How Your Bed is Making You Sick

October 30th 2015

You may love your bed, but researchers say it's the dirtiest place in your home, and if you suffer from horrible allergies, your precious resting space is probably at fault.

Philip Tierno, a microbiologist and pathologist at the New York University School of Medicine, told Tech Insider in a recent interview that the average 1,500 square foot house "accumulates about 40 pounds of dust annually," and mattresses serve as hotbeds for much of the dirty microscopic particles. Dust mites, sweat, bacteria, fungal spores, and human skin cells inhabit mattresses, and they even make your mattress gain weight over time. Because we spend a third of our life sleeping, we're exposed to these particles for the amount of time we snooze every night.

Tierno said all of these gross things end up on our mattresses due to gravity and because they need somewhere to live. Mattresses are perfect colonization spots for dust mites because they're full of dead skin flakes. Some people sweat a liter of water sleeping, and the average person switches positions 12 times per night. This movement and wetness fosters a strong reproductive environment for dust mites, and when you make your bed in the morning, you trap them all inside your sheets. Millions of dust mites live in our beds, and when house dust mites excrete waste, they release allergens that cause asthma and allergies.

"Their droppings are composed of protein compounds," Global Health Center reports. "When we breathe in these protein substances, or when they come into contact with our skin, our body tries to protect us by producing antibodies. In turn, our antibodies release histamine which is a chemical that causes the typical swelling and red color associated with allergies."

Tierno told Tech Insider that many people blame a broad range of things on allergies when the cause is actually quite simple: our beds.

"One in six people have allergies, that's a lot of people in the world," Tierno said. "You talk about why people have allergies and everyone's blaming all sorts of things. In reality, it’s right under your nose. You’re breathing that air in eight hours a day every day of your life."

So how do you sleep well with all of these nasty particles floating around your person space? You can start by frequently washing your sheets and also invest in an allergy protector, according to Tierno.

"If you don’t have that impervious outer cover, you may wake up with a stuffy nose, you may get allergies, you may get exacerbations of asthma, or preexisting allergies," Tierno said. "So it behooves you to have a good cover on the [mattress and] pillow."

Dr. Lisa Ackerley, a home hygiene expert, also recommended an allergen protector in an interview with the Daily Mail earlier this year. She also said airing out one's home could help.

"In alpine areas, people used to hang their bedding and their duvets out of the window," Dr. Ackerley said. "The cold alpine air kills the dust mites. They probably didn’t know they were doing it for that reason, but it’s a good idea."

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