January is mattress shopping season. Even in December, furniture stores and mattress specialty shops start to advertise their latest sales. So when do you actually need a new mattress?
Many people use their morning aches and pains to help them make this decision. We all know the literal pain in the neck that can develop when we “sleep funny.” A bad mattress can have the same (but more subtle) effect on your back as well. Yet not all backaches or other joint stiffness can be attributed to the mattress. It can be very hard to tell if your mattress is at fault.
By the same token, you might need to replace your mattress but be fit and flexible enough to wake up without morning aches and pains. There are really only two main things that can go wrong with your mattress. Either it is worn out (or otherwise damaged) or it’s not right for you. Mattresses do not wear out in a predictable way. A lot depends on how much use the mattress got over how much time.
Then, how will you know that you need to replace your old mattress? Here’s how:
When To Replace Your Old Mattress?
- A small person who sleeps alone can usually get more longevity from a mattress than an overweight married couple. The old rule of thumb was that a mattress lasts about 10 years, but that is like any rule of thumb. It’s not true for everybody. A mattress that sleeps two with regular use may last only five years.
- You can tell if your mattress is wearing out if you can see or feel noticeable bumps, lumps, or indentations. A mattress that sags down in the center is shot, no matter how many (or few) years you have had it. Run your hand, palm down, over the top of the mattress. If springs jut out or there are lumps or bumps, it’s worn out.
- A spill of something gunky, gross, sticky, or smelly can definitely shorten your mattress’s service life. If the material can be cleaned up reasonably, it’s no big deal. But if the mattress gets soaked, it can ruin it. Even if your mattress has led a sheltered life in terms of spills and wear-and-tear, you may also need to consider its internal inhabitants.
- Dust mites, prevalent in states with humidity over 50%, love to inhabit inner spring mattresses. They live and die there. Now for the gross news: your mattress may contain lots of dead dust mites and what is euphemistically called dust mite debris. Ask any mattress salesperson or expert. Most inner spring mattresses tend to weigh more after a few years of service than they did when first purchased. The reason–dust mite debris. (Dust mites are a very common allergen and are hard to avoid in the hot humid south. If you live anywhere dry or cold, they’re less of an issue.)
- But even if your mattress is in physically decent shape, it might still be contributing to your aches and pains or to difficulty sleeping.
Is Your Mattress A Good Fit For You?
How can you tell if your mattress is a good fit for you? This applies to any mattress–the one you’ve got now or the one you may be shopping for soon.
- Lay down on your back on the mattress. Take your hand and put it palm down, flat on the mattress. Now try to slide your hand under the small of your back. This is an interesting test because it can tell you if your mattress is too hard or too soft for your particular body type.
- If you can slide your hand easily under the small of your back with room to spare, your mattress is too hard. There’s a lot of “air” between your lower back and the bed that is supposed to support it.
- If you can’t fit your hand under the small of your back, the mattress is too soft. Your back is just collapsing into the soft mattress that should be supporting it.
- Your mattress is just right if your hand fits, but just barely, under the small of your back. It should be very snug.
- Now try to roll over. You’re going from lying on your back to lying on your side. First roll over on your side in one direction, come back to center, then roll over to the other side.
- If you need a lot of help with your hands to roll over, your mattress is probably too soft. You’re falling “into” the mattress rather than being supported by it.
- While you’re on one side (it doesn’t matter which), notice how the mattress supports you. If your weight is resting mainly on your shoulders, hips and knees with not much spread out in the in-between areas, your mattress is likely to be too hard. This can cause some pain if you spend a long period of time putting a substantial amount of your body weight on a few small areas of your body.
What Do You Do Now?
If your mattress is worn out or is too hard or soft, you need to go mattress shopping. Using these too-hard/too-soft tests, try some mattresses in department and specialty stores.
Mattresses are very individual. The perfect mattress for you and your body type may be a poor fit for somebody else. Be prepared to spend some time shopping. The good news is that some of the best sales in the mattress world take place in the first quarter. January is the ideal time for mattress shopping. Mattress shopping is not for the faint-hearted! Arm yourself with information and inspiration.