7 Things That Could Happen If You Sleep on an Old Mattress

Updated: Oct. 06, 2023

If you're dealing with poor sleep, it could be time to change your mattress. Here are a few things that could happen if you sleep on an old mattress.

Your mattress might be to blame for your sleep woes

In an ideal world, you hopefully wake up from a night of sleep feeling well-rested and energized to take on the day. If instead you have aches and pains or feel like you barely got shut-eye, you may want to look at your mattress as the possible culprit. Although there are plenty of medical reasons why you can’t sleep, here are some ways an old mattress can mess with your sleep and your health.

Young depressed or sick with flu model lying on the bed with closed eyes and blowing her nose into tissue. View from above

You could develop allergies from dust mites 

Bill Fish, co-founder of tuck.com and a certified sleep coach, says that there is a chance dust mites could be an issue if you sleep on an old mattress. “Our goal should be to spend one-third of life on our mattress, as that means we are getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep on a nightly basis,” he says. “In doing so, however, our bodies give off dead skin and natural oils that can be appealing to dust mites.”

Fish notes that dust mites could be an issue for any mattress, but the older the mattress, the greater the possibility of dust mites. These can be a real issue for people with allergies and asthma. John D. Ramirez Jr., DC RN DACNB, from the Florida Orthopaedic Institute in Tampa adds that these mites are also a potential hazard to people with skin conditions like eczema.

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aerosol inhaler for the treatment of asthma in a male hand against a dark background.
Dmitry Galaganov/Shutterstock

Your asthma could get worse

People suffering from dust allergies or allergic asthma could experience nasal congestion and airway breathing problems while sleeping on a dusty old mattress, according to Noah Siegel, MD, a board-certified sleep physician at Harvard and otolaryngologist. “Plain old asthma has what we call circadian rhythm, and it tends to work in the evening and the night,” Dr. Siegel says. “Then you add on top of environmental exposures related to the mattress and you kind of get insult to injury there.” 

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You could have a mold issue

Your mattress becomes heavier over time as it collects dust, dead skin cells, and sweat. Dr. Siegel says that moisture issues from sweat could cause mold within a mattress, and thus potential allergies. “Mold is a possibility of something that, as the result of an old mattress, can potentially impact your breathing and your health,” Dr. Siegel says. “Mold is a difficult allergy to identify clearly, there are lots of different types, but somebody can be truly allergic to it, or they could be sensitive.” 

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Rear view of one man sitting on bed having back pain

You could experience back or neck pain

“Neck and low back pain is a common complaint due to the lack of support from an old mattress,” says Todd Goldman, a chiropractor. Sleeping on an old and unsupportive mattress specifically stresses the ligaments, tendons, and joints of the spine, Goldman says.

As the mattress gets older, it will become softer and less supportive of the spine, adds Kavita Sharma, MD, a board-certified pain management physician with 10 years of experience treating patients in New York. This means that it will be more difficult to maintain proper posture at night. “Maintaining proper posture is helpful in mitigating lower back pain,” Dr. Sharma says. 

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Block springs for mattresses
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You could be more stressed

One study compared the sleep quality and stress-related symptoms between people sleeping in older beds versus newer ones. They found that new bedding systems increased sleep quality and reduced back discomfort—factors that could decrease stress-related symptoms. Similarly, stress and sleep are often interlinked. Stress keeps many adults from getting the sleep they need, and a lack of sleep could contribute to stress. So if your old mattress makes it hard for you to sleep, your stress levels could increase, feeding into the cycle.

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Scan film MRI.

Your memory could suffer

If you have trouble sleeping on an old mattress your memory could also suffer. Dr. Siegel says one of the functions of sleep is memory consolidation. And if you’re uncomfortable at night due to an old mattress, that isn’t happening to the optimal extent. Plus, the REM sleep stage is specifically known to help us retain information.

Closeup of mattress on display in store
Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock

Bottom line, you could have less or poor-quality sleep—leading to numerous other health issues

According to Cynthia Bodkin, M.D. Indiana University Health neurologist and sleep medicine physician, poor sleep quality from any cause is associated with daytime sleepiness, trouble with concentration, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, depression, and weight gain, just to name a few. Meanwhile, getting enough sleep has numerous health benefits including a boosted immunity system, type 2 diabetes prevention, and weight management. Dr. Siegel adds that sleep is time for your body to recover—so make sure you are comfortable. If an old mattress is cutting down on sleep time, it could be worth investing in a new one.