Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for our health and wellbeing. Disrupted sleeping patterns can be caused by various factors, including stress, noise, and a room being too hot or cold. However, what’s often not considered is the difference that the quality of our mattress can make to our sleep.
Experts recommend investing in a good quality mattress and swapping it for a new one every seven to ten years. But since we’re all different, there’s no one-mattress-fits-all formula. Various factors, like weight, health, and the position you sleep in can all make the difference when considering what mattress is right for you.
With this in mind, we’ve teamed up with Mattressman, the UK’s biggest online mattress specialist, to help you find the right mattress for you. Matressman sells hundreds of mattress models from top manufacturers, catering to all different needs and budgets.
In this article, we’ll explore the link between mattresses, sleep quality, and health. Plus, to help get you on the road to a better night’s sleep, we’ll also list a few mattresses suited for all different needs.
9 ways your mattress can affect your sleep and health
The mattress you sleep on has a direct impact on the quality of your sleep. The short-term effects of a poor night’s sleep are usually noticeable from the offset – for example, you might toss and turn during the night, or wake up feeling tired all the time.
However, the long-term effects often take slightly longer to develop. From a less responsive immune system, to respiratory and weight problems, a lack of quality sleep can cause a whole range of health issues.
Some of these issues can be directly linked to your mattress (for example neck and back pain), while others may be indirectly caused by the effects of not being able to get enough good quality sleep.
Below, we’ll cover nine ways your mattress can affect your sleep and health.
1. Triggered allergies
Old mattresses can be filled with dust mites, which, according to the NHS, are one of the biggest causes of allergies.
Dust mite allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe. From a runny nose, watery eyes, and congestion, to sinus pressure, itchy skin, a scratchy throat, and trouble sleeping.
Dust mites can also cause skin problems like eczema, and long-term exposure to dust mite allergens can also lead to sinus infections and asthma – causing symptoms like chest pain, difficulty breathing, and severe asthma attacks.
2. Back and neck pain
If you experience back or neck pain when you first wake up, it could be a sign that your mattress is doing more harm than good.
According to The Joint Chiropractic, if a mattress is too firm, it can push on pressure points in your back and neck, and cause misalignment. Equally, if the mattress is too soft, your body can sink into it, causing bad posture as you sleep. Both scenarios can lead to back or neck pain.
The age of your mattress also plays a role, as sagging springs that are unable to properly support your body weight can lead to unhealthy spine alignment.
3. Increased stress levels
In this study, 60 people were asked to sleep on their old mattresses for a month, before sleeping on a new mattress for the next month. During the second month, participant stress levels dropped significantly.
Experts believe this is due to both the effects of back pain from sleeping on an old mattress, and irritability from increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) caused by poor sleep.
4. Snoring and associated issues
If your mattress doesn’t support your body properly, it can place pressure on your airways, which can lead to snoring. Equally, if a mattress is old, it’s more likely to mould to the shape of your body, causing your airways to become obstructed more easily – which again, can lead to snoring.
While snoring is fairly common, not many people understand the health risks associated with it. This can include an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, injury, and mental health issues. You can read more about the health risks of snoring on Everyday Health.
Not being able to get comfortable on your mattress can make it difficult to sleep and lead to insomnia. Insomnia is when a person struggles to fall asleep or stay asleep. Aside from causing daytime fatigue and exhaustion, over time, insomnia can also lead to a variety of health conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
You can find more information in our article What is insomnia and how can you improve it?
6. Weakened immune system
As we have so far seen, sleeping on an improper mattress can prevent you from getting high quality sleep, which may weaken the immune system. This is because during sleep, your body performs various important health-promoting functions, including cell regeneration, tissue repair, and growth.
With good quality sleep being essential for physical health and recovery, a lack of it can leave you more prone to developing colds and other kinds of illnesses.
7. Memory impairment and cognitive decline
Sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress can impact your ability to remember things. During the deep sleep stage of rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, memories are formed.
If you’re unable to reach this deeper sleep state due to an uncomfortable mattress, your brain won’t be able to create these memories properly. This can lead to long-term memory impairment.
You can find out more about the different stages of sleep in our article The 5 stages of the sleep cycle explained, or read about the link between sleep and cognitive function in our article Maintaining brain health.
