How Sleeping On A Terrible Mattress Can Destroy Your Quality Of Life
Getting a great night’s sleep is essential to enjoying a higher standard of daily life, from many different perspectives. The effects that lack of sleep has on our brains and bodies are well established medically, and we’ve all experienced what sleep deprivation can do to us.
From brain fog, to fatigue that makes you trudge through your day, depression, and anxiety, a chronic lack of restorative and deep REM sleep is just as bas as smoking three packs of cigarettes a day.
If you’re waking up sore, with no energy, or even feeling chronically ill, your mattress could be quietly stealing your quality of life from you, slowly sapping your body and mind’s naturally tendency to thrive. As a mattress designer and engineer, creating a mattress that delivers everything you need to improve a person’s quality of life takes some skill. Not to worry, I can point you in the right direction and help you reinvent the way you sleep, but let’s get into just why a mattress is so very important, first.
Because mattress shopping is so confusing and because it can be a miserable experience, the mysterious process of finding the perfect mattress can be daunting. But what are we supposed to look for when shopping for one?
Our parents almost never replaced their mattress. I remember my parents lasting 30 years on their first Sealy Posture-Whatever, and I also remember how damn rock hard it was. The problem was that our folks just didn’t have a sense of awareness about the destructive nature of a crappy mattress. And, when they did get around to realizing that their mattress was likely causing problems, their old Bat-illac Bed was too much trouble to replace.
Who wanted to spend all day Saturday lying on mattresses while some guy with his tie dangling in your Mom’s face gave her the hard sell why she was lying on her back?
Well, the world has come a long way. Now, you can easily shop for a really good mattress online, it will cost a third of what your parents paid for theirs, and there is a huge variety of different kinds of mattresses to choose from that will literally re-invent the way you sleep, regardless of how picky you are. But, which one do you buy?
First let’s look at the reasons why your mattress, and the activities you engage in just before you lie down on your mattress at night, can influence the quality of your sleep.
There are dozens of reasons why you might not be getting the sleep you need, besides your mattress alone. The thing to remember is that before you begin shopping or choosing your next “forever” mattress, it’s smart to examine exterior factors that you can improve upon prior to buying your new mattress.
What you eat, how much you drink and what you do before bed can all have either a beneficial or detrimental effect on how well you rest. Obviously drinking coffee, as an example, is obvious, but even drinking too much water prior to bedtime can disturb your sleep patterns. Trips to the bathroom at night often pull you out of REM sleep, and then getting back to sleep becomes a real nightmare.
Exercising immediately prior to going to bed, eating heavily just prior to shuteye, ambient noises, and other factors are all part of the equation that needs to be carefully adjusted to improve your sleep, even before we get to the discussion about your mattress from hell.
The way your bedroom is designed can heavily influence the quality of your sleep. You can read our article on creating the perfect sleep sanctuary to learn more about the subtle details that go into creating the perfect Z-Cave.
Obviously, though, there are some things you just shouldn’t allow in your bedroom if you are trying to capitalize on sleep quality. Televisions and blue light emitting mobile devices trick your mind into thinking it is still daylight, thus making it more difficult or even impossible to fall asleep.
Once you’ve found a great mattress, it’s important to outfit your new mattress with the proper comforter, sheet sets, and most importantly, the ideal pillow, considerations most people really don’t pay attention to very much.
A pillow for example, can mean the difference between constricting your airway and experience respiratory events that really screw up sleep quality, and it can either eliminate or even create pain. Choosing the right pillow is essential to the overall formula for your best night’s sleep.
You can check out our pillow page, too, where we recommend a handful of outstanding pillows that are just as important as your mattress.
How Do I Know If My Mattress Really Sucks?
Let’s talk about age. If your mattress is so old that you cannot remember when you purchased it, it needs to be disposed of, immediately. If you recall that it’s older than 8 years, it needs to be disposed of.
No one should sleep on the same mattress for more than 8 years. Here’s why:
Mattresses, even with sheets factored in, soil over time. Body fluids like sweat create the perfect environment for inviting a thriving population of dust mites, who leave their egg casings and feces smeared like peanut butter across the surface of your bed. The average mattress is home to millions of dust mite egg casings. making your bed the likely source of allergy problems and ear, nose, and throat issues. Mattresses can also grow plenty of mold and mildew, too.
Compression from body weight. Over time, the pressure of the human body will ultimately deform even the hardiest of finely crafted innerspring mattresses, foam mattresses, air beds, whatever. Your mattress, over a long period of time, begins to conform to your body, no longer provides buoyancy or support, and deteriorates very rapidly, usually within the 8 year timespan we’re talking about. It simply becomes flat and lifeless, forming gulley and indentations that restrict free and easy movements.
