There are many mysteries in this world. Good sleep hygiene isn’t one of them! What’s unfathomable, however, is the sheer volume of germs, bodily waste (think dead skin cells and sweat), dust and creepy crawlies that share your bed when sleep hygiene is lacking.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a global leader in medical care and research, the average bed, when left unchecked, is highly unsanitary. No longer your ‘private’ place to curl up and sleep, it doubles as a 24/7 smorgasbord for dust mite colonies, numbering between 100,000 and 10 million.
While these microscopic critters (taxonomically related to the spider family) may not be blood-sucking parasites – instead feeding happily on dead human skin cells or dander from pets – they still make for unwelcome bedfellows. The problem being, they deposit harmful allergens in their tiny faeces, which although not visible to the human eye, can lead to and exacerbate asthma, eczema and rhinitis.
Fortunately, it’s a risk that can be reduced by implementing good sleep hygiene practices. Something not to be sniffed at when research shows dust mites and their faeces account for at least 10 per cent of the weight of a two-year-old pillow… with this and more lurking in your bedding and mattress. #SweetDreamsAren’tMadeOfThis!
Indeed, according to a UK study, dust mites aren’t the only contaminants to worry about. Used pillows harbour 50 species of fungi after 1.5 years use – raising an alarm for people with respiratory problems, including asthma and sinusitis. A separate US study which tested bedding left unwashed for a month, found 17,442-times more bacteria on a pillow case than a toilet seat, and 24,631-times more bacteria on sheets than a bathroom door knob. All after just one week!
What’s more, the same study reveals how much bacteria can build up in a mattress over time – namely, 3,000,000 colony-forming bacterial units in 12 months and a staggering 16,060,000 over seven years. If all of this makes you squirm, good sleep hygiene is not something to put off, procrastinate about or ‘sleep on’.
Did you know? The average person sheds about 1.5 grams of dead skin cells every day, feeding up to one million dust mites at a time; and sweats up to 26 gallons a year… just in bed.
Good sleep hygiene is a no-brainer!Your sleep space is your sanctuary. It’s where you spend a third of your life (hopefully, sleeping soundly, 7-9 hours every night). So, why put it – and your health – in jeopardy?
Top 5 Dos:
#1 Do your laundry
Wash all bedding once a week (ideally in hot water) and consider investing in allergen-proof pillow and mattress covers. Consider mixing detergent with a few drops of eucalyptus oil to be used in a pre-soak or general wash (research shows this essential oil is effective in killing dust mites, particularly if a hot water wash is not practical).
If you (or your partner) are sick, wash bedding immediately. While flu viruses live on tissues for about 15 minutes, some gastro bugs can survive on fabric for up to four hours. After washing, place bedding in a dryer on high heat, even for 30 minutes, before hanging out in the sunshine to fully dry.
Wash pillows at least twice a year (tumble dry with two tennis balls, each in a sock, to keep pillows fluffy). Invest in new pillows every two years. It’s also a good idea for you to enjoy a warm shower or bath before bedtime. Research shows the practice is not only cleanly (and luxurious), but sleep-inducing (ideally 90 minutes before bedtime).
#2 Do away with dust
Dust everywhere, including your bed, at least once a week. Use a damp, clean cloth to reduce the amount of dust stirred up, and consider adding a few drops of *eucalyptus essential oil (*be careful if you have pets and likelihood of direct contact with surface areas, as eucalyptus is toxic to dogs and cats).
Clutter attracts dust. It can also be distracting in your sleep space. Keep it simple.
#4 Suck it up
Vacuum everywhere, including your mattress and pillows, ideally with a vacuum cleaner fitted with a double-layered microfilter bag or HEPA filter.
Consider deep cleaning carpet as often as you can. It’s a good idea to regularly scrub rugs and leave them in the sun to bake-dry, then vacuum again to remove dust mite debris and allergens.
#5 Keep your cool
Keep your bedroom temperature around 18 – 22°C, as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation for optimal sleep. By contrast, dust mites love hot, humid environments. Consider using a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain humidity at 50 per cent or below.
Non-washable bedding can be frozen overnight (if you have space in your freezer) to kill dust mites. Vacuum afterwards to remove any left-over residue.
Indoor plants can also help regulate humidity levels.
And finally, the right bedding and sleepwear can definitely help you keep your cool. Choose materials that offer comfort, but not too much heat. Cotton is ideal, silk even better. Along with being hypoallergenic, silk is temperature-regulating and anti-ageing. Its natural properties also wick away excess moisture from your body. The Goodnight Co.’s silk products are made from 22 Momme 100% Mulberry Silk.
Top 5 Don’ts:
#1 Don’t panic!
#2 Don’t make your bed straight away in the morning.
Yes, you read right! Moisture builds in your bed during the night, so pull bedding back and let cool air in (making your bed less attractive for bacteria and mites). While you bed has a chance to breathe, step outside and greet the sun, do some exercise, journal or practice your own breathing. Psst: Don’t forget to go back in and make your bed!
#3 Don’t use chemical pesticides.
They can be harmful and don’t remove allergens (dust mite droppings and carcasses).
#4 Don’t dry clothes near an indoor heater/radiator.
The resulting moisture makes your home more welcoming to dust mites.
#5 Don’t confuse dust mites with bedbugs.
Bedbugs can be seen with the naked eye and are parasitic (meaning they bite and feed off your blood). You need a 10X microscope to see dust mites (adults measure about 0.5mm and juveniles are even smaller).
To find out more about the science of sleep, head to the Journal.