So, your mattress is starting to look a little worse for the wear and you wake up in pain. You feel trapped or stuck in your bed every morning, or maybe it just feels like you’re sleeping on a thin piece of fabric. If this sounds like you, it’s time to replace your mattress, no matter how old it is.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends replacing your mattress every 8 years or so, and most high-quality mattresses should last about that long. However, the time for replacing may come earlier depending on your age, weight, the mattress’ construction, and other factors.
This article will go in-depth about how often you should replace your mattress, as well as other things to consider when you’re ready to buy a newer, better model.
What Causes a Mattress to Sag or Deteriorate?
A few things can accelerate your mattress’ decline, such as weight, improper care, or even using the mattress on an incompatible foundation. Let’s go over a few of the most common things that may be causing your mattress to dip.
Weight, Thickness, and Density
Of course, a mattress is meant to support your weight. Most top-rated mattresses are thick enough to do so, but thinner models (less than 10 inches thick), can be insufficient for heavier weights. For instance, if you share your bed with a partner or maybe you just roll around a lot while you sleep, your mattress may sag quicker than it normally would.
Typically, an adult or child weighing under 150 pounds can sleep comfortably on most mattresses without any issues (as long as they don’t have other special considerations, such as sleeping hot or chronic pain).
Many mattress companies sell more than one mattress, each of them with different features and usually different firmness levels. The most common firmness levels you’ll see are soft, medium, and firm. If you’re shopping online, it’s hard to tell which firmness will suit you best since you don’t get to try out the mattress until it’s arrived at your house.
This is when knowing the ILD, or Indentation Load Deflection, and the firmness scale can help. The ILD number is a measurement mattress companies use to determine how much weight a mattress can withstand before it indents up to one inch or 25% of the mattress thickness. The higher the ILD number, the firmer the mattress. Now, most mattress companies don’t advertise the ILD number of every mattress, but if you’re curious, you can always ask via their contact form or customer service.
However, most brands will advertise the firmness level using some kind of infographic. The “firmness scale” goes from 1-10, with one being very soft and plush, and ten being extremely firm. Most mattresses are between a 3-8 on the scale, since a too soft or firm mattress would be unsupportive and uncomfortable for most sleepers. Typically, a mattress needing to support more weight should be thicker and firmer.
Firmness Scale and Comfort Level:
|Soft (1-2)||Lightweight sleepers or side sleepers|
|Medium-Soft (3-4)||Lightweight or combo sleepers, lightweight couples|
|Medium (5-7)||Most sleepers, including heavyweight, combo sleepers, and couples|
|Firm (8-10)||Stomach sleepers or back sleepers, heavyweight sleepers|
The firmness scale is a great reference, but it is subjective based on the brand. What one company classifies as a medium, another might classify as medium-firm or medium-soft. This is why you should always utilize sleep trials if possible.
A standard mattress is typically between 10-12 inches thick— a company should always advertise the mattress thickness on its website, and some brands charge more for extra layers. If you want to upgrade to a thicker mattress, make sure your sheets will fit over the top. If you plan on using a topper with the mattress as well, that will only make it thicker, which can change the feel of the mattress and the fit of your bedding.
Using a mattress that’s too soft or too thin will inevitably lead to premature sagging and damage. Make sure to take all of these things into account before you buy your new mattress.
Lack of Care and Maintenance
Like most things, mattresses reflect the kind of care they get. If you don’t use a durable mattress protector or encasement, you run the risk of staining your mattress permanently or letting dust mites, allergens, dead skin cells, and bed bugs infiltrate it. Any damage to the mattress can and usually does void your warranty, inherently decreasing the mattress’ value.
Mattress protectors are not very expensive, and most of them are made with noiseless materials now, so you shouldn’t even know the protector is there. Protectors significantly extend the life of your mattress, so we think they’re a worthwhile investment.
Taking other precautions can make your mattress last longer, such as vacuuming the sleeping surface with a hose attachment, spot-cleaning any stains using a gentle cleaning solution, and trying not to eat in bed.
A Flimsy or Improper Foundation
Almost all companies will communicate the best foundation for their mattresses on their website because the foundation is key to maintaining the warranty.
Foam mattresses shouldn’t be used with a box spring because they can change the feel of the mattress and damage it. Always use foam beds on a mattress foundation or platform bed frame with slats no more than 3 inches apart or with a single piece of plywood under the mattress. You can even use your foam bed directly on the floor, but this can decrease airflow through the mattress.
If you’re planning on using your mattress with an adjustable bed foundation, foam, latex, and some hybrids are the best mattress types for adjustable frames. Innerspring mattresses aren’t pliable or compressible like some other types, and using them on an adjustable frame can damage them.
Mattress Construction and Materials
The comfort layers sit right on top of your mattress, and as a result, they take the brunt of the damage you inflict. Comfort layer composition and materials vary across brands, but typically they look like this for different types of mattresses:
Innerspring comfort layer: Innersprings most often utilize polyfoam, foam, or cotton in a quilted pillow top comfort layer. Innerspring mattresses are still some of the most popular mattress types, but they also rank the lowest as far as durability goes.
Hybrid comfort layer: A hybrid mattress is made using 50% foam and 50% coils. The coils are almost always found in the core base layer, and the layers of foam are placed throughout, including at the top. Hybrids most often use memory foam, latex foam, or polyfoam as their top layers.
Memory foam comfort layer: Memory foam mattresses use low-density foams in the comfort layer and higher-density foams in the transition and core layers. The most durable memory foam mattresses should have a high-density foam core that’s thicker than the lower-density foam layers.
Latex foam comfort layer: Latex mattresses usually use aerated latex foam in their top layers and higher density latex foam in the bottom support layers. Latex is one of the most durable materials you’ll find in mattresses, which accounts for the extra cost.
In general, a firmer mattress is more durable than a super plush model because firm mattresses use more high-density foams, while soft models use a higher quantity of lower-density foams. If you prefer a softer feeling mattress, just make sure it has a sturdy support core in the form of high-density foam or steel coils.
When to Replace
How do you know when it’s time to buy a new mattress? If anything in the following list describes your current situation, it may be time to consider a better mattress.
If you wake up after a full night of sleep feeling unrested, your mattress may be to blame. Poor sleep can lead to other, more serious health issues, such as depression, anxiety, weight gain, heart disease, and more. Everyone deserves a good night’s sleep, so if you think your mattress has lost its support or cushioning, it’s time to buy another and invest in your well-being.
Dust Mites and Bed Bugs
Once dust mites and bed bugs have taken over your mattress, it’s nearly impossible to take it back. Dust mites irritate allergies and exacerbate symptoms of asthma, skin rashes, or breathing issues— all of these problems can interrupt sleep. Bed bugs, on the other hand, are hard to get rid of once they’ve made a new home in your mattress. Once you notice them, it’s time to throw your mattress away.
Waking up in pain can be a sign your mattress is not alleviating pressure points but instead causing inflammation to build up in your hips, spine, back, and more. Your mattress should be a respite from pain at the end of the day.
Your sleeping position affects your posture and overall health, and people with certain sleep preferences should look for a mattress to fit.
Side sleepers are usually most comfortable on a medium feel mattress. Back sleepers most often prefer a medium to medium-firm mattress, and stomach sleepers should look for a medium-firm to firm bed. All sleeping positions need a mattress that keeps the spine neutral and doesn’t misalign anything.
How to Extend the Life of Your Mattress
If you notice your mattress is starting to sag or deteriorate and you aren’t ready to buy a new mattress just yet, you can extend its life just a little bit more by using a few tricks. Keep in mind that these are all temporary solutions, and you will eventually need to purchase a new mattress.
Lots of people use toppers to make their mattress softer and more comfortable. Toppers can act as a temporary buffer between you and an unsupportive mattress but remember— toppers are not really a long-term solution, and if you’re still waking up with pain, a new mattress may be a better solution.
Some companies make flippable mattresses now, allowing you to switch sides when the side you’re sleeping on doesn’t work anymore. Some flippable mattresses are made with two different firmness levels on either side and so they might not be suitable for everyone.
If your mattress was not marketed as flippable, it should not be flipped. Flipping it will completely change the feel and might cause the materials to sag even faster. You can always rotate your mattress regularly to extend its life.
What to Do with Your Old Mattress
Once you’re ready to upgrade to a new mattress, there are a few things you can do to get rid of your old one. Some people like to keep it as a “backup” bed in a guest room. However, if the mattress is damaged beyond repair, it’s better to donate it or throw it away.
Some mattress companies offer a White Glove Delivery option with the purchase of a new mattress— along with delivering and setting up your new mattress, they will remove your old one. You can also donate your mattress to a local charity— just make sure to contact them beforehand to make sure they don’t have specifications for what can be donated. You can also look into recycling the mattress.
Are You Ready to Replace Your Mattress?
Your mattress has served you well, but perhaps it’s time to move on— if you’re waking up in pain or you think allergens, dust mites, or bed bugs have taken over your bed, start looking for a new, more comfortable mattress.