A Pain in the Neck: The Health Effects of a Bad Mattress

White mattress

White mattress

If you’re experiencing nagging back pain, fatigue or an undetermined allergic reaction but can’t figure out why, the answer may be nearer than you think. In fact, you may be laying on it every night. An old or neglected mattress with lumps and sags, dust mites or uneven wear can do considerable damage to your health. Studies have shown that we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, which makes a good, supportive mattress all the more important to your health. Industry experts recommend replacing a mattress every five years, but people often hang onto them longer. If that describes your situation, you should be aware of the many health problems that can be caused by a worn-out mattress.

Recycle it

Mattresses are made of material such as padding, springs, cotton and wood, 80 percent of which can be recycled and returned to the manufacturing process. When you do replace that old mattress, check for a recycling center in your area, since mattresses aren’t biodegradable and will sit in a landfill for decades if they’re simply tossed out. Remember that recycling is an environmentally responsible act that benefits everyone in the long run.

A pain in the neck

Strained muscles and bad posture are common effects of a mattress that’s seen better days, and they can cause chronic back pain and keep you from getting a restful night’s sleep. If so, you may need a firmer mattress, but consult with an expert about finding the right one for you, one that strikes the right medium between firmness and softness. A mattress should help keep your spine in alignment with your hips, shoulders and head, which prevents back pain and makes for better, more restful sleep every night. On average, a mattress should be rotated every 3 months to ensure even wear and proper firmness, though it may be necessary to do more often depending on the age and condition of your mattress. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to get rid of the dust in your home, and shower before bed to get rid of dead skin and any allergic triggers.

Sleep deprivation

Sleep experts recommend getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. If you can’t seem to get enough, take a close look at your mattress – it could be the culprit. And take this issue seriously. Sleep deprivation can make it difficult to concentrate at work or while you’re driving and leave you vulnerable to illness. Sleep plays a crucial role in cognitive functioning and in the healthy functioning of your major organs and the body’s systems (immune, circulatory, etc.).

Dust mites

Allergies can be caused or aggravated by dust mites. These microscopic creatures thrive in the warm and humid environment an old mattress provides, which tends to collect a lot of dust over the years. Symptoms of exposure to dust mites include a cough, excessive sneezing, red itchy eyes, a runny nose and congestion, which can be a major problem if you have existing allergies. Studies have shown that there as many as 10,000 dust mites living in the average mattress, which means you should wash your bed clothing regularly and use an allergy-free mattress protector, which acts as a shield between you and your mattress.

Fungus and mold

Most of us don’t associate a mattress with mold and fungus, but if you’re sleeping in a humid and stuffy space that lacks proper ventilation, a mattress can become a haven for several kinds of both. The spores which are released into your breathing air are potentially dangerous, and can cause allergic reactions such as rashes, respiratory problems and even serious lung infections.

Your mattress has a lot to do with the state of your health by ensuring regular, restful sleep and providing a safe and healthful sleep environment. Rotating a mattress regularly and taking necessary cleaning measures can go a long way toward maintaining a supportive mattress and healthy breathing air.