Failure to keep up with modern mattress technology. By keeping an antiquated mattress, you’re missing out on great opportunities on advances in everything from cooling fabrics that eliminate the problem of hot sleeping, copper infused foams that promote healthier sleep surfaces because they keep bacteria, viruses, and other microbes at bay, and advanced pocketed coils, memory and gel foam, and other components that eliminate pressure and relieve pain. You’re not improving your sleep quality, and you’re getting older, just when you need the advances in mattress tech to deliver for you
Choosing The Right Mattress Is Easier Than You Might Think
Just like buying a really good pair of shoes, mattress shopping requires an awareness that there are dozens of mattress options that cater to even the pickiest of consumers. Whether you like soft or firm, whether you are a side sleeper, a back sleeper, hot or cold sleeper, you’ll find a huge number of options.
If you are looking for an all natural mattress with no petroleum products, no fragrances, or if you want a bouncier, livelier bed, or a bed that can be adjusted on either side because you like firm and your partner likes soft, there are plenty of options. On this site, we recommend starting up top and clicking on some of the pages on our Beds 101 tab, to help you zero in on options that might help, like Best Beds For Back Pain, for example.
We even have a page that helps orient you to mattress size options, since many people have lifestyle changes that require moving up in size, splitting their mattresses (if you are looking to try an adjustable base, for example), or downsizing.
Sleep Gone Wrong: How A Bad Mattress Disrupts And Destroys Sleep
Sleep is made up of four different stages. Three of these are in a phase called non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep. The fourth is Rapid Eye Movement stage, the most beneficial and necessary element of healthy sleep. Each of these has a different effect on your body as they take place, and skipping or reducing them in a way which isn’t meant to happen can be detrimental.
Non-Rem Stage One:
This is often a problem with many folks suffering from sleep issues, because it’s the falling asleep element, known as “sleep induction”. You’re still awake, but you’re starting to fade out. It’s hard to keep your eyes open, and you might start to actually nod off, but catch yourself. At this point, your muscles are starting to relax a bit and your brain prepares for rest. The next stage immediately follows Stage One, usually within about 10 minutes.
Non-Rem Stage Two:
You’re asleep when Stage Two the effect is subtle If somebody were to try to wake you up, they would have no issues doing so. Your brain has relaxed a bit more, as have your muscles, but you’re really in a state of semi-consciousness, still not fully asleep to the point where you couldn’t spring back very fast. By the way, if you take 20 to 30-minute naps, you’re hitting Stage Two. This is what allows you to so quickly be alert and energized following the short nap.
Non-Rem Stage Three:
This is where the good stuff happens. Stage three is deep, really deep sleep. It was once broken into two stages, though they’ve since been lumped together by most experts accounts. Your muscles are completely relaxed, your brain is pretty much on auto-pilot, and your body starts going to work on its nightly chores. Muscles and tissue are being repaired. Tissues like muscle regenerates and rebuilds. Your immune system starts to get a boost for what’s to come. This is the stage of sleep that your body resists waking up from, and rebels if you do. You’ll feel groggy and disoriented.
You’ve likely heard about the REM stage of sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. This is probably the most important part of the sleep cycle. While the first time it happens each night only lasts about 10 minutes, it gets progressively longer the longer you sleep, hence the need to have absolutely uninterrupted rest. At this point, your brain starts getting really busy, like a city running at full traffic capacity. While you can dream at any point during sleep, the most vivid dreams seem to happen during REM sleep. Your brain becomes very active, working to consolidate the information it has gathered during the day and store it so you can access it later. Since your brain is active, waking up at this point during a nap would be just fine, and you’ll have already reaped all the benefits of Stage Three.
How Sleep Can Benefit…Or Destroy, The Sensitive Mechanisms We Need To Maintain Optimal Health
Using this information, it should start to become somewhat apparent how detrimental a terrible mattress can be to your health. To be more specific, let’s look at a couple different situations.
Memory And Recall
We know that sleep, especially the REM stage, causes our brain to solidify our daily experiences into hardwired memory, available the next morning and often for the rest of our lives, and is the fabric, the very woven fibers of our lives, and perhaps, the very reason we live.
If you’re not able to get enough sleep, your ability to retain information will be diminished. This was shown in a study in which two groups of people were assigned the same task. All of them performed the task once, then half of them were allowed to sleep before performing the task again.
The group who had slept were able to perform better when asked to do the deed a second time, showing they had retained the information better from the previous day.
Finding yourself feeling less aware of your surroundings on a day-to-day basis? Or that feeling that you are detached from reality, and in a fog? You can likely blame this on a terrible mattress. Not getting proper sleep can leave your mind feeling cloudy. You won’t be able to multitask as well as you might otherwise.
