Survey shows the average person waits 24 days to change their sheets – and singles sleep in filth more than a month.
This ought to keep you up at night.
The average person waits more than three weeks (24 days, to be exact) to change his or her sheets, according to a recent MattressAdvisor survey of 1,000 Americans. Some single men were particularly skeevy, spending 45 days (that’s six and a half weeks) sleeping in filth before stripping the bed – and after having sex, these cruddy studs waited another 11 days before taking their used sheets off of the bed.
For context, hygiene experts recommend washing or changing your sheets every week; two weeks, at most.
Single women fared slightly better – changing their sheets at 19 days and stripping the sheets four days after having sex in them. Married couples also kept a cleaner sleeping space than singles, changing the sheets every 19.9 days and pillowcases every 22.6 days on average, compared to singles who left sheets and pillowcases on for 37 and 34.6 days, respectively.
So what’s the problem? Even if you don’t noticeably soil your linens with food, drinks or bodily fluids, your bed is a lot dirtier than it looks. That’s because the average person drips around 26 gallons of sweat into his or her sheets every year, and sheds about 10 grams of skin each day – with much of it going onto the beds we spend a third of our lives lying in.
Dr. Philip Tierno, a microbiologist and clinical professor of Microbiology and Pathology at NYU School of Medicine, told Moneyish that each night, gravity draws our sweat, drool and other charming excretions into our sheets, pillows and mattresses, as well as the skin cells we shed – which dust mites love to eat.
That, in turn, leads to the dust mites, their feces and pieces of their microscopic bodies accumulating in our bedding, pillows and mattresses. But wait, there’s more material settling in your bed: Pet dander – even if you don’t have a pet, as hairs can waft in from open windows; crumbs from eating in bed; bacteria and fungal spores from our bodies and from the surrounding environment; and the lotions and oils we slather on before climbing into bed, all inevitably seep into where we sleep. A 2005 University of Manchester study found up to 16 species of fungi in a single pillow.
“The environment in that mattress becomes akin to a botanical park,” said Dr. Tierno. “And what happens is, you kick up that material when you toss and and turn in bed, and you breathe in that material for eight hours or so at night, and then you wake up with a stuffy nose or other issues.”
Uncomfortable side effects from dust mites and other allergens overrunning your bed can include runny/itchy nose, sneezing and coughing, watery eyes, headaches, exacerbated asthma attacks, breakouts, skin irritation or eczema, and even some fungal and bacterial infections. This adds up to the average household spending $338 on over-the-counter medications every year, and can also mess with your sleep by keeping you scratching, sneezing and wheezing all night, which wreaks havoc on productivity the morning.
“This whole thing can be circumvented by simply using what many people who have allergy and asthma have been using for years: An impervious outer mattress protector, as well as a pillow protector,” said Dr. Tierno. Vinyl zippered mattress covers start at $12.99 (twin) to $19.99 (California king) at Bed Bath & Beyond, with pillow protectors running $7.99 to $9.99. Simply zip them around your mattress and pillows, and then make your bed and slip on your pillowcases as usual. “These prevent anything from going in or out of the pillow or mattress, so all you have to worry about is regular bedding, which should be washed about once a week,” said Dr. Tierno.
Dr. Lisa Ackerley, a.k.a. “The Hygiene Doctor” in the U.K., also shared her tips for keeping your bed clean so that you can sleep with peace of mind (and body.)
- Don’t make the bed as soon as you get up. Throw the covers back and let the bed air, and open the window for 10 minutes or so to let the moisture out of the room. Dust mites love damp; dry them out.
- Wash sheets and pillowcases once a week (two weeks at most) at 140 degrees Fahrenheit – any lower and you are not getting it clean enough, unless you add a laundry disinfectant (available at most supermarkets).
- Change your pillows every two years. It is estimated that in two years, 10% of your pillow’s weight is dust mites and dust mite feces. A good rule of thumb is to also clean pillows and comforters two or three times a year, such as once a season. But if someone has been sick, wash all bedding as soon as they are well.
- Clean your duvet every six months. Ackerley takes hers to the laundry at the change of a season, so make a note to clean yours every winter and every summer, or pick Daylight Savings Time in the spring and fall to be your duvet-washing dates.
- A mid-range mattress should be replaced within 8 to 10 years; a high-quality mattress can last 20 to 50. But using a mattress cover and rotating your mattress can also extend its life.
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