Clean Your Sheets and Sleep Well Do we sleep better in a clean bed?

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A recent survey by asked 1,700 people about their cleaning.  76% of people admitted to having better night’s sleep on the night they changed their sheets.  The National Sleep Foundation in the USA surveyed 1,500 people and 73% people said they got a more comfortable night’s sleep when their sheets had a fresh scent.

So why do we sleep better in freshly made beds?

Firstly and obviously clean sheets smell and feel nicer.  There is strong link between our perception of comfort and cleanliness and our ability to sleep.  Simple.

The second reason is far less comforting.  It’s to do who you share your bed with. And I don’t mean your partner.

Adults can sweat up to a litre whilst sleep.  We also tend to cover ourselves in creams, makeup and carry around and shed a fair bit of dust and dry skin (you lose about a million skin cells every 24 hours!).  All this makes for quite a build-up in your bed and on your sheets.

This build up is the perfect breeding ground for fungi and bacteria.  Yep – give it a few weeks and there’ll be a fair bit of these two knocking around in your bed.  Almost all of this is harmless. Some will cause skin irritations, oily skin and spots. A very few can cause infections and viruses.  There is evidence that the build-up of bacteria in your bed can also prolong illnesses such as flu or a cold.

Even less desirable are bed mites.  I’m afraid to say we’ve all got them in our beds.   These little mites feast on our dead skin. No problem so far.  The mites leave droppings which turn out to be a potent allergen to some people and cause asthma like symptoms, sinus problem and eczema.

So there we go.  Sleeping in unwashed sheets is less comforting, an irritant and may even be making or keeping you ill.  It’s likely these factors will be combining to reduce your sleep quality.

Wash your sheets once a week or at least every fortnight.  Wash your bedding on 60 degrees. Ideally wash your pillows and duvet every now and again too.  Keep the surfaces around your bed clean and free of dust as this will help.

Of the 1700 people asked only 42% of people claimed to change sheets on a weekly basis.  I hope after reading this you’re one of them!

Written by
Sam Billington

Sam is our sleep guru. I am fascinated by sleep and I've used my science training to research and learn about sleep. I have been providing sleep advice and personal sleep plans for years. My day job is Head of Workplace Culture in Defra, I live in London with my wife and have a PhD in Ecology and Biology.