Have you ever slept in someone else’s bed -- whether at a friend’s house or at a hotel -- and noticed that you slept differently that night? Maybe you woke up feeling better than normal. Or perhaps you stirred several times throughout the night and woke to a sore back.
These experiences go to show how much your bed makes a difference to your sleep quality. But why does sleep matter at all, and what does your mattress have to do with it?
Why Do We Need Sleep?
Why we sleep is still somewhat a mystery to scientists. However, they’ve been able to pinpoint many of sleep’s benefits. According to the National Sleep Foundation, we sleep because:
- It helps us create memories. Throughout the day, our minds take in so much information, but overnight, that information gets transferred from short-term memory to long-term memory, solidifying the memories in our brains.
- It helps our bodies restore and rejuvenate by repairing tissue, growing muscle, and synthesizing hormones.
Sleep serves you best when you get it on a consistent basis. You cannot “accumulate” sleep and then hope to stay awake for days. The National Sleep Foundation says that “the best sleep habits are consistent, healthy routines that allow all of us, regardless of our age, to meet our sleep needs every night, and keep on top of life's challenges every day.”
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
The National Sleep Foundation says that adults ages 18-64 years old should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Remember: these are averages. You may need more or less sleep depending on your body’s needs as well as any lifestyle or environmental factors that contribute to your quality of sleep. However, the National Sleep Foundation also points out that many people who don’t get enough sleep tend to forget what being truly rested feels like, so they underestimate how tired they really are.
What happens if you aren’t getting enough sleep? Your cognitive performance and reaction times greatly decrease. This leads to low productivity at work while negatively affecting your mood.
Just how much sleep is too little? One study showed that participants who were limited to six hours of sleep each night showed similar cognitive performance deficits over a two-week period as participants who were deprived of sleep for two nights straight. Interestingly, the people who slept six hours per night were in denial of how tired they truly were.
Another issue with sleep is that people tend to overestimate how much sleep they really get. Although you may lay down for bed at 10 p.m., you may not actually fall asleep until an hour later. So even when you plan to get seven hours of sleep, you may realistically only be getting six. If you wake up a lot during the night, you’re probably not getting as much sleep as you think you are. That’s where the quality of your mattress can come into play.
Why Does Your Mattress Matter?
First of all, the right mattress can drastically improve your quality of sleep. A good mattress will help you rest better so you won’t be waking so many times throughout the night. The better you sleep, the better you’ll function throughout the following day.
Because of this, you’ll notice that your stress levels will decrease as well. One study followed 29 men and 30 women who all had minor musculoskeletal sleep-related pain and compromised sleep. First, they rated their sleep for 28 days on their own beds. Then, the participants spent 28 days sleeping on new medium-firm beds and reported their stress levels. Participants felt less stressed on these new bedding systems. Overall, they experienced increased sleep quality and decreased back discomfort.
Speaking of back discomfort, the right mattress can do wonders for reducing pain. A good mattress supports your body. That’s why soft, plush mattresses can cause pain over time. Although they seem comfortable in the store when you lie on them for a minute, they oftentimes don’t have enough support to ease your pain over long-term periods.
Furthermore, old mattresses can cause issues with people who experience allergies. Old mattresses accumulate dead skin cells and dust mites which can irritate those with allergies. While proper care -- such as washing your sheets frequently -- can mitigate this issue, it can’t completely solve it. The Better Sleep Council suggests changing your mattress if it’s over seven years old.
How to Find a Good Mattress
Now that you know about the benefits of a quality mattress, it’s time to find one suited for your body. First of all, buy new. Mattresses don’t last a long time. After about seven years, they start to lose some of the support they initially provided. So while you can save a few bucks on a used mattress, you can’t ever be quite sure of its age or what types of allergens are present in it. You can bet you’re getting more for your money by buying new.
Next, read mattress reviews. It’s difficult to tell if a mattress will be good for you if you haven’t given your body time to adjust to it. Look at what other owners have thought after sleeping on the mattress for several months.
Finally, test it out. When you lie down on the showroom mattress you get to experience it with all of your senses. Use this to help guide your decision. The next test comes in when you take it home. Many mattress retailers allow a 30-day return or exchange policy so that you have time to test your mattress out and adjust to it. Be sure to keep an eye out for good return policies to make it easier to find the mattress that best suits you.
Getting a good night’s sleep matters to your productivity and happiness, and a quality mattress can contribute to that. With this information in mind, do you think it’s time to upgrade your mattress?