Almost half of single men don’t wash their bed sheets for up to four months at a time, according to a recent survey of 2,250 adults in the UK. Single women washed more often, with six in ten saying they changed their bedding every two weeks. Couples claimed to do theirs every three weeks, according to the survey done by a bedding company.
Local surveys are not available, but this topic affects everyone: How often should you be changing and washing your bed sheets? What really happens if you don’t change your bedding within the recommended one to two weeks?
Human beings spend close to half their lives in bed. Bernard Kyengo, a clinical officer, says the easiest way to develop skin conditions is through poor bedding hygiene.
“Beddings collect sweat, dust, oils, dandruff, germs, all kinds of invisible body fluids, all of which can find their way into skin pores, blocking them and causing infection,” says Kyengo. “Eczema and fungal infections such as ring worms can be exacerbated by failure to change bed sheets often,” he says.
Further, dust mites, close relatives of spiders and ticks and extremely common, tend to accumulate the longer the beddings remain unchanged.
“Dust mites are too tiny to see with the naked eye, but they’re all around us,” says Kyengo. “They live in the beddings, mattresses, carpets, upholstered furniture and curtains.”
People who keep pets in the house are at an even higher risk of having too many at a time. Dust mites feed on human and pets’ dead skin. Luckily they don’t bite or burrow under the skin. Still, according to Kyengo, some people are allergic to their faeces and urine, which can trigger asthma attacks and swelling of the nasal passages, a condition commonly known as dust allergy.
Besides affecting your physical health, unclean sheets, pillow covers, blankets, and duvets can also impact your psychological and mental well-being.
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“Uncomfortable sleeping environments, especially one with bedbugs, can cause significant irritability, stress and even paranoia,” says Kyengo. “These issues can lead to inattentiveness at work or school, frequent emotional outbursts, and burnout,” he says.
“When sleep is interrupted consistently, either by bedbugs or general uneasiness, it can affect the body’s sleep cycle. Irregular sleep brings stress and can lead to long-term issues that impact one’s mind and body,” he says.
Research reveals that insomnia and other sleeping disorders can be triggered by mould, bacteria, and even bedbugs that dirty beddings harbour.