BE MY GUEST by Bert Jacboson, EdD
How long does the average mattress retain its support and comfort?
That question remains unanswered. But in the study we recently completed at Oklahoma State University comparing a set of sleep variables for participants sleeping on their old beds - five years old or older - to the same variables when sleeping on brand new beds, we found significant and sustained improvement in sleep quality, sleep comfort and sleep efficiency, as well as significant reductions in back pain and stiffness.
In light of our findings, I find it interesting that people tend to buy cars or appliances more frequently than beds. Likewise, joggers retire their running shoes after a certain number of miles to avoid the risk of pain or injury.
It should be axiomatic that beds are not built to last forever. The average age of the participants' old bed for this study was 9.5 years. With an average of seven hours of sleep per night, this adds up to over 24,000 hours spent in that bed!
If the bed subtly breaks down over the years, it is reasonable to conclude that an equally subtle onset of pain and stiffness and reduced sleep quality follows. However, subtle increases in stiffness and pain over a decade are typically blamed on a person's age rather than the mattress. Too few people are considering the possible benefit of a new mattress.
New mattress benefits immediate
Through our research, we found that new bedding improved sleep quality by 62.0%, sleep comfort by 70.8%, reduced back pain by 55.3% and back stiffness by 50.7% over a four week period. We also found that lower back pain was much more prominent for those sleeping on the cheaper beds and the older beds.
But regardless of their personal bedding systems, participants experienced immediate reduction in pain and stiffness and improvement of sleep comfort and quality when sleeping on new mattresses. The reduction in pain and improvement in sleep became more prominent over time, and participants improved regardless of age, weight, height or body-mass index.
Moreover, when participants were assigned to high and low pain groups based on initial evaluation, both groups experienced significant reduction in pain when sleeping on new bedding. Even those who reported minor problems sleeping showed significant improvements in sleep quality and comfort - at levels similar to those who were poor sleepers.