What Are The Signs Of A Bad Mattress?

What Are The Signs Of A Bad Mattress? (2024)

Last updated: 23.02.2024 Reading time: 7 Min.

Struggling to sleep well?

It might not be stress or caffeine – it could be your mattress. 🤯

Discover the telltale signs of a bad mattress, from lumps to persistent aches.

Recognising these symptoms can be the first step towards better sleep and, ultimately, better health. 🌙

Let’s get into it!

Signs of a bad mattress

What are the signs of a bad mattress?

While difficulties like sleep disorders can lead to poor sleep, they’re not always the issue.

Your mattress may be the problem. 😬

Luckily, the signs are there if you know what to look for!

Man deciding good or bad
Sometimes, these are visible on the mattress or can be detected in how it makes you feel.

So, what are some of the most common symptoms of sleeping on a bad mattress? 👇

Trouble falling asleep

An uncomfortable mattress can make it hard to fall asleep. 😞

So, if you're lying awake night after night, despite feeling utterly exhausted, your mattress may be worn out or just not the right fit for your sleep needs.

Waking up tired

Consistently waking up feeling tired is one of the hardest-to-ignore symptoms of sleeping on a bad mattress.

This tiredness, despite a full night's sleep, suggests your mattress is not providing the comfort or support you need. 👎

woman with bedhead
An uncomfortable bed can make you feel like you haven’t slept.

Bad mattresses often lead to discomfort, resulting in frequent tossing and turning or nighttime disturbances.

And studies link more nocturnal movements to poorer sleep quality [1].

You may also feel more tired if your mattress leaves you feeling too hot. 🥵

Overheating has been linked to increased wakefulness [2] and decreased time spent asleep.

different sleeping positions

While not always a symptom of a bad mattress, feeling consistently too hot may mean it’s not a good fit for you.

Hot sleepers are better suited to pocket spring mattresses, which allow for more airflow, or cooling mattresses, which use a variety of tech for a cooler-to-the-touch feel. 💤

Aches and pains

A bad mattress can also lead to physical aches, pains, and muscle tightness. 💥

Most commonly, a bad mattress will cause pain in the back, neck, hips, and shoulders.

back pain
Back pain is often associated with sleeping on the wrong mattress.

The wrong mattress will not provide the support you need, leading to a curve or bend in your spine as you sleep.

On the other hand, a good mattress should support optimal spinal alignment. 💃

optimal spinal alignment
When your mattress is supportive, your spine should remain straight.

If you notice your pain, particularly back or lower back pain, is worse in the morning, this is likely because of your mattress.

Worsened allergies

Not many people know this, but worsened allergies can be a bad mattress sign.

Mattresses can harbour common irritants like dust mites [3], pollen, mould, mildew, and bacteria, especially if you don’t use a waterproof mattress protector.

woman with allergies

Exposure to these allergens may exacerbate your allergies or even affect your breathing. 🤧

In fact, being consistently around these allergens can potentially cause or aggravate asthma [4] conditions.

Mattress looks or feels uneven

One of the most obvious symptoms of a bad mattress is if it looks or feels uneven.

Old or worn-out mattresses often start to sag, dip, or develop lumps, and you may be able to see this (with or without sheets) or feel it when you lie down.

If you notice any lumps or dips, it’s probably time to invest in a new mattress. 💻

A quick tip for readers: Check your warranty if your mattress is relatively new yet shows physical signs of deterioration. Most manufacturers provide coverage for 5 to 10 years, potentially qualifying you for a replacement or repair.

Mattress squeaking or creaking

While many of us grew up with squeaky mattresses, your mattress shouldn't disrupt a quiet night's sleep. 🙅

Irritating sound
A mattress that squeaks whenever you or your partner moves can disrupt peaceful sleep.

Creaks or squeaks often indicate wear and tear, especially in spring-based mattresses.

This noise typically signifies the springs have deteriorated, and, unfortunately, there's no simple fix.

Though if your mattress is relatively new or not spring-based, it may be worth taking a closer look at whether a bad bed frame is the culprit. 🛏️

If your mattress makes more noise than you, it’s likely time for a replacement.

Mattress age

How old is your mattress? 🤔

Some of us may struggle to answer this, but it’s an important consideration.

Most mattresses have a lifespan of 7 to 10 years.

If you have a cheaper, lower-quality mattress, it may only last around 5 years.

woman confused
You’re not alone if you can’t say just how old your mattress is.

By the same token, people with very high-quality beds, such as natural latex mattresses or high-density memory foam mattresses, may find that theirs lasts longer. 🔼

As mattresses age, they become less supportive and comfortable.

Don’t hesitate to check out our review on the best mattresses in the UK if your mattress is getting on in years or has developed some uncomfortable characteristics.

How can sleeping on a bad mattress affect your health?

The wrong mattress doesn't just rob you of a good night's sleep; it can significantly impact your health.

From promoting back pain and body aches due to lack of support to aggravating allergies and asthma and even affecting skin health, the consequences are far-reaching.

