Mattress Matters: Choosing and caring for yours


An investment in good sleep is an investment in good health. Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that chronic insomnia puts us at risk for such mental and physical health problems as depression, anxiety, asthma, stroke, seizures, diabetes, and obesity. Poor sleep is also a risk factor for inflammation, a condition that affects the entire body and is connected to an even wider range of health issues. It’s no wonder we feel better when we’ve had a good night’s sleep.

Buying a new mattress periodically is one of the larger investments we make in sleeping well. That’s one reason why selecting the best mattress for your unique body is such an important decision. For many people, a mattress represents the most expensive piece of furniture in their homes. But given that we spend a lot more time in our bedrooms than in our, say, dining rooms, the cost of a high-quality mattress is justified.

When should you buy a new mattress?

The short answer to that question is when your body tells you to. Our bodies change over the years. The mattress that felt just right to you when you were taking home varsity medals for swimming or competing regularly in marathons may not suit you today. Perhaps you’ve developed back problems or experienced a significant change in your weight—in either direction. Maybe you’ve become a hot sleeper, due to new medications you’re taking, or hormonal changes. Any of those health developments might make you consider a mattress switch. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you’re having trouble sleeping now, and didn’t before, you should look at all of the elements, both in your bedroom and in your life, that we know can affect sleep. If you wake up in pain each morning, that’s a stronger signal still.

Signs it's time to replace your mattress

How long can you expect a mattress to last?

A high-quality mattress should last about ten years. And, mattresses do come with warranties. Often, the pricier the mattress, the longer warranty it comes with. But consumer studies have found that the actual useful life of a mattress is often shorter than the warranty that accompanies it. And, the discrepancy tends to be greater when the warranty is longer. Offering a longer warranty can help mattress manufacturers justify a higher price. But, mattress companies also assess risk when they assign a warranty to a product. The incidence of mattress buyers trying to return a mattress after 10 or 20 years is quite low. Warranties tend to be complicated, as well. Only certain parts of the mattress may be covered. It’s unlikely you’ll ever recoup the full price of a mattress under warranty, because what you’re able to recover diminishes the longer you own your mattress. And, you can also be penalised under a warranty for what may be deemed ‘misuse’ of the product.

Protecting your mattress investment

If you own a leather sofa, you might oil it occasionally to preserve its luster. You change the oil in your car and get your handmade rugs cleaned every couple of years. Your mattress will last longer if you give it some care and feeding along the way.

Keeping your mattress clean is one of the best things you can do to prolong its life. Covering your mattress with more than just a set of sheets is an essential part of mattress care. Unlike a mattress, a mattress protector can be tossed in the washing machine every couple of weeks. That will not only protect your mattress, but also your health, by preventing dust particles, allergens, and bacteria from lodging in your mattress. Incidentally, it’s not a bad idea to vacuum your mattress periodically.

Not to raise a disturbing subject, but mattress covers also protect against bed bugs. It’s not uncommon nowadays for hotels—even luxury venues—to suffer bedbug infestations. Should you be so unlucky as to carry some home with you from your next vacation, washing your mattress cover is a far simpler task than treating your mattress with insecticides. And, it’s far less expensive than hauling your mattress to the curb.

mattress layers

Other mattress longevity tips

You’ve probably heard that it’s a good idea to ‘flip’ your mattress once a year to increase its lifespan. The first amendment to that rule is that nowadays, many mattresses are not invertible. They have distinct tops and bottoms. So rather than flip, you should rotate any mattress that has a pillowtop feature. And, it’s better to do it quarterly than annually. The idea is to prevent uneven wear and tear by stressing the same part of your mattress for years on end. By the same token, mattress manufacturers recommend that you shake up your mattress-sitting habits. Rather than put your shoes on from the same spot along the edge your bed every day, move around. You’re less likely to develop a saggy spot that way.

More zzzzs. No fees.

Expensive mattresses aside, there are small steps you can take every day to ensure you’re sleeping better and they won’t put even the smallest dent in your budget. Sleep experts outline some basic sleep hygiene habits that have been demonstrated to improve both the quality and duration of sleep:

  • Set a consistent bedtime and waking time.
  • Develop a calming routine for the hour or so before you go to sleep and stick to it.
  • Get some exercise every day.
  • Limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
  • Make sure the simple things are in place, like darkness and quiet.
  • Perhaps the most challenging habit to adopt in today’s digital world? Break away from all your screens, from phone to laptop to television, well before it’s bedtime. You can plug in again in the morning when your body and cognitive powers have been refreshed.

Please note:  This article is not to be used as medical advice.  This post may contain affiliate links.

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susan doktor
Susan Doktor

Susan is a writer and business strategist who hails from New York City. She writes, guest, and ghost-blogs internationally on topics including health and wellness, technology, and a wide range of consumer products.

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