers will do the recycling for you. So let your toxic mattress relationship go, to make room for better health and sweeter dreams.

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