Is Your Mattress Making You Sick?

Is Your Mattress Making You Sick?

August 15, 2017
Healthy SleepIn the Bedroom

American gospel and contemporary Christian recording artist, Mandisa loves her bed. She says, “I named my bed Rufus. It’s so good to me that I thought it deserved a name.”

We can certainly all relate to the love she feels for her bed. After a long day, nothing sounds better than crawling into your bed and snuggling under the covers, where you feel safe and secure. Even after a long vacation, what do most people want? Their own bed. Nothing is as comfortable as crawling into your own bed and knowing that you are where you belong. Whether you name it or not, you have special feelings for your bed.

But what if your bed is making you sick and you just don’t know it?

Studies show that beds harbor a multitude of contaminants, including bacteria, fungi, and allergens. While you may not be able to see the culprits, when you sleep, you stir them into the air, where your body breathes them in, infecting you.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny bugs, located on every continent except Antarctica, that feed on human skin flakes. The average person sheds 1.5 grams of skin flakes every day, which is enough to feed a million dust mites. Our dead skin flakes off and accumulates in mattresses, pillows, carpets, furniture, blankets, stuffed toys, clothing, and other fabric-based items.

The problem isn’t so much the bugs themselves, but their feces. “Dust mite droppings are highly allergenic,” says Dr. William Berger, a fellow with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Even if you aren’t technically allergic, the feces is still irritating to the nose and eyes. And let’s face it, it’s feces.

Recommended solution: Controlling dust mites means not only killing them, but removing the dead mites and their droppings and preventing the growth of new mites. The Institutes of Medicine, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend several steps for removing dust mites and protecting your home from future infestations.

  • Lower the humidity in your home to less than fifty percent, at which dust mites have difficulty multiplying.
  • Use extra covers on your mattress and pillows to create an extra layer between the dust mites and the people using the bed. You may also consider using allergen impermeable covers.
  • Clean carpets and furniture with a HEPA filter vacuum to ensure that allergens are removed.
  • Wash your bedding in the hottest water possible at least once per week and ensure they are completely dry before reusing them.

Mold and Fungi

Mold and fungi consist of contaminants that are smaller than the diameter of your hair, and one study of only ten pillows showed that together, they held 47 species of fungi.

Brendan Boor is an assistant professor at Purdue University’s College of Engineering, who studies beds for a living. According to Boor, your bed is covered in allergens, bacteria, and fungi. Each time you move, you push those germs into the air, where they are inhaled. “The more intense your movement is – so if you rotate from your back, your stomach, to your back again – the more dust you’re going to be exposed to,” he says.

Recommended Solution: Boor recommends placing a HEPA filter next to your bed to capture all of those allergens that get stirred up with each movement.


Nothing’s worse than waking up and feeling overheated and sweaty and bed. It’s much nicer to be cool and cuddle under the blankets. Unfortunately, since we spend a third of our lives in bed, we’re just as likely to sweat as to shiver under the covers. Some studies claim up to twenty-six gallons of sweat get poured into our beds, pillows, and blankets. It is even suggested that sweating in bed can infect your partner with staph or strep skin infections.

Recommended Solution: The solution is obvious and easy. Simply wash your bedding in hot water at least once per week. You may also choose to use a bedding pad under your fitted sheet that can be removed and cleaned as well.

Bodily Waste

While you may not have accidents in bed, your pet or your children might. You may also be sleeping with pet saliva and dander, which can cause allergies.

Recommended Solution: In addition to regularly washing your bedding and washing following any obvious accidents, Boor recommends vacuuming your mattress and pillows to remove dander and other contaminants.

A Healthy Sleep

It’s important that you keep your bedding fresh and clean and consider a HEPA filter to reduce airborne contaminants. When it comes down to it, a clean bed equals a healthy night’s sleep. Regardless of whether or not you give your bed a name, both you and your mattress deserve to be clean and healthy.