When Is It Time To Replace Your Mattress? An Expert Weighs In

A commonly asked question I receive as a mattress designer, engineer, and industry authority is, how often should a mattress be replaced? Incredibly, most people have no real understanding or practical knowledge of just how dirty a mattress becomes even after a relatively short period of time.

When you consider just how important sleep is to our health, and that our sleep surface should be something that receives more attention than our vehicles, clothes, perhaps even the food we eat. Yet we disregard the health of our mattress routinely, and often do not replace them for decades.

We all know by now that sleep is an important cornerstone of human health. Without restorative and rejuvenating sleep, our bodies are not able to heal themselves, and our brains become exhausted, unable to engage in cognitive thinking, process emotions, and even store memories.

One of the factors which keeps us from replacing our mattresses more frequently is that historically, Americans only replace their mattresses when they become so worn out that it literally collapses under the weight of its owners, or if an accident such as a liquid spill or medical incident completely destroys the mattress.

This is likely driven by the fact that mattresses have been historically expensive, generally priced third in line behind a home, and an automobile. In the 1970’s and 80’s for example, a name brand mattress costs upwards of $500 or more, which amounts to about $2200 in today’s money.

Because mattresses are readily available online in a “bed in a box” format and the technology to ship them has advanced dramatically, it’s easy to buy a decent foam mattress, or even a high quality mattress with coils and foam components. A typical price for a highly rated mattress in 2020 is around $800-1000.

Under normal conditions, mattresses should be replaced every 6 to 8 years. Of course, we’re speaking in general terms, and there are a lot of variables which can modify this lifespan. Here is a quick list of some common reasons you should replace a mattress you currently own.

Generally speaking, you should replace your mattress if one or more of the following apply:

  • It’s more than 8 years old.

  • Your sleep is being interrupted because you mattress has become uncomfortable enough to awaken you.

  • It’s noticeably saggy, has developed dips or ruts, and creates pain when you lie on it.

  • It contains coils and has begun to squeak or creak, often due to rusting hinges where coils meet.

  • You find that you sleep better at a hotels, a relative’s home,

  • You notice an increase in allergies and/or asthma

  • You regularly wake up with muscle or joint stiffness

Essentially, you should replace your bed if it’s no longer helping you get restful sleep. There’s no clear-cut way to know for sure whether it’s time for a new bed – but generally speaking, if you’re thinking about a new bed, it’s likely worthwhile to make the investment sooner rather than later.

One thing to keep in mind is that mattresses are notorious for being the “petri dishes” of your home, collecting all kinds or organisms, dead skin cells, dust mite feces, food particles, sweat and other bodily fluids, and because humans move while they are sleeping, we constantly smear and grind these materials further and further into our mattresses. 

After a few years, our mattresses can become a toxic wasteland. This is the driving force behind the concept that mattresses need to be replace pretty frequently, at least every 6-8 years.

Factors Influencing Mattress Lifespan

A variety of factors influence exactly how long a mattress can be used.. A cheap $250 bed, for example,  will break down much faster than a higher end mattress, largely because components tend to pack down, getting very hard and forming dips and galleys that the user can simply no longer tolerate. Some key factors that impact mattress replacement guidelines include:

Mattress Components – The ingredients used to manufacture your mattress greatly influence its durability. Lower-quality innerspring and thinner, promotional grade all-foam mattresses tend to have the shortest lifespans, as they are prone to sagging and body impressions respectively. Hybrid mattresses (coil and foam layers combined) can also have these issues, but since they’re often sold as more expensive mattresses, they are typically made with higher-quality materials. 

These components include more dense foam layers, pocketed coils that resist packing down, and better textiles and fabrics at the top of the mattress, and they tend to be more durable. Natural Latex mattresses are considered the most durable, in my opinion, lasting upwards of 8 years or more, because latex resists mashing down and has a highly elastic quality that springs back even after heavy use.

Depending on the materials, there are a few guidelines you can use to predict durability when you make a new mattress purchase. For innerspring and hybrid mattresses, opt for a lower coil gauge (which means thicker coil wire used in the coils). For mattresses with foam layers, look for higher foam densities and higher ILD’s (Indentation Load Deflection, a metric of density and viscosity with foams). Finally, if you buy a latex mattress, make sure you’re getting natural latex rather than synthetic latex.

Synthetic latex is actually made from a petroleum based compound called SBR, and has a significantly shorter lifespan since it tends to dry out and crack, especially even if exposed to indirect sunlight.

In fact, foam mattresses in general can degrade quite fast if exposed to sunlight, even when covered with fabric. Over time, because foam is so photo-reactive, crumbling and discoloration can occur causing the foam layers to shed, pill and turn brown, hardening like toasted bread.

