Making your bed first thing in the morning may not be as beneficial as you’ve been led to believe.
In fact, scientists are saying that making your bed can lock in humidity in your mattress and sheets, making them the perfect breeding ground for dust mites and bed bugs.
It just goes to show that sometimes, it pays to be messy.
What are Dust Mites?
Dust mites are microscopic arachnids that feed off of dead skin and sweat. Nearly every home in North America is contaminated with dust mites.
A study in 2000 found that more than 45% of American homes had detectable dust mite levels associated with the development of allergies, and 23% had bedding with concentrations of allergen high enough to trigger asthma attacks (1).
These bugs tend to get trapped in the fibers of bed linens, furniture cushions and carpeting. Scientists estimate that there could be as many as 1.5 million dust mites living in the average bed.
What Are the Health Effects?
Dust mites are actually one of the many cause of dust allergies, as an estimated 10-25% of Americans are sensitive to these bugs (1).
Common symptoms of dust allergy include (2):
- Runny nose
- Itchy, red or watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
- Postnasal drip
- Facial pressure and pain
- red, itchy bumps on the skin
- Swollen, blue-colored skin under your eyes
- In a child, frequent upward rubbing of the nose
These mites produce waste which contains proteins that reacts with your immune system. Your body then creates antibodies to fight off these allergens, which causes an inflammatory response in your nasal passages or lungs (3).
Chronic inflammation and obstruction of these nasal passages contributes to the development of asthma and sinus infection (4).
In fact dust mites are a common cause of asthma in children and cause wheezing in 50% of asthmatics (1).
How To Manage Dust Allergy
The process of cleaning can stir up dust particles, making them easier to inhale. This means that dust mite allergy symptoms worsen after vacuuming, sweeping, walking on carpet and dusting (1).
Although these steps are important in minimizing dust mite population, it’s also important to manage allergens.
“Killing the mites alone doesn’t stop any of the exposure to allergens – all it does is kill the mites, which will over a period of time just re-establish themselves anyway. So you do need to get rid of the allergen,” explains says. Dr Euan Tovey, an allergy researcher from Sydney University (5).
To manage allergens, vacuum your home regularly using a HEPA filter vacuum and install a HEPA air filtration system in your home to clear away dust.
You can also protect your bed by using mite-proof mattress and pillow covers and washing your sheets regularly.
Tovey suggests that washing your sheets in warm water with normal laundry detergent removes up to 97 per cent of these water-soluble allergens (5).
The Case of Sunlight
Dust mites live and multiply easily in warm, humid places. They prefer temperatures at or above 70 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity of 75 to 80 percent.
They die when the humidity falls below 50 percent. This the reason why they are not usually found in dry climates. (1)
A Kingston University study discovered that the bugs cannot survive in the warm, dry conditions found in an unmade bed, especially when exposed to direct sunlight (6).
Researcher Dr Stephen Pretlove explains: “We know that mites can only survive by taking in water from the atmosphere using small glands on the outside of their body” (6).
“Something as simple as leaving a bed unmade during the day can remove moisture from the sheets and mattress so the mites will dehydrate and eventually die.”
So there you have it: Throw back your bedding first thing in the morning to give your sheets a chance to dry out and kill those mites!