Why mattresses are crucial to sleep health

A good mattress can be the difference between a good night's sleep and a restless night. Picture: PA

A good mattress can be the difference between a good night's sleep and a restless night. Picture: PA

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EXPERTS advise replacing your mattress every eight years - and decent, pain-free sleep isn’t the only reason, as Abi Jackson reports

When it comes to sleep, eight really is the magic number.

There’s the optimal eight hours a night shut-eye (although, some claim to function perfectly well on less, of course). And eight is also the figure to keep in mind when it comes to mattresses: apparently we should be replacing them every eight years.

“The longer you keep the same mattress, the less comfortable it becomes,” says Lisa Bond, marketing director at Dreams. “We recommend you replace your mattress every eight years, before it reaches its snooze-by date.”

Mattress matters

It’d be easy to dismiss this as merely a marketing ploy. But its advice that’s often backed up by health experts - an old, worn-out mattress isn’t going to be very supportive after all, and this could contribute to things like back and neck pain and trapped nerves.

There’s also the issue of comfort, which should never be underestimated. According to The Sleep Foundation, 92 per cent of us say a comfy mattress is important for getting a good night’s sleep - and bad sleep is never good news (and, as we’re all now increasingly aware, can be damaging to both short and long-term physical and mental health too).

Hygiene horrors

Mattresses don’t just become ache-causing, flattened versions of their former super-sprung selves as time goes by - they can also become ‘hot beds of bacteria’. Microtech Services Ltd recently carried out tests on samples of mattresses that had been used for eight years, looking at the bacteria, yeasts and moulds in them. “Most people would be rather surprised by the things you can find in an old mattress,” notes leading environmental hygiene expert, Dr Lisa Ackerley. “Mould spores and bacteria build up over the years and although invisible, you could be breathing in these harmful spores at night. Due to the amount of human contact with the average mattress, it’s inevitable that microbes and unwanted guests will develop over time. People tend to focus on cleaning the things they can see - pillows and sheets, but the mattress itself can be a ‘hot bed’ of potential illness.”

This can be especially problematic for people with allergies, breathing and skin conditions and who are prone to rhinitis (runny nose).

What about pillows and duvets?

So when should we be upgrading our bedding? If you’ve been using the same pillows for years, you’re definitely not alone - last year, Ergoflex surveyed more than 2,000 people and found that 82 per cent had no idea how often we’re meant to be replacing pillows (when they’re covered in stains and flat as a pancake, no?). Experts at the Sleep Council recommend pillows are replaced every two to three years, while others - like Dr Robert Oexman of Sleep To Live Institute - suggests getting new ones every six months (yep, that does sound rather costly!), because dirt, skin cells and dust mites build up in them over time, which could worsen things like allergies and asthma. Pillows that have lost their shape and plumpness could contribute to neck pain - not to mention poor sleep - too.

Duvets, thankfully, have a slightly longer life, with experts advising we replace them every five years or so.

Dreams’ Bedroom Health Check List

Want to give your bed a ‘health MOT’? Here are Dreams’ top tips.

1. Keep your bedroom well ventilated and open windows when possible. You can also leave the duvet pulled back for a few hours after waking, allowing the bed to cool faster. This will restrict the growth of moulds and yeasts - not just in the mattress but around the windows themselves.

2. Put pillow cases, sheets and covers on to a hot wash as higher temperatures are required to kill germs and dust mites - ideally 60C plus. Including a laundry additive will also help to kill bacteria and viruses.

3. Replace your mattress every eight years to ensure that it remains fit for purpose - supportive and comfortable, without a build-up of potentially harmful microbes.

4. Using a mattress protector will help reduce the amount of material absorbed by the mattress. You can wash this regularly, but of course you can’t wash your mattress.

5. Carry out a simple bed frame check at least twice per year. Look for any loose fittings or broken slats as this may affect how the mattress sits on the bed.

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