8. Heart conditions
During the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages of sleep, heart rate slows down, blood pressure drops, and breathing neutralises. These changes all reduce stress on the heart and allow it to recover from any strains of the day.
9. Weight gain and obesity
Lack of sleep can create a hormone imbalance in the body that promotes overeating and weight gain. Hormones leptin and ghrelin regulate our appetites, and without sufficient sleep, hormone production is altered, which can increase feelings of hunger. As a result, research has identified a link between not getting enough sleep and an increased likelihood of choosing high-calorie foods.
In addition, a lack of sleep can also impair your metabolism and reduce the likelihood of getting enough exercise.
What type of mattress should I get?
Around seven in ten people sleep on a mattress that isn’t right for them. As a result, many of us can suffer from back, neck, and joint pain from sleeping on the wrong kind of surface. When it comes to determining the right mattress for you, factors like your body weight and sleeping position play a role.
Generally speaking, people who sleep on their side need a mattress on the softer end of the scale and those who like to sleep on their front or backs typically need a firmer mattress. How firm or how soft the mattress should be will depend on the person’s body weight.
To help you find the perfect mattress for you, we’ve selected a few different mattresses and explained who they are best suited for.
The best mattresses for side sleepers
Healthopaedic Zero Gravity 1000 Pocket Sprung Mattress
Currently £391.20, Mattressman
With a soft support base, the tension of this Healthopaedic Zero Gravity Mattress is best designed for side sleepers and people with lighter statures.
It has individually moving pocket springs, which allow the mattress to curve around the shape of your body and provide total body support. This is especially beneficial for promoting healthy spine alignment as the extra cushioning provides added support around pressure points of the body, such as the shoulders and hips.
British Bed Company Cotton Pocket 1200 Chenille Pocket Sprung Mattress
Currently £428, Mattressman
Providing medium tension, this support level is best suited for side sleepers. While it can work for everyone, the slightly firmer support that this mattress provides is more suited to anyone of average and heavier stature who likes to sleep on their side.
The springs are slightly more rigid, which can adequately support body weight and maintain healthy spine alignment.
Whether someone with a lighter bodyweight opts for a soft or medium mattress is ultimately down to how firm they like their sleeping surface to be.
The best mattresses for front or back sleepers
British Bed Company The Legend Ortho 2021 Pocket Spring Mattress
Currently £359.20, Mattressman
Featuring 2000 pocket springs, this British Red Company mattress provides one of the firmest sleeping surfaces available. As a result, it should really only be used by those who prefer to sleep on their front or back, and those of heavier stature.
Providing that little bit extra firmness, this mattress is able to support and evenly distribute heavier body weights. This also means that it’s generally the best sleeping base for anyone who suffers from back or neck pain and requires well supported spinal alignment throughout the night.
The best mattresses for varied sleeping positions
Silentnight Pocket Essentials 1000 Pocket Sprung Mattress
Currently £287.20, Mattressman
With 1000 pocket springs, this Silentnight Pocket Essentials Mattress provides a medium firm base – sitting at the midpoint of the mattress firmness scale. This level of firmness is best suited for anyone who likes to mix up their sleeping position, or for couples who share a bed and have different sleeping position preferences.
Neither too firm or too soft, this mattress provides sufficient support for maintaining healthy spine alignment when sleeping on your side, back, or front.
When trying to maintain or improve our health and wellbeing, the importance of getting enough good quality sleep is often underestimated. But, long-term disrupted sleeping patterns have been linked with everything from a weakened immune system and memory impairment, to a greater risk of health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Alongside factors like stress, noise, and a lack of exercise, the mattress you sleep on plays a significant role in the quality of your sleep. As a result, investing in a mattress that’s suited to your specific body type and preferred sleeping position can make a world of difference to how we feel; both physically and mentally.
For more information on how to improve the quality of your sleep, why not head over to the sleep and fatigue section of our site? You’ll find information on everything from building the perfect sleep environment, to insomnia, and age-related sleep conditions.
Have you got a new mattress recently? How have you found your mattress impacts your health? We’d be interested to hear from you. Join the conversation on the health section of the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.