5 signs you are sleeping on a bad mattress

Dealing with restless nights and morning aches and pains? You could be sleeping on a bad mattress, here's what to look out for

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Any number of things could get in the way of achieving a good night’s rest. Sure, our dietary and lifestyle habits (as well as things beyond our control, such as age and health conditions) will heavily influence how well you do or don’t sleep. But sometimes, it’s not you — it’s simply a bad mattress that’s behind your sleepless nights and ongoing discomfort.

It can be easy to ignore the signs that your mattress is super old and needs replacing, or maybe just isn't the right fit for you, but the best mattress that offers support, comfort and suits your sleep style and is so key to getting the best night's sleep. So if it's not working for you, it's time to replace. 

We asked sleep experts to share tell tale signs that you’re sleeping on a bad mattress, including how doing so can negatively affect you beyond sleep. 

 5 signs you’re sleeping on a bad mattress 

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Ideally, you will want to replace your mattress around every eight to ten years, so if you know you are approaching that, then it's probably time to start paying attention to the signs and invest in a new sleep setup. And even if your mattress is relatively new, the issue may be it's not right for your sleep style, so time to switch it up. Either way, here are the signs to look out if your mattress isn't working for you.

1. You wake up sore and feeling stiff

'Consistently waking up sore is the first telltale sign that your mattress needs to be replaced.' shares Matt Tanneberg, DC, CSCS, a sports chiropractor based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Moreover, this is likely to occur once your mattress – which served your body and shut-eye just fine in the years prior – is past its prime. 'This is a sign that your mattress isn't supporting your body the way that it is supposed to.' he continues.

According to Hooman Melamed, MD, a board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Beverly Hills, California, a good, high-quality mattress should adapt to your body’s curves and relieve pressure points. These elements will allow your muscles and joints to relax and heal as you catch your ZZZ’s.  'Muscle stiffness, soreness, or aches in the morning are signs of insufficient support or pressure release.' he explains.

'A poor mattress may not provide your spine with the correct support and alignment.' Dr. Melamed adds. As a result, you may develop discomfort in your neck or back, or exacerbate existing tension or pain.

Instead of struggling with mild or moderate physical discomfort day in and day out, it’s crucial to replace your mattress as soon as possible. 'If you continue to sleep on an old mattress, those occasional aches and pains will become more frequent and eventually may turn into an ongoing or chronic issue,” Dr. Tanneberg warns.

Dr. Matt Tanneberg, Chiropractor in Scottsdale
Dr. Matt Tanneberg

Dr. Matt Tanneberg is a chiropractor who specializes in rehabilitation and sports therapy. He currently runs Body Check Chiropractic & Sports Rehabilitation in Scottsdale, AZ.

2. You always wake up feeling tired

This is one of the clearest signs you are sleeping on a bad mattress. You can be doing everything advised to nail your bedtime routine and ensure you set yourself up for the best night's sleep, but if your mattress isn't doing it for you, you are still going to wake up feeling tired. There are of course many factors that could affect you walking up not feeling fresh, but a new mattress that works for your sleeping position is a simple place to start. 

The dangers of not getting enough sleep – due to a bad mattress or otherwise – can manifest in countless ways. Among many other things, the immediate effects of a poor night’s rest include feeling fatigued and less sharp to perform cognitive tasks and fulfill other duties. 'In addition, lack of sleep brought on by an uncomfortable mattress might lead to higher stress levels.' Dr. Melamed warns. 'Not enough rest can increase your irritability, anxiety, and susceptibility to mood changes. All these can, of course, have a negative impact on your overall well-being.'

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Dr. Hooman Melamed
Dr Hooman Melamed

Hooman Melamed is a top orthopedic spine surgeon and sports medicine specialist located in Beverly Hills, CA. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a B.S. in neuroscience and later attended the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and founded The Spine Pro in 2005. 

3. Your mattress looks worn

Do you move around in bed before drifting off to sleep, throughout the night desperate to find a comfortable position, or both? A wonky mattress that's seen better days may be the culprit. 'It might result in tossing and turning, which would disturb sleep habits,' Dr. Melamed explains. 'A mattress that is uncomfortable and provides inadequate support might lead to restless sleep, persistent tossing, and turning, or frequent awakenings.'

'Visible signs of wear and tear, such as frayed edges or bumps, indicate an aging mattress and could have an impact on how it feels overall,' Dr. Melamed explains. Lumps, droops, and depressions on the surface of the mattress can instigate poor spinal alignment and discomfort.

4. You can hear and feel every movement

You shouldn't be able to hear a good mattress. If you are being woken by squeaks and creaks coming from your mattress it's a sure sign it's time for a new one. A noisy mattress is more than likely one that isn't supporting you properly, if you have a innerspring mattress especially, noises mean the springs are starting to age. You can usually see and well as hear when this is the case you'll notice an obvious sag in your mattress. Time to replace. 

The same goes if there’s excessive motion transfer, meaning you can feel even the slightest movements on your mattress. 'These problems may interfere with your sleep and keep you from getting a good night's rest.' notes Dr. Melamed.

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5. You've had your mattress for over ten years

This is the biggest and most obvious sign it's time to switch your mattress. How long a mattress lasts of course depends on the quality, but few mattresses are still at their best after ten years. You could try and extend your mattress's life span slightly with one of the best mattress toppers, but if you are still experiencing a bad night's sleep even with that added layer, it's time for an upgrade. Dr. Melamed also recommends that you should flip your mattress every six to eight months (if you have a type that's flippable).

The best mattresses for a comfort upgrade


How often should you replace your mattress?

This depends on the quality of the mattress you own. But on average we would say most mattresses start to underperform at around the 8 to 10 year mark. But if you are experiencing some of the above signs, it's probably time to get a new mattress regardless.

How can you make a mattress last longer?

You can help extend the life expectancy of your mattress by taking good care of it. Invest in a mattress topper from the off, and research into whether or not your mattress can be flipped – if so do this a couple of times a year. You should also check what kind of foundation your mattress needs, if any. If your mattress is not supported properly it will quickly sag and become uncomfortable. You can clean a mattress too, just make sure to look into how to clean your specific type of mattress as the best approach can differ depending on your mattress filling and you can damage it if you don't do it right. 

So you should have a clearer idea of if you are sleeping on a bad mattress, and we would say if any of these symptoms sound familiar, it's probably time to switch to a newer mattress. Sleeping on an old, unsupportive mattress can have a huge impact on your quality of sleep and affect the severity of any aches and pains you might have too. 

Michele Ross

Michele Ross is a freelance wellness writer based in Los Angeles. Her specialties include nutrition, gut health, sleep, mental health, and fitness.