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December 07, 2017 4 min read

Changing bed sheets is one of the most mundane of all household chores. It requires removing sheets, washing them, then practically doing gymnastics to get the fitted sheets neatly tucked into all corners of the bed, and properly make the bed. It is no wonder so many people procrastinate handling this chore, often leaving the same sheets on for many weeks or a month before changing them.

While this task can be very annoying, a new study performed by Philip Tierno, a microbiologist at New York University shows just how vital it is. Tierno has found that if sheets go unchanged for too long, fungus and bacteria will culminate into what he has termed a nasty “botanical park.” This bacteria festers within folds and wrinkles of bed sheets, thrives and multiplies. This fungal contamination can even make us sick.

With this new scientific discovery, it is now more important than ever that you change your bed sheets regularly. It can even be crucial to maintaining your health. Continue reading to find out what type of bacteria is lurking in your bed sheets, why, and how you can prevent it from spreading, and negatively impacting your health.

E Coli

What Bacterium is Lurking in Your Sheets?

No matter what the temperature is outside, human beings naturally sweat during the night. Some more than others, but on average, each person sweats half a pint each night and nearly 26 gallons each year. According to scientists, this hot moisture is an ideal breeding ground for fungus to grow.

Each night, sweat and fungal bacteria are being absorbed into your sheets. Studies show that most pillows and bed sheets contain 17 different types of fungus. Keep in mind, this is in addition to any naturally produced bacteria from sweat, saliva, skin cells, sputum, and other bodily excretions like urine or fecal matter that are already present in your bed.

As your skin naturally sheds at night, it attracts dust mites and microscopic bugs that attach to your bed sheets and eat flakes of dead skin. These bugs also produce their own excretions on your bed sheets which can cause breathing problems and exacerbate symptoms for asthma sufferers. Luckily, these excretions are easily removed by washing sheets in hot water.

This Can Cause Infections and Difficulty Breathing

If you have animals that are allowed on your bed, you’re adding animal dander and their bacteria to this equation as well. Plus, pollen, lint, and soil that are commonly transferred to bed sheets. Tierno says that these microbes can cause you to sneeze and have difficulty breathing. This is because you place your nose and mouth so close to the bed and are practically forced to breathe in this bacterium nightly.

If you have open wounds, the risks are even greater as they can become infected. Fungi is susceptible to being transferred between fabrics. Infrequent changing of sheets can even cause this bacterium to be transferred to other pieces of clothing or towels in your hamper. It can also seep into mattresses and deep within pillows which are extremely difficult to properly clean.

Unfortunately, the more infrequently you change your sheets, the more these fluids, oils, and bacterium multiply and get embedded into the sheet fibers. This makes washing and removing them much more difficult. If this news makes you nervous because you are guilty of not changing your sheets very often, consider tossing old sheets.

Purchase multiple sets of new bed sheets in a variety of fabrics like bamboo or Egyptian cotton that are made with finer, more dense threads. These denser threads keep bacteria closer to the surface of the sheet and are easier to clean.

Gravity is Also to Blame

In addition to sweat and natural bacteria that accumulates on your bed sheets, another culprit that adds to this “botanical park” of fungi is gravity. Simply put, debris that is in the airs falls onto your mattress. This is due to the fact that your mattress is often the vertical surface that is next closest to the ground.

This creates piles of debris on your mattress that keep accumulating due to gravity as time goes on. The less you change your bed sheets, the more debris falls onto your bedding. You wouldn’t dream of rolling around in this debris and bacteria elsewhere, so why is sleeping in it acceptable? It shouldn’t be.

making bed

How Often Should You Change Your Sheets?

Scientists have observed that this bacterium begins to trigger health issues and grows to a significant level within as little time as a week. Tierno recognized that most people, even those who do not normally suffer from allergies, would have an allergic response after leaving bed sheets unchanged for over a week.

Just one week of build-up left observed patients with allergies, worsened asthma, and a scratching throat. Sometimes even a visible skin irritation was present as well. For these reasons, he recommends changing your bed sheets weekly.

If you perspire more than average or are ill, it is recommended that you wash your sheets even more frequently than that. Always wash sheets in hot water, and be sure to include pillowcases and duvet covers as well.

If your sheets are significantly soiled, do not take any chances and purchase new sets that can easily be swapped out. Take this advice to prevent illness, allergies, and worsened asthma symptoms that are exacerbated by infrequent changing of bed sheets. It’s more than hygienic, it is now essential to your health.

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