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Health Problems from Old Mattresses

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Written by: Alex Savy
Read 6 minLast updated on January 12, 2022

Sleeping on an old mattress can be uncomfortable, but that’s not the worst part.

Old beds can easily ruin one’s health, and sleepers often don’t even realize that the fault is in the mattress.

Today’s article will share the potential health problems from old mattresses, giving readers clues on when to start shopping for a new bed.

How Often Should Sleepers Change Their Mattresses?

The lifespan of the mattress would depend on its type and quality. Now, foam mattresses can last for around 7-10 years. Innerspring models are usually good for about 5-6 years. Hybrid mattresses have an average lifespan of approximately 6-7 years. And latex models are considered the most durable ones, with an average lifespan of about 10-12 years (often more). 

Of course, the mattress’s durability may depend on multiple other factors. The sleeper’s weight is one of them. Luckily, there are many great mattresses for heavy people that can withstand a more significant load without losing their supportive properties.

Other factors that may influence the mattress’s lifespan are the frequency of use, the density of the materials, the thickness of the mattress, and whether the sleeper takes good care of it or not. 

But one thing is clear: once the mattress gets old, it can do more harm than good.

Common Health Problems from Old Mattresses

Some sleepers might feel like they aren’t ready to invest in a new mattress, and that’s okay. But sleeping on the old one can be much worse than shopping and spending money. After all, old mattresses are often associated with the following issues

  • Dust mite allergies. Mattresses can accumulate moisture and dead skin cells, creating a favorable environment for dust mites. And dust mite infestation typically leads to such allergic reactions as coughing, nasal congestion, irritated eyes, mouth dryness, and more.
  • Mold allergies. Again, moisture build-up is common in old mattresses, and it often causes mold to grow. And sleeping with mold typically leads to allergies and can even aggravate one’s respiratory problems (asthma, for example). 
  • Irritated skin and breakouts. Old mattresses collect dead skin cells, body oils, and dust, encouraging bacteria growth. And all those bacteria can irritate the skin and cause inflammation, leading to breakouts and sometimes even acne. 
  • Back pain. Mattresses tend to lose their supportive properties with time. As a result, they cannot keep the sleeper’s body in a neutral position, leading to spinal misalignment. This typically causes pressure build-up in some areas of the back and, consequently, pain. That’s why sleepers often switch old models to chiropractor-recommended mattresses (to take care of their backs and reverse the effects of their old mattresses).
  • Poorer sleep quality. If the mattress is old, it’s simply not as comfortable anymore. Naturally, sleeping on an old mattress can lead to tossing and turning, physical discomfort, and frequent nighttime awakenings.
  • Aggravated asthma or chronic allergies. Old mattresses can accumulate pet hair, pollen, and other allergens. And the longer users sleep in such environments, the worse their allergies will get. 
  • Infections. It’s clear that old beds often become homes for bacteria. However, some of those bacteria can be pathogenic, leading to inflammation and infections. This issue is especially common for humid and poorly ventilated rooms.

A quick note: aside from back pain, old mattresses often cause shoulder pain. If that’s the case, shoppers may need a special new model to relieve the symptoms. Here is the list of the best-rated mattresses for shoulder pain to help readers find the right option.

Long-Term Health Effects from Old Mattresses

Aside from the obvious symptoms, sleeping on an old mattress can have serious long-term effects. Here are a few examples:

  • Weight gain. Using an old, uncomfortable mattress can lead to sleep deprivation. And lack of sleep is linked to increased appetite and obesity risk.
  • Aggravated chronic conditions. Constant discomfort and an unhealthy sleeping posture can aggravate the symptoms of certain medical conditions, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, sciatica, degenerative disc disease, and more. Sleepers will need to search for specific mattresses suited for their health condition to improve the situation. Here are some examples of the best mattresses for degenerative disc disease that can also help with other illnesses that cause back pain. 
  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety. Mental health issues can be triggered by sleep deprivation. And naturally, a bad mattress can easily cause poor sleep, which explains the link between old beds and increased risk of anxiety and depression.
  • Weakened immune system. Poor sleep decreases the body’s ability to fight off infection and inflammation. As a result, people who don’t get enough sleep when using old mattresses are more likely to get sick.
  • Increased stress levels. Lack of sleep (caused by an old mattress) makes it more challenging for people to manage daily stress. It may lead to increased irritability, difficulty focusing, mood swings, etc.
  • Increased risk of heart disease. Again, sleep deprivation can be caused by an uncomfortable old mattress. And readers should remember that poor sleep is often linked to cardiovascular issues and an increased risk of heart disease. Therefore, getting a new mattress can do two things: make readers sleep better and take care of their heart health.

F.A.Q.

Are old mattresses unhealthy?

Yes, in most cases. Old mattresses typically lose their supportive properties, which can be bad for one’s beck. Additionally, mattresses tend to accumulate a lot of stuff, which can later lead to allergic reactions and other unpleasant side effects.

Can an old mattress cause respiratory problems?

Yes, if it’s infested with dust mites, has mold, or contains a lot of dust and bacteria.

Wrapping Up

It’s clear that an old mattress can turn into the sleeper’s worst nightmare. Old mattresses are uncomfortable and challenging to rest on, but they can also cause health issues (including allergies, back pain, headaches, and more). That’s why it’s crucial to get new mattresses every 7-10 years, depending on the type.

How long have you been sleeping on your current mattress? And have you ever experienced any negative symptoms mentioned in this article? Share your experience in the comments!

Our research

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Mattresses Considered

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Hours of Research

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Sleep Experts Consulted

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