Here are a few guidelines and pointers that will help you get a lot more lifespan out of your mattress:

Maintenance & Care – Like any other home furnishing item, a mattress will last longer if you take proper care of it. This means that rotating your mattress head to foot every 6 months or so (unless the manufacturer recommends otherwise) and installing a mattress protector to protect against liquid spills and particulate matter, can add a few years to your mattress lifespan.

Using A Proper Foundation Or Base-  This is often a contributing factor to mattress that fails long before its lifespan. Remember that a mattress will follow the contour of whatever you place it on, so if you use a foundation or box spring that has indentations in it, or is likely to bow or dip when weight is placed on it, you will likely experience mattress failure. Here’s my tip: Stand on the foundation you intend to use, in the middle of the foundation. Here’s a link to our favorite foundation, available online.

Whether it is a solid top box spring, a platform bed with slats, or an adjustable base, you should be able to apply your body weight in a concentrated are with absolutely no depression. Otherwise, replace it at once. Many mattresses are sold with matching foundations or adjustable bases.

Body Size And Weight – Your weight, as well as the weight of your partner, plays a big role in how long a mattress will last. Heavier sleepers will find that mattresses may indent and form dips and galleys much faster quicker while lightweight sleepers will have less of an impact. Similarly, a mattress accommodating a couple will likely fail sooner than a mattress for one person. 

I recommend that obese mattress owners find the firmest mattress they can tolerate, for example, since firmer foam layers and more rigid pocketed coil systems simply don’t break down as fast as other materials.

Children & Pets – If you share your mattress with small children or with pets it’s probable that you will need to replace your mattress more frequently. In addition to the extra weight, both animals and children are more likely to cause stains and/or unrepairable damage to a mattress. Also note, that most manufacturer warranties for mattresses are instantly voided in the even of a liquid spill or stain. Always invest in a mattress protector.

Is a New Mattress Worth the Cost?

These days, largely due to intense competition with many online mattress stories scampering to get your business, the cost of getting a really good mattress has gone down, while the quality and different styles of mattresses available has improved substantially. 

Most mattress companies use third party manufacturing facilities that are highly efficient at building mattresses and shipping them, and there is a vast network of materials to use in mattress construction from natural latex, to specialized cooling gel foams, textiles like bamboo, organic cotton, cashmere, and other components.

For one, a new mattress just feels good, and can improve the quality of your sleep, which influences everything from your energy levels to mood to your overall health. Here are some benefits of a new mattress include:

More Restorative And Rejuvenating Sleep – A 2009 peer-reviewed clinical trial found that new mattresses significantly improve sleep performance, and even reduced back pain and anxiety in the trial population. Further, new mattress owners typically report that their sleep quality improved after purchasing a new bed. This is likely because, unlike our parents before us, there are more options to choose from to suit a variety of tastes.

Pain Reduction – If you wake up with pain or stiffness in your back, shoulders, hip or neck, it’s likely that your mattress is a substantial part of the problem. Inferior and aging mattresses tend to sag in places, which forces your body to cantilever muscles, causing lactic acid buildup in muscle fibers, resulting in severe pain. A poorly made or older mattress has limited ability to provide proper spine alignment, resulting in constant back pain.

Reduced Motion Transfer – Aging and poorly made mattresses tend to transfer more motion from one side of the bed to the other. This means that a partner changing positions during the night can disrupt your sleep. A new mattress, especially an all-foam or hybrid bed made using memory foam – will transfer less motion, improving quite of sleep for couples.

Reduced Allergies And Asthma Attacks – Aging mattresses accumulate dust mites, mold, bacteria and other allergens at a fast rate. A regional study by the National University of Singapore found that mattresses had the highest concentration of dust mites out of any household item, and other allergens are also very common in older mattresses. 

If you’ve found that your allergies or asthma symptoms have worsened, your mattress may be partially to blame. Using a mattress protector on your new mattress is critical to keeping organisms from gathering on your sleep surface.

If you’re having trouble getting motivated to buy a new mattress, we understand. Shopping for a new mattress can be miserable, and mysterious, wearing you down. Start by visiting out Trusted Dealer page, where we offer a handful of carefully researched mattress options with descriptions and just the right amount of information you need. You’ll also get our specially arranged deals with our retail partners, so you’ll get a better price on a quality mattress that will improve every aspect of your life.

Also, remember how important getting restorative sleep really is, and that you will spend roughly 1/3rd of your life in bed – and there’s no better way to invest in your own well being.