The Signs and Symptoms of Sleeping on a Bad Mattress

4 Min Read | By Jessica Kadel

Last Modified 31 March 2023   First Added 29 June 2016

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

We all know our mattress is a fundamental part of our life. And due to the amount of time spent on it, it can significantly contribute to our wellbeing. The average mattress has a lifespan of roughly 8 years. After this period your beloved bed will start to go downhill and with it, your health. If you have a significantly old mattress, it comes with the potential of quite a few of the following health risks…

woman holding the back of her neck in pain

1. Neck or back pain

Sadly, even the best of mattresses can lose their oomph eventually. With mattress structures sagging and dipping, your body and pressure points cannot be fully cradled with an old mattress. Regularly sleeping with such a lack of support has the potential to strain your neck and back. It can also disturb a good night’s sleep. Although you can temporarily prolong the life of your mattress by rotating it, in the long run – your health will benefit significantly from a new, comfy mattress. If you do struggle with neck and back pain at night, make sure you read our advice on how to prevent back pain in bed.

A bed bug

2. Bed bugs

Bed bugs are a real threat. They scientifically go by the less catchy name of Cimex lectularius. As your mattress ages, it becomes an ideal habitat for dust mites and bed bugs. Although these little insects usually just give itchy bites, it’s almost impossible to get rid of them without throwing out your mattress altogether. With bed bugs, the signs to look out for are reddish spots on your bed sheets, small red bites on your skin and of course, the culprits themselves, which tend to gather along the mattress seams.

Up to 10 million dust mites can gather in a mattress and they feed on your dead skin cells. Dust mites tend to cause allergic reactions too, which many asthmatic people are more sensitive to. So to make sure the bed bugs don’t bite, it’s best to invest in a new mattress and wash your sheets regularly.

Bacteria growing

3. Bacteria and mould

An old mattress not only creates an optimum environment for insects to breed but also for bacteria to grow. A range of pathogenic bacteria and fungi often set up camp in an old mattress. For example, enterococcus, staphylococcus, norovirus and even MRSA. They can all lead to skin infections, urinary tract infections and other serious viruses.

Mould is also a danger when it comes to old mattresses, especially if your bedroom isn’t well-ventilated and susceptible to dampness. While most common mould spores are usually harmless, they can trigger allergic reactions. These include coughing, itchy eyes and eczema.

Similarly to the other health risks, if your mattress is growing mould, it’s definitely time to replace it! But we understand that’s not always possible. So short-term fixes include drying out and airing the mattress and even getting yourself a dehumidifier.

4. Visible signs to look out for

There are a few visible signs of wear that you can look out for in a mattress. Sagging, tears, rips, holes. stains, lumps, and springs popping out. If you notice any of these, then it’s clearly time for a new mattress. Without the correct support from your mattress, you are at risk of body aches such as neck and back pain (just as we mentioned earlier). A quality mattress is always wise to invest in as then it’ll last you for many years to come and help you get maximum Zzzz’s.

5. Sleep problems

Do you long for the nights when you slept like a baby? And now you experience sleepless nights tossing and turning. Well, this could be a sign of a bad mattress. It may not be causing you pain but poor sleep quality can lead to all sorts of health problems, and leave us feeling super grumpy throughout the day. Your mattress should help you feel energised, so if it’s not, replace it. Simple.

The science behind your ageing mattress

Our infographic answers all the questions surrounding the science behind mattresses. We separate myth from truth and fiction from fact! Take a look to see whether your mattress needs cleaning, if it’s the right one for you, or if you need to replace it.

We hope this puts some common misconceptions to bed, quite literally! Your ageing mattress could be the culprit behind your bad back and sleepless nights. Following the tips and tricks in this infographic will help you decide whether or not to get rid of your bad mattress and transform your quality of sleep.

About the author

More from the Sleep Matters Club