You’ll be easily distracted. Studies show how much your cognitive abilities depend upon on getting a good night’s sleep, which requires owning a mattress that gets you to sleep and keeps you there, provides buoyant and uplifting support, melts away pain, and totally syncs with your body type and sleep habits.
Thinking outside the box becomes difficult when you’re not getting enough sleep. Your problem-solving skills may begin to degrade, and anything which requires a bit of improvisation is going to have you at a disadvantage. One bit of research showed that, while a lack of sleep may not have a great impact on something like a multiple choice exam or something with set answers, it does make it more difficult for any sort of situation where an original thought or creative solution needs to be presented. Abstract thinking depends upon a good night’s sleep on the right mattress.
Each of the REM stages of sleep has the effect of reducing your blood pressure, getting you back down to normal levels. Interrupting those sleep cycles can keep your blood pressure from reducing properly, leading to potential heart issues down the road. During sleep, the body also releases hormones which help regulate stress, and without those, the stress can build up and start causing further increases in blood pressure. Ever wake up with a pounding heartbeat? That could very well be caused by failure to enter the relaxing and rejuvenating state of REM sleep.
Believe it or not, getting a crappy night’s sleep can cause you to gain weight. As you sleep, you burn a few calories, but that’s not going to get the pounds off. What does happen, however, is you will feel an increase in your metabolism. By not sleeping well, your metabolism can begin to slow down, making it become harder and harder for your body to burn the fats and other things it has consumed throughout the day.
Additionally, your hunger levels are profoundly affected by sleep. There are two hormones which regulate your appetite, called leptin and ghrelin. Leptin works to make you feel full, and sleeping keeps those levels up. On the other hand, ghrelin is the hormone responsible for making you feel hungry, and sleeping keeps it low.
So, if you take those into consideration with sleep, not getting enough sleep makes your body truly feel as though it is starving, even when it likely isn’t. With those hormones fighting to make you want to gorge yourself, you better have some strong willpower.
Perhaps one of the biggest things poor sleep can do is have an effect on your mental state. Insomnia due to sleeping on a poor mattress can cause much of what we discussed above, all of which can lead to feelings of depression and increased anxiety. Depression itself can then turn around and lead to a further lack of sleep, causing more medical and mental problems. It is a situation which is not easy to define or diagnose, but there is certainly a link between depression and sleep.
Terrible Mattress Issues That Should Tell You To Start Shopping For A New Bed
Here are the most common problems that mattress owners report as being the driving force behind their search for a new mattress:
One of the biggest issues memory foam had when it was first introduced was heat. The stuff works by absorbing your body heat to make it pliable, and if it has no way to get that heat out, it just stays there and keeps you warm all night long. This can end up being very uncomfortable but has been remedied in most modern gel and memory foam mattresses with new technology that redesigned the interior “cellar construction” of many foam mattresses.
If your memory foam mattress is one of the earlier models that came along 15 years ago, it may feel great to lay on, but I’m willing to bet you’re heating up at night, which is not going to help you sleep. Get yourself a new mattress that uses advanced technologies to keep you cool and comfy.
If heat is an issue, be sure to take a good, hard look at the foams in the mattresses you buy, assuming you go with foam over a more traditional innerspring mattress. You can now find memory foam with various bits of technology thrown in, such as material designed to absorb and release heat away from the body, keeping you cool. At the very least, you can get what is often referred to as open-cell memory foam, which has more of an aerated design to allow air to better flow through and pull away from heat.
Pressure Points, Muscle Soreness, And Back Pain
If you find yourself waking up and feeling sore, your mattress is likely terrible for you. If a mattress is doing its job, it should be conforming to your body, responding to pressure points, and providing you with a decent amount of support, while still embracing you properly. Your spine should be straight, and you’ll likely need a pillow to keep your head and neck in line. This, of course, depends on the sorts of materials you use.
Now, while mattresses do come in a variety of levels of firmness, and we may prefer the feel of one over another, firmness also serves as an indicator of how well it will work for your body. For instance, I am a huge fan of a softer, yet supportive mattress. I don’t like them very firm, but still want proper underlying support so I don’t feel trapped.. Sleeping on a medium-to medium firm bed leaves me feeling far better than if I slept on a rigid mattress with little or no give.
I would much rather feel energized throughout the day than trying to convince myself that I need a super firm mattress to help my back, in those first few minutes before I fall asleep. I you wake up in pain, or can’t get to sleep, odds are, again, you’re sleeping on a terrible mattress!
Where to get started. Start with our Trusted Dealer page where we recommend a carefully curated list of about 35 mattress retailers, picked from over 200 candidate mattress companies.
Fortunately, most mattress companies these days offer trial periods of up to 100 nights, giving you a great opportunity to see what’s going to work for you before finally making the decision to sleep on something for the next decade.. or beyond.