Moreover, the resultant poor sleep can contribute to depression and other serious health conditions [5], including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

How to fix a bad mattress

We have some bad news - You can’t fix a bad mattress. 😥

If your mattress is lumpy, sagging, squeaking, or leaving you sleeping poorly, then the best course of action is to replace your mattress.

However, we understand that’s not a feasible, immediate course of action for everyone.

Whether you’re short on cash, in the middle of a move, or something else, there are a few things you can do to improve bad mattress signs.

Let’s take a look at the best temporary fixes to help you feel less uncomfortable in bed. 👇

Turning or flipping your mattress

Flipping or turning your mattress isn't a permanent fix.

However, it can be a practical short-term solution to prevent deepening dents or worsening lumps by evening out the pressure across its surface. ✅

This approach can offer some relief and may help extend the life of a slightly lumpy mattress.

Just bear in mind that some mattresses cannot be flipped; some can only be rotated.

Adjust the temperature in your room

While not directly related to your mattress, adjusting the temperature in your room can help you sleep better.

For most people, between 15 and 20°C is the optimal room temperature for sleep. 🌡️

sleeping temperature

Unfortunately, a bad mattress can cause some people to feel too hot.

Consider adjusting your thermostat or swapping out your duvet for a lighter one to help you drift off feeling cool and comfortable.

Try adding a mattress topper

Let’s answer the most common question: Can a mattress topper fix a bad mattress?

No, a mattress topper can’t fix a bad mattress.

However, a topper can improve the feel of your mattress. 🤗

Adding a mattress topper can help even out sagging and lumps, making bad beds more comfortable.

They also provide useful padding for people who can feel the springs in the mattress.

mattress topper

Using a topper could help extend the life of your mattress by up to 1 year.

Just remember that a mattress topper is not a permanent solution, so you’ll still need to purchase a new mattress as soon as possible.

Using a mattress protector

A mattress protector is a great way to protect your mattress against dust mites and other allergens.

mattress protector benefits
Mattress protectors offer a variety of benefits.

It can help prevent your allergies from worsening and acts as a barrier between you and your mattress (and the allergens that call it home). 🤧

However, a protector will not fix lumps, dips, or squeaking.

Use good sleep accessories

A good pillow [6], duvet, and bedding can make your sleep set up as cosy as possible. 💗

woman with sleep accessories

Depending on your preferences, you may sleep best on silk bedding or prefer high-quality, soft cotton like the bedding from DreamCloud.

While sleep accessories won’t fix a bad mattress, they can make you more comfortable and be reused when you buy a new mattress.

Our favourite toppers, duvets, and pillows:

Is it time to replace your mattress?

Knowing when to replace a mattress will help ensure you consistently get a great night’s sleep.

Most mattresses have a lifespan of 7 to 10 years, though cheap, low-quality mattresses may last as little as 5 years. ⭐

But more than lifespan, you need to look for the signs of a bad mattress to know when to change a mattress.

You should consider getting a new mattress if you’re experiencing some of the mattress problems we mentioned, especially if yours is over 7 years old.

Our favourite UK mattresses:

Frequently asked questions

  • Can a mattress cause back pain?

    Have you been wondering - Can sleeping on a bad mattress cause back pain?

    The answer is yes!

    While back pain isn’t necessarily down to your mattress, it can cause and aggravate back pain.

    Bad mattresses don’t provide the support you need, particularly when it comes to promoting good spinal alignment.

    Sleeping in a bed that doesn’t support your body can lead to back pain that’s worse in the morning than in the day or evening. 

    “Bad mattress back pain” and “bad mattress lower back pain” are common searches among people suffering from a bad back, trying to answer questions such as:

    • Does a bad mattress cause back pain?
    • Can a bad mattress cause upper back pain?

    If this sounds like you, it’s probably time to invest in a new mattress.

    Check out our article on the best mattresses for back pain if you need help finding something to ease your back pain.

    Are soft beds bad for your back?

    Noticing back pain after you sleep?

    Your mattress might not be bad; It could be too soft or firm.

    Very firm or soft beds may not provide the right level of support, either preventing you from sinking in or letting you sink into your mattress too much.

  • Can a bad mattress cause health problems?

    An unsupportive or worn-out mattress can cause a variety of health issues.

    Let’s take a closer look at some of the most commonly asked questions about the effects of a bad mattress to see if your health problems are related to your mattress.

    Can a bad mattress cause body aches?

    An unsupportive mattress can cause the body to rest in unnatural positions, resulting in discomfort and aches across various parts of the body.

    Can a bad mattress cause sciatica?

    The link between a bad mattress and sciatica is clear.

    A mattress lacking support, particularly around the lower back, can force the spine into unnatural positions.

    This puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, leading to pain and discomfort that characterises sciatica [7].

    Can a bad mattress cause a pinched nerve?

    Much like with sciatica, a bad mattress can cause a pinched nerve.

    This usually happens if your mattress is unsupportive or your sleeping position is incompatible with your bed.

    Try sleeping on your back or placing a pillow between your legs.

    This should help align your spine and alleviate pain from a pinched nerve.

    Can a bad mattress cause rib pain?

