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Make Healthy Sleep a Priority by Washing Your Sheets

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It’s laundry day! You have all your basics, pajamas, work clothes and workout gear, but what about your sheets? Are you throwing those in too? We clean our homes, which provides a sense of peace, with our bedrooms being the center of relaxation. You lie down, get comfortable, roll over and wonder, “What is that spot? Why does my pillow smell like this, and when was the last time, I washed these sheets?” Please do not be embarrassed; we all live busy lives, so let’s discuss how often we should wash our sheets.

How often should I wash my sheets?

The Sleep Foundation reports that we spend approximately 49 to 60 hours sleeping in our beds per week. During that time, all the dirt buildup, oil and sweat transfer to our sheets and other bedding. Experts recommend washing sheets weekly. Two weeks is OK if you do not always sleep in your bed. Some people wash their sheets more often, between every three to four days, to help with allergies or asthma. People with asthma and allergies can trigger or worsen symptoms by sleeping on dirty sheets. More than 24 million Americans have allergies.

It’s also a great idea to include pillowcases and comforters if they’ll fit in the load. Pillowcases are essential, especially if you wear makeup throughout the day. On the other hand, your comforters don’t have to be washed as often since they have less direct contact with our skin.

What if I don’t wash my sheets frequently?

If you don’t wash your sheets often, you should consider adding them to your laundry routine as soon as possible. Without cleaning your sheets properly, you increase the possibility of carrying other bacteria that can contribute to skin breakouts and more, delaying your health and sleep quality.

There are instances where your sheets should be washed more frequently to reduce the spread of germs like:

  • If you sweat excessively
  • Your pet sleeps with you
  • You eat in bed
  • Are sensitive to dust or other allergens
  • You go to bed without showering
  • Wear makeup

Consider these factors because they could lead to more severe conditions that may require medical assistance, like bed bugs and mites that can cause skin irritation. Bed bugs are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on people and animals' blood while they sleep and can live for several months without a blood meal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

bed bugs on pillow case

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite to a small bite mark to a severe allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered dangerous; however, those allergic to several bites may need medical attention. Experts recommend washing sheets and pillows at least twice a week on a hot setting if you have dust mite allergies.

How do I wash my sheets properly?

Your sheet-washing practices will preserve the life of your bedding. Before washing them, check the care tag for specific laundry instructions. Certain fabrics, such as cotton, bamboo, linen and silk, might require special care. Wash sheets separately from clothing or towels to ensure the best cleaning and prevent damage and additional wear.

The Sleep Foundation recommends washing sheets using the hottest setting with a gentle detergent, then tumble dry on low or hang dry. The hotter the water the more bacteria and allergens you’ll remove. But if it’s your sheets’ first wash, they could shrink, so a lower setting will suffice. An alternative is line drying your sheets in the sun, which is the next best thing to tumble dry on low. Also, ironing is an optional extra step to destroy anything that may be living in your bedding.

If you want to go the extra mile for cleanliness, consider scrubbing your mattress. Spraying a refreshing scent may do the trick sometimes but ridding it of bacteria and other germs should be done every six months. A quality mattress can be a significant investment, and expanding its lifespan is financially savvy. You can use items you may already have in your pantry to remove any spills, stains or odors from your mattress.

  • Cold water
  • Baking soda
  • Rags or towels for cleaning
  • A gentle, bleach-free, unscented laundry detergent
  • Dish soap or an enzyme cleaner

What are ways I can keep my sheets cleaner?

Making small adjustments to your daily routine can help preserve the wash time on your sheets and increase their lifespan. Sheet sets can last anywhere from one year to three years with the proper care. Rotate your sets occasionally and store them in a cool dry area. Consider getting your furry baby a bed of their own and taking a quick shower before lying down post workout.

What if I’m not sleeping well?

If a clean set of sheets, pillowcases, comforters or mattresses isn’t helping you get the best sleep, speaking with your healthcare provider is an excellent recommendation. Certain sleep disorders like sleep apnea, insomnia or excessive sleepiness can affect your energy level, mood, productivity and cognitive function. It can also lead to more critical problems, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke. It’s important to discuss your sleep and health concerns at your appointments as soon as you notice changes in your body. Scheduling a visit with your healthcare provider can identify the source of your sleep problems and provide appropriate treatment options to get you back on track to a night of healthier and sounder sleep.

Experiencing allergy symptoms from your bedding? Schedule an appointment with an allergist-immunologist for a consultation.

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