Instead of making the bed every morning, we might be better off leaving the blankets wadded up at the foot of the mattress.
That’s because a neatly made bed provides a haven for dust mites, which can cause allergies and asthma or exacerbate asthma symptoms.
The news first broke in 2006, when a study suggested that dust mites thrive in a neatly made bed. The topic was recently revived when media discovered that researchers at Kingston University in London had concluded dust mites don’t fare well in unmade beds.
Why are the microscopic bugs so averse to a messy mattress?
Dust mites need a warm, moist environment to survive, and our sleeping bodies snuggled under the covers every night provide just that. If we hop out of bed when the covers are still slightly damp from our bodies, then pull up the blankets and tuck in the corners, we’ve just trapped all that heat and moisture underneath the covers. And that’s prime real estate for the nearly 1.5 million dust mites found in the average bed.
In contrast, allowing the bed to air dry creates less hospitable conditions for the tiny bugs. That’s good news for the many people who suffer health problems as a result of dust mites, which feed on (spoiler alert: this is gross) old skin cells that have flaked off our bodies and produce a substance that can trigger allergies.
While the idea of tiny bugs eating your dead skin might sound disgusting, it happens all the time.
People who are allergic to dust mites may suffer symptoms that include coughing, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, skin issues, and even asthma. In fact, dust mites are one of the most common causes of childhood asthma around.
How to Reduce Exposure to Dust Mites
There are several steps you can take to help prevent mites from thriving and reduce your exposure in the process.
- Don’t make the bed. If you really and truly can’t stand to let the bed remain unmade all day long, at least allow the mattress to air dry while you’re getting ready for work, and make tidying the bed the last thing you do before leaving the house. But ideally? It’s best to just learn to live with a messy bed.
- Wash sheets regularly. Aim for every other week at a minimum, and be sure to use hot water.
- Wash pillows, too. At least once every six months, send down or fiberfill pillows through the washing machine. It’s also a good idea to replace pillows entirely every two years.
- Keep the mattress clean. Make it a habit to vacuum and air out the mattress every time you wash the sheets (If that feels like too much work, then make sure to clean the mattress at least a few times each year).
- Invest in a dust mite cover. These plastic covers are fairly inexpensive and can help ensure that dust mites don’t find their way into the mattress.
- Choose a metal or wooden bed frame. Mites can’t live inside these substances. Avoiding cloth headboards will eliminate some dust mite habitat.
- Pick the right mattress. Some mattress brands are better at accounting for dust mites than others. Whenever you’re in the market for a new mattress, do your research by reading reviews and asking questions of retailers that specifically pertain to dust mites.
Featured photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker via flickr.com