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7 Things That Could Happen If You Sleep on an Old Mattress

These are a few reasons why it might be a good idea to buy a new mattress.

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Young depressed or sick with flu model lying on the bed with closed eyes and blowing her nose into tissue. View from abovePhoto: Fizkes/Shutterstock

You could develop allergies from dust mites

Bill Fish, co-founder of and a certified sleep coach, says that there is a chance dust mites could be an issue if you sleep on an old mattress. “Our goal should be to spend one-third of life on our mattress, as that means we are getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep on a nightly basis,” he says. “In doing so, however, our bodies give off dead skin and natural oils that can be appealing to dust mites.” Fish notes that dust mites could be an issue for any mattress, but the older the mattress, the more mites, which could be a real issue for allergy sufferers and people with asthma. John D. Ramirez Jr., DC RN DACNB, from the Florida Orthopaedic Institute in Tampa adds that these mites are also a potential hazard to people with skin conditions like eczema. It is specifically the dust mite droppings that are highly allergenic, CNN reports.

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aerosol inhaler for the treatment of asthma in a male hand against a dark background.Photo: Dmitry Galaganov/Shutterstock

Your asthma could get worse

Noah Siegel, M.D, a board-certified sleep physician at Harvard and otolaryngologist, says that people suffering from dust allergies or allergic asthma could experience nasal congestion and airway breathing problems while sleeping on a dusty old mattress. “Plain old asthma has what we call circadian rhythm, and it tends to work in the evening and the night,” Dr. Siegel says. “Then you add on top of that environmental exposures related to the mattress and you kind of get insult to injury there.” Cynthia Bodkin, M.D. Indiana University Health neurologist and sleep medicine physician, adds that sleeping on an old mattress won’t directly cause nighttime asthma, but it could worsen symptoms for those who have the condition. 

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Mold on pillow. Mold on fabric.Photo: Maliflower73/Shutterstock

You could sleep on mould

According to Slate, after eight years your mattress becomes heavier after collecting dust, dead skin cells, and gallons of sweat. Dr. Siegel says that moisture issues from sweat could cause mould within a mattress, and thus potential allergies. “Mould is a possibility of something that, as the result of an old mattress, can potentially impact your breathing and your health,” Dr. Siegel says. “Mould is a difficult allergy to identify clearly, there are lots of different types, but somebody can be truly allergic to it, or they could be sensitive.”

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Rear view of one man sitting on bed having back painPhoto: tommaso79/Shutterstock

You could experience back or neck pain

“Neck and low back pain is a common complaint due to the lack of support from an old mattress,” Todd Goldman, who has been a chiropractor for 22 years, says. Specifically, sleeping on an old and unsupportive mattress stresses the ligaments, tendons, and joints of the spine, Goldman says. As the mattress gets older, it will become softer and less supportive of the spine, adds Kavita Sharma, M.D., a board-certified pain management physician with ten years of experience treating patients in New York. This means that it will be more difficult to maintain proper posture at night. “Maintaining proper posture is helpful in mitigating lower back pain,” Dr. Sharma says.

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Block springs for mattressesPhoto: Pavel Mirchuk/Shutterstock

You could be more stressed

A study compared the sleep quality and stress-related symptoms between people sleeping in older beds versus newer ones. They found that new bedding systems increased sleep quality and reduced back discomfort—factors that could decrease stress-related symptoms. Similarly, stress and sleep are often interlinked. Stress keeps many adults from getting the sleep they need, and a lack of sleep could contribute to stress. So if your old mattress makes it hard for you to sleep, your stress levels could increase creating a cycle.

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Scan film MRI.Photo: toysf400/Shutterstock

Your memory could suffer

If you have trouble sleeping on an old mattress your memory could also suffer. Dr. Siegel says one of the functions of sleep is memory consolidation. And if you’re uncomfortable at night due to an old mattress, that isn’t happening to the optimal extent. The REM sleep stage is specifically known to help us retain information. One study had two groups of people perform the same task. Half of the group was then allowed to sleep before completing the task again. Those who slept were able to complete the task better the second time since they retained the prior information better.

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Closeup of mattress on display in storePhoto: Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock

Bottom line, you could have less or poor-quality sleep—leading to numerous other health issues

According to Dr. Bodkin, poor sleep quality from any cause is associated with daytime sleepiness, trouble with concentration, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, depression, and weight gain just to name a few. Meanwhile, getting enough sleep has numerous health benefits including a boosted immunity system, type 2 diabetes prevention, and weight management. Dr. Siegel adds that sleep is time for your body to recover—so make sure you are comfortable. If an old mattress is cutting down on sleep time, it could be worth investing in a new one.

Next, here are seven things you should know while shopping for a mattress.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest