How often should you change your mattress?

Quite often a mattress has worn out long before you realise. That’s why the NBF recommend replacing your mattress about every seven years. After seven years a mattress has been subjected to over 20,000 hours of wear and tear!

But this may not always be the ideal time. Not all mattresses are created equal.  Mattresses may last a little longer, or need replacing sooner, depending on their construction, how they have been used, and the quality of their components.

Signs you should replace your mattress

  1. Your mattress is over 7 years old. All mattresses have a natural life span, which varies by manufacturer, mattress type, how you use it, and how heavy you are. No mattresses are designed to last for ever. Inferior products don’t last as long, but even a premium quality mattress will eventually need replacing.
  2. Wear and Tear. If your mattress is sagging or lumpy, has excessive body-shaped indentations, or you can feel the coils through the fabric, that’s a sign that your mattress needs replacing. Most mattress materials can be susceptible to this. Fibre and foam break down over time, and springs can break down and sag. Springs that squeak when you move is a sign that coils are worn and no longer provide sufficient support.
  3. Is your mattress uncomfortable? Waking up sore and stiff suggests that your body is no longer being supported properly by your mattress, particularly if your stiffness subsides after you get up and move around. It is very easy to become accustomed to how uncomfortable your mattress is. Do you notice that you sleep better in a hotel bed for example?
  4. Allergies have worsened Mattresses can be a major source of dust mites and allergens. Vacuuming and regular airing of your mattress can ease your symptoms, but if this doesn’t help, a new mattress may be the answer.
  5. Partner is keeping you awake A worn mattress may mean you become more aware of your partner tossing and turning, as the ability of the mattress to reduce motion transfer is lessened.
  6. You are putting more weight on the mattress. Whether piling on the pounds or getting a new partner, if your mattress needs to support more weight than it used to, it may no longer be capable of meeting the extra demand. Pay particular attention to this with children’s mattresses as they grow. A bed with the correct support, comfort and space will ensure you wake less, move about less, are less disturbed by your partner and are less likely to wake up feeling tired or aching.

How mattresses affect sleep

Many people make the link that lack of sleep affects how they feel the next day but many fail to recognise that their sleep could be improved by a new mattress. A bed with the correct support, comfort and space will ensure you wake less, move about less, are less disturbed by your partner and are less likely to wake up feeling tired or aching.

Quite often a mattress has worn out long before you realise. That’s why we recommend replacing your mattress every seven years. After seven years a mattress has been subjected to over 20,000 hours of wear and tear we lose half a pint of fluid each night and shed a pound of dead skin cells a year – yuck!

How can I tell that a bed will be comfortable for me

Spend more time making the right choice of bed – trying them out properly in store; assessing from previous experience the level of firmness/softness you like. It’s your decision – not the salesman’s!

Should I buy a hard bed to ease my aches and pains?

What you need is a new bed which offers the right support for your spine (not necessarily hard at all!) Remember that the term orthopaedic and other derivations of the word only mean that the bed is a firmer specification from that manufacturer. There are no universal standards of firmness in common usage in the UK. BUT if you have a back or skeletal problem you should consult your GP or Specialist before buying.

How can I get the most from my mattress?

Most mattresses need regularly turning to ensure even wear and tear and today’s mattresses can be pretty heavy, so be careful! However, there are now plenty of non-turn options, which only need swivelling around from time to time, while others need to be turned only.

Will a more expensive bed be better to sleep on?

Not necessarily as comfort is a matter of individual preference; a very firm expensive bed may be uncomfortable if you prefer a softer mattress but a better quality bed will be more expensive than a poor quality one because the thicker, more luxurious mattress fillings and covers are more costly.

What is the most important part of the bed to focus on – is it the frame, the mattress or the bedding?

All of it – they need to work together. When buying a new bed it can be false economy to change only the mattress and keep the original base, especially if you are buying a divan set. The old base could reduce the useful life of the new mattress as well as the comfort and support it can offer. It can also invalidate manufacturers’ warranties or guarantees.

Do you always need a base – could you just have a mattress on the floor?

A mattress on the floor is not something we would recommend. A mattress is designed to work with a base and needs ventilation.

What should we be looking out for in a mattress?

Look for a mattress that offers correct support and comfort levels. It is important you make time to try out a variety of mattresses to find the one that is most comfortable for you, and your partner. Size matters so opt for the biggest size you can – and spend as much as you can afford. For added reassurance that the mattress you’re buying is safe, clean and honest look for the NBF Approved ‘big tick’ label.

There are so many bed sizes – how big should I go?

People don’t buy large enough beds. 75% of all double beds are still the standard 4ft 6in/135cm wide double – yet this is plainly not room enough for two adults to sleep comfortably together without disturbing each other. Even upgrading to the next size, a 5ft/150cm king size, whilst it takes up very little extra bedroom space, makes a considerable difference!

What is the best mattress for a bad back?

Every year up to 40% of the population will suffer a bout of back pain and according to the Office of National Statistics almost 31 million work days were lost in the UK in 2016 due to musculoskeletal problems including back pain.

Back problems can keep you up at night, prevent you getting a good quality night’s sleep and can be an energy-zapper during the day. If you’re one of the unlucky ones, prone to aches and pains, you will find that the state of your bed will quickly become a priority. A good bed, providing correct support and comfort, has an important role to play in relieving and preventing back pain.

So what is the best mattress for a bad back? The simple answer is “one that you find most comfortable and supports your body correctly”. There’s no single right bed to ease a back problem and each different back problem also may require a different solution. The best approach is to research the options carefully, take time to try them out and choose what you personally find supportive and comfortable, regardless of labels or even price tags.

Are very firm or orthopaedic mattresses best for bad backs?

There are still a couple of myths surrounding mattresses for back pain. The first one is that you need a firm or very firm mattress and the other is labelling a mattress as ‘orthopaedic’. Both are misleading.

The term ‘orthopaedic’ generally just means an extra firm bed; it is not based on any medical or other common standard. Back in the day many doctors recommended patients with bad backs buy a firm mattress or place a solid board underneath their current one to ‘firm it up’! Thankfully this type of advice is very rare nowadays as the medical profession has a greater understanding of back problems and the importance of choosing a mattress that provides correct support rather than just feeling like a brick.

Remember don’t just buy a bed because it says it’s good for your back.

What type of sleeper are you?

If you are a side-sleeper, an overly firm mattress will result in pressure points on shoulders and hips, pinching the nerves and causing numbness or pain. Side-sleepers typically require a mattress with softer cushioning layers such as memory foam or latex foam to provide pressure relief whereas back sleepers will require something a little firmer. If you tend to sleep on your front, which isn’t recommended and puts tremendous strain on the neck muscles, a firmer mattress would be preferable. The key is to maintain correct spinal alignment (as if you were standing upright).

There are so many different reasons why you may be suffering from back pain. It could be muscular, joint problems or a slipped disc. You need to receive a professional diagnosis from a doctor or specialist.

Of course, sleeping on an unsuitable or unsupportive mattress is only going to exacerbate the back problem – whether that’s a mattress that is too soft or too firm. It’s about finding a mattress that provides the correct amount of core support for your spine whilst offering comfort and pressure relief provided by the layers of upholstery fillings.

How do you define comfort?

Comfort is such a subjective matter and there lies the problem. What one person finds comfortable, another may find truly uncomfortable. For example a medium support mattress may be ideal for someone of average build and weight whereas a 19 stone rugby player would find it too soft and it would be unlikely to support their bulky frame properly. On the other hand, their ideal mattress would be totally unforgiving for an 8 stone ballet dancer and it would be akin to sleeping on the floor.

How much should you spend on a mattress?

Just because you have a problem with your back doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on getting the right mattress – it’s about finding the correct balance of comfort and support. Having said that, you’re unlikely to achieve a good level of long-lasting comfort from a budget priced mattress where usually only the cheapest filling materials are used over a basic spring unit. Spend as much as you can comfortably afford but bear in mind that you spend more time using your bed than any other household item. A £1000 bed for two people only costs about 20 pence per night each, spread over a typical product lifespan of seven years.

Try before you buy

We strongly recommend that you try your mattress or bed before purchasing. If you’re shopping in a bed store, discuss your requirements with the sales adviser who should be able to select a few products for you to try from the information you give them.

Narrow your choice down to two or three and then spend plenty of time lying on these in your normal sleeping positions. Five or 10 minutes should be the minimum for each bed – but feel free to spend half an hour or even an hour, if that’s what you want to do. If you are shopping online, there are now a number of ‘one mattress suits all’ brands who will deliver your mattress to your door, rolled up in a box and give you 100 nights to trial it. If you don’t like it, for whatever reason, they will collect it and refund you.

Can a hypoallergenic mattress help asthma and allergy sufferers?

Did you know that allergies affect over 21 million adults in the UK and 59% of indoor allergy sufferers say their symptoms feel worse in the bedroom? Allergies can make sleeping an uncomfortable experience, so you need to make your bedroom as allergy-friendly as possible.

What does hypoallergenic mean?

Hypoallergenic, meaning “below normal” or “slightly” allergenic, was a term first used in a cosmetics campaign in 1953. Today it is used to describe items (especially cosmetics and textile products) that cause or are claimed to cause fewer allergic reactions.

For a mattress, hypoallergenic means it is allegedly safe for people suffering with allergies – though it’s not a guarantee. The mattresses will reduce allergies by preventing dust mites from penetrating the surface and bedding in. You may find the words anti-allergy mattress, allergy free etc used to describe a hypoallergenic mattress – they all aim to do the same thing!

What are house dust mites?

The dreaded house dust mite is one of the most common triggers for an allergic reaction. But it’s actually their microscopic droppings that cause the allergies and the hub of these dust mites is your bed – one of their favourite places to live.

A typical used mattress has anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million mites inside. Given the average person sheds a pound of skin (454 grams) a year – much of it into our beds – and that the average adult loses around half a pint (285 ml) of moisture while sleeping each night, it’s easy to understand why the bed is a favourite haunt of the dust mite. All that moisture, warmth and food make mattresses, especially old ones, a great breeding ground.

How can the bedroom be improved?

If you’re one of the unfortunate ones who suffers with watery eyes, a runny or itchy nose, sneezing and wheezing after a night in bed, what can you do to improve things?

It’s especially important to think about changing your old bed or mattress if it is seven years old or more. A mattress that looks OK may no longer be offering the levels of comfort or support that it should. And that regular mattress replacement is vital to reduce the prevalence of the house dust mites linked with many allergic health problems.

For mattresses that are still reasonably new and performing well, airing the bed each morning and regularly cleaning mattresses, pillows and blankets will help to eliminate the conditions under which house dust mites thrive.

It is also vitally important to ensure the bedroom is well ventilated: in an age of central heating and double glazing, they rarely are, but a good cool breeze through the room at night will help combat the problem as well as aid more restful sleep.

For those worried that open windows will allow in airborne pollen, it’s worth bearing in mind that the allergy created by the house dust mite is far worse than any allergy created by pollen. Asthma kills people, hayfever doesn’t, so ventilation is very, very important.

What type of mattress is best?

If you’re looking to buy a new mattress then you could consider the different foam options available as they tend to harbour fewer house dust mites than conventional spring mattresses with their layers of fillings including flock pads, horsehair, wool etc.

Latex foam is derived from the sap of the rubber tree and is known for its anti-microbial, anti-fungal and hypo allergenic properties. It has an open cell structure that allows the foam to breathe, dissipating moisture and keeping the mattress interior fresh. Memory foam, gel foam and polyurethane, whilst not having anti-microbial properties are all good options as their cell structure is not ideal for house dust mites to thrive.

You should also consider buying a mattress with a covering material that has anti-bacterial treatment or use a mattress protector as an additional barrier against allergens. A good one will prevent dust mites penetrating your mattress, protect your mattress from dirt, dust, stains and spills and help your mattress stay fresher for longer.

Don’t forget the pillow

The same is true of pillows where some people may be allergic to feather or down fillings and the proximity of the pillow to the nose and mouth makes it even more important to choose one that is hypoallergenic. Again, look out for special covers or fabric treatments that inhibit house dust mite populations.

Here are some other top tips for managing allergies in the bedroom:

  • Keep temperatures down and flowers OUT of bedrooms (they increase humidity levels).
  • Leave bedclothes turned back during the day (this reduces humidity levels in the bed, inhibiting mite survival).
  • Avoid drying clothes on radiators in the bedroom (again this stops humidity levels becoming too high).
  • Give your mattress a good spring clean: take it outside for a good airing. If you can’t do that, lean it up near your open bedroom window. Clean the base with a soft brush to remove fluff and dust – if you have to use a vacuum cleaner do so very carefully and with the window wide open.
  • While the bed is moved out from any walls, vacuum thoroughly under and around the bed – it can yield huge amounts of dust and fluff.
  • Wash bedclothes and pillows regularly at a high temperature (this kills mites and removes mite faeces; all pillows should be washable these days).
  • If hot washing is not possible, 24 hours in the freezer will kill any mites in a pillow prior to cold washing.
  • Fit roller blinds that can be easily wiped clean.
  • Clean cushions, soft toys, curtains and upholstered furniture regularly.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter.
  • Wipe surfaces with a damp, clean cloth, as dry dusting can spread the allergens further.
  • Use bedding that protects against dust mites.

For the best mattress for allergies and asthma, view a list of our manufacturers who provide hypo-allergenic and ant-dustmite mattresses.

Pocket Springs Explained

Pocket Springs are individual springs housed in a fabric pocket.
Higher quality mattresses use a natural calico or cotton fabric for better ventilation. They are also hand tied or stitched to each other making then highly responsive. They work independently of each other and conform well to body shape.

They are ideal for couples with significant weight differences, as when one person moves, the other isn’t disturbed.

They tend to be more expensive as they take longer to build and generally have better quality fillings over the springs – including natural ones such as wool, silk and cashmere.

The number of pocket springs in a king sized mattress starts with 800 pocket springs for a basic model. The more springs the better the individual support. Anything over 2000 is achieved by stacking smaller springs on top.

Coil Springs Explained

Coil spring or open coil units are the most commonly used in mattresses, as they can be mass-produced cost-effectively.

They consist of larger springs all linked together. There is no fabric around them hence ‘open coil’. A double size would typically contain around 300 springs.

Fillings used tend to be fiber pads or standard foam, although more luxurious models could include a layer of memory foam or latex foam.

Pressure and movement is transferred over the entire surface meaning less independent support so when one person turns over, the other feels it.

They generally feel firmer than pocket springs with more bounce and some side-to-side movement. On the plus side they are less expensive than pocket springs and much lighter to carry or turn.

Latex or Memory Foam - Which is better?

Which is better in a mattress, memory foam or latex foam? Here we look at some pros and cons.

Both types of mattress conform well to your body shape and offer good support, especially for hips and shoulders if you sleep on your side – although memory foam is known for its excellent pressure relief. Memory foam responds and recovers slowly whereas latex foam responds and recovers immediately, making it quite bouncy – although bounce helps you to turn over
in your sleep.

Latex foam has an open cell structure keeping it cool fresh and breathable, whereas memory foam has a closed cell structure making it less breathable and a bit warmer to sleep on.

Latex foam is durable and resilient but can be expensive and heavy to move.

Both materials are good at reducing partner disturbance when you move, great ifyou’re a wriggler.

Both are quiet in useso no squeaky springs to keep you or the neighbors awake.

Whichever you choose make sure it’s right for you.

How to clean mattress stains

If an accident occurs immediate treatment helps enormously by preventing the liquid seeping into the upholstery filling, where it can cause problems.

If possible, after stripping off all bedding, stand the mattress on its side – this will help prevent the fluid penetrating the mattress. Sponge immediately with cold water – but don’t over water. Here are some recommended treatments for specific fluids:

Sponge with warm solution of mild detergent or upholstery shampoo. Then wipe with cold water plus a few drops of antiseptic such as Milton.

Vomit and diarrhoea
Scrape up as much solid matter as possible, without spreading the stain. Treat as for urine above.

Fruit juices
Use proprietary stain treatment – following instructions – or sponge with warm borax solution and then clear water. A strong coloured drink such as blackcurrant will probably leave a stain.

Chocolate and milk-based drinks
Treat as above and when dry use an aerosol grease solvent to clear grease – being particularly sparing if used on a foam mattress. Brush to clear deposit.

Use a proprietary stain remover, or upholstery cleaner, followed by cold water.

Oily marks
Use an aerosol grease solvent to draw stain out, rather than liquid grease solvents.

Mattress Settlement and Body Impressions

One of the most common reasons for consumer telephone calls or emails to the National Bed Federation is the question of settlement – or body impressions – forming on the surface of the mattress where the user lies.

This usually manifests itself within the first few weeks of use as the mattress fillings ‘mould’ to the user’s body shape, with the areas of most pressure (shoulders and hips) showing the greatest signs of settlement.

This can be particularly evident where mattresses use polyester fibre pads or multiple layers of synthetic fillings to create a ‘high-loft’ appearance. These fillings tend not to recover as well as more luxurious natural materials such as cashmere, mohair, horsehair, silk, wool, cotton etc.

There is no official industry standard for determining whether the settlement is excessive, as there are simply too many variables to consider. Some bed manufacturers, retailers and independent inspection companies use a measuring system based on the type of mattress fillings and the age of the product but this really isn’t based on any scientific evidence and so should only be used as a broad guideline.

Settlement on its own is not an indication that the mattress is failing – on the contrary, a mattress with generous layers of comfort fillings should be expected to demonstrate ‘body impressions’ and is an indication that the mattress is performing correctly. Similar to a good pair of leather shoes, a new mattress will ‘relax’ and take on the shape of the user. There seems to be a misconception amongst some people that a mattress should look and feel as good as new even after months or years of service – despite it supporting your body for around seven to eight hours every night. Of course, this simply isn’t the case.

The extent to which the mattress will show signs of settlement depends on a number of factors such as the weight of the user, the number of fillings, the type of fillings, the firmness of the mattress, whether the mattress is two-sided or single-sided. Larger size mattresses such as super king-size (180cm wide) and king size (150cm wide) will show signs of settlement more so than a smaller size mattress. This is because there is a wider area in the centre of the mattress that doesn’t get used and the fillings don’t become compacted. This ‘ridge in the middle accentuates the sleeping areas on either side of it where the fillings will have settled or compacted during the night.

Whilst these body impressions can be quite noticeable, they are not necessarily a sign that the mattress support has failed. A mattress that has collapsed or sagged will be very evident when you lie on it – there will be a distinct lack of support, almost a sensation that you can feel right through to the bottom surface of the mattress.

The NBF recommends that you follow the care instructions supplied with your mattress to prolong its life and minimise the effects of settlement. However, you should expect your mattress to show some signs of settlement and remember that it is not necessarily an indication that the mattress is failing.

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