    A sagging or unsupportive mattress can be a direct cause of rib pain. 

    The lack of proper spinal support leads to pressure on the rib area, particularly if the area of the mattress around the ribs is too firm.

    The answer is similar if you’re wondering, can a bad mattress cause costochondritis [8]?

    Costochondritis (inflammation where the ribs meet the breastbone) can have many causes.

    While it usually gets better on its own, some people have found that a spring mattress caused or worsened their costochondritis [9] and that this was solved by swapping to a comfortable memory foam mattress.

    Can a bad mattress cause hip pain?

    Unfortunately, the wrong mattress can lead to hip pain.

    Bad mattress hip pain can occur when an unsupportive mattress sets off pressure points, like the hips and shoulders.

    If you’re experiencing hip pain, particularly if it is worse in the morning, your mattress may be too old, uneven, firm, or even too soft.

    Can a bad mattress cause knee pain?

    Knee pain, while not usually caused by a mattress, can be worsened by the wrong one.

    A bad mattress can put pressure on your knees, leaving them sore.

    Opting for a more supportive mattress or knee pillow can help relieve your knee pain.

    Can a bad mattress cause leg numbness?

    Leg numbness might be because your mattress is not providing proper support, leading to greater pressure on some areas of your body.

    A leg pillow, better mattress, or topper could help reduce leg numbness.

    However, leg numbness can also be a sign of a more serious condition like diabetes [10].

    If you experience continued leg numbness, you should seek advice from your doctor.

    Can a bad mattress cause kidney pain?

    A mattress shouldn’t cause pain in your kidneys.

    Some studies have linked VOCs [11](volatile organic compounds) to nausea, eye and throat irritation, and liver and kidney damage [12].

    But it’s important to note that in most countries, including the UK, VOC levels in mattresses are considered low, with minimal risk associated with using them.

    In addition, kidney pain is often mistaken as back pain.

    For those unsure whether they’re experiencing back or kidney pain, kidney pain tends to feel higher on the back and “deeper” in the body.

  • How can I prevent my mattress from wearing out too quickly?

    The easiest way to extend the lifespan of your mattress is to rotate or flip it every 3 to 6 months.

    This helps prevent dents and ridges from forming in your mattress (one of the most common causes of mattress deterioration).

    You should also consider using a mattress protector, which acts as a barrier against various spills, sweat, and bacteria.

    A mattress topper can also help lengthen the lifespan of your mattress by providing an additional layer of padding.

  • What happens to a mattress after 10 years?

    While your mattress won’t exactly fall apart when the 10-year mark hits, it will no longer be as supportive as it once was.

    So, how long should you keep a mattress?
    Well, you’ve probably seen information telling you to get a new one every 7, 8, or 10 years.

    These are the average lifespans of most mattresses.

    When it comes to how often to replace a mattress, the answer is a little more nuanced.

    Ultimately, you need to learn how to know if your mattress is bad.

    To do this, you should look for bad mattress symptoms, such as lumps, sagging, or creaking.

    And if you notice any of these signs of a worn-out mattress, consider replacing it.

    We have an article on the best UK mattresses when you decide it’s time to buy a new one.
  • How do I know if my mattress is bad?

    Here's our cheat sheet for people trying to work out: How do you know if your mattress is bad?

    Some common mattress problems include:

    • An uneven mattress surface, including lumps, ridges, and sagging.
    • A squeaking or creaking noise.

    Sleeping on an old mattress can also leave you:

    • Feeling tired, either struggling to fall asleep or sleeping poorly.
    • Worsened allergies (old mattresses can accumulate dust mites, allergens, and bacteria).
    • Waking up with aches and pains (especially back pain).

    While these symptoms don’t necessarily make a mattress bad, they are common problems people face when they’re sleeping on the wrong mattress.

    For instance, you may be struggling to sleep well if you’re facing a sleep disorder.

    Feeling constantly tired or waking up with aches and pains could also be “mattress too firm symptoms”.

    But, ultimately, if you notice several of these bad mattress symptoms, it’s likely because you’re sleeping on a worn mattress, a broken mattress, or a mattress that simply isn’t the right fit for you.

    If you think it’s time to buy a new mattress, why not check out our articles on how to buy a mattress online or our guide to the best UK mattresses?

  • What are early mold in mattress symptoms?

    One of the first mold in mattress symptoms most people notice is a musty smell.

    Mold can also aggravate breathing conditions like asthma and cause redness or itching around the eyes, nose, and skin.

    If the mold is more advanced, you may also be able to see blue or green spots on your mattress.

    You can try vacuuming the mattress on both sides, cleaning it with a damp, soapy cloth, and letting the mattress dry in a well-ventilated area (ideally in direct sunlight).

    However, this may not work, depending on how advanced the mold growth is.

    If after cleaning, you still notice an odour, you may need to invest in a new mattress.

  • References

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Katharyn Duffy

Content Writer

Katharyn is a research pro with a BA in English and over 4 years of experience writing health and well-being content. She uses her understanding of sleep and its importance to cut through the nonsense and provide honest information about various sleep products and topics.

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