Want to wake up refreshed every morning? A big part of sleep hygiene is having a comfortable place to tuck yourself into every night. Here’s some expert advice on choosing, protecting and maintaining your mattress for the best sleep possible.
Buying a mattress
Contrary to what you may have read—or what a salesperson might have told you—there’s no “perfect” type of mattress. Everybody is different and the perfect mattress is simply the one you find most comfortable. The ultimate test is how well you sleep on it—and how refreshed you feel in the morning.
That said, there are many different types of mattresses, including the traditional innerspring style, specialty foam, air mattresses with adjustable firmness, pillow-top styles with extra padding, and hybrid styles that use both steel coils and foam. You can also find adjustable beds that let you raise and lower various parts of the mattress to customize it to your body.
WebMD stresses the importance of “test-driving” a mattress before you buy it. Try it out in every position you normally sleep in and don’t be afraid to spend 20 minutes lying on it in the store. For neck or back pain, think like Goldilocks: Look for a firmness level that’s neither too hard nor too soft, as either one can cause problems.
Protecting your mattress
Mattress protectors come in two basic varieties:
- Five-sided protectors (which protect the mattresses top and four sides) go on like a fitted sheet to protect it from spills or incontinence and to help keep body oils and sloughed skin off the mattress. They are easy to take on and off; just clean them in the washing machine occasionally.
- Hypoallergenic encasement protectors completely surround the mattress and close with a zipper or Velcro seal. These are effective at protecting the mattress from biting bed bugs and allergy-causing dust mites.
If you want both easy cleaning and protection from allergens and nasty pests, the best solution is to use both: Surround your mattress in an encasement protector and then cover that with a five-sided protector.
Rotating your mattress
As you use a mattress, the weight of your body can eventually cause it to sag, so most mattresses are designed to be flipped and rotated frequently to allow the materials time to bounce back. Your mattress may have come with instructions on how often to do this, but here are some general guidelines:
- If you have a traditional innerspring mattress, it’s the same on the top and bottom. You should flip it over and rotate it end to end seasonally.
- If you have a pillow-top innerspring mattress, don’t flip the padding to the bottom. Instead, just rotate it end to end seasonally.
- Hybrid innerspring and memory foam mattresses are also designed to be rotated end to end at least seasonally. They are heavy, so it might take two people.
- Memory foam mattresses don’t need to be rotated as often, and maybe not at all, for some brands. But your mattress might still last longer if you rotate or flip it once or twice a year.
Cleaning your mattress
If you’ve got your mattress in an encasement protector, you won’t need to clean it. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to give it a quick vacuum with the upholstery attachment every time you wash your mattress protector. For an annual deeper cleaning that will remove odors, sprinkle at least half a cup of baking soda over your mattress. Let it sit for a few hours, and then vacuum it up. (By the way, your pillows need cleaning and protection, too.)
Replacing your mattress
Your mattress will last longer with good care and cleaning, but the average life span is only about eight years. If you notice that your mattress is getting saggy, your allergies are worsening, your spine is no longer aligned when you lie down, or you wake up stiff and sore, it’s time to consider a replacement.