Bed Health

It may be the cosy sanctuary where we spend the most time every day – 49 hours per week if you sleep for seven hours per night – but how hygienic is your bed?

Most people love the idea of a freshly made bed, but washing bed linen regularly can be too much of a chore for some – and it could be detrimental to your health.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, Hygiene Doctor, reveals that if you don’t wash your sheets weekly, you could be putting yourself at risk of serious viruses and infections.

“Think of all the things you do in bed,” said Dr Ackerley. “Apart from being the place where we go to sleep, it can double up as the home office, the tea room, the dining table or even your dog or cat’s bed.

“Depending upon what your bed is used for, and also how clean you are when you get in it (and indeed whether you wear nightwear), your bed can get pretty filthy and may actually be causing your body harm.”

Here, she shares the ways your dirty bed could be wrecking havoc with your health – and it will put you off ever wanting to skip laundry again.

Germs – bacteria, yeasts, fungi and viruses

We have all sorts of bacteria and fungi on our bodies and most are perfectly fine, but the bed is a great place for them to breed, particularly if you think about all the moisture that builds up as we sleep, saliva, fluids, skin cells and, of course, all the other things that get into the bed, from faecal matter to food.

One such bacteria that can spread in our sheets is Staphylococcus aureus – a bacterium that is a commonly found on human skin or in the nose of a healthy person, and on cuts and boils of those suffering from these conditions.

Illnesses such as skin and wound infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia and bacteraemia (blood stream infection) may develop if these bacteria enter the body.

These bacteria will build up on sheets if you don’t launder them for some time, and can cause infections, particularly if you happen to nick the skin by scratching whilst asleep.

If you or your partner has athlete’s foot then it is highly contagious and will lurk in the bed amongst other places.

Athlete’s foot (Tinea pedis)

If you or your partner has athlete’s foot then it is highly contagious and will lurk in the bed amongst other places. Even if you are treating it you need to think about where it may have left its mark and clean up – and that includes the bed linen and carpet as well as socks, slippers and shoes.

Wash the bed sheets at a high temperature to kill the fungus off in the washing machine; if you use a low temperature then you will just spread it around onto other washing. Don’t forget towels and bath mats, too.

Another fungal infection is Candida albicans (also called thrush) which can get into your bed from the body and would be removed through thorough, regular laundering of bedding.

Yeast infections

You can get yeast infections on the skin, and they can cause problems in folds of skin where there may be moisture, and in your nether regions. Your bed may be a perfect breeding ground for such yeasts, and so again the sheets need to be washed regularly and at a hot temperature.


If you have a cold or flu then you need to crank up the washing regime and change the bedding more frequently to protect your partner.

The virus spreads as much from being sneezed on as hand to mouth contact, so dirty tissues in the bed are a no-no – have a bin next to the bed and try to contain the viruses to your side of the bed.

Dust Mites

Dust mites (Dermatophagoides) are microscopic organisms that munch their way through dead skin. They don’t carry diseases, but can cause allergy problems in some members of the population.

It is estimated that humans shed around 10g of skin a day, giving dust mites a great feed.

When they poo, an enzyme is released, which causes allergies in some people. These allergies can lead to conditions such as asthma, and rhinitis – a constant blocked, itchy, runny or sneezy nose. According to ENT physicians this can cause sinusitis and ear problems.

Dust mites collect in areas where they don’t get disturbed, such as the bedroom, in mattresses and even in pillows. It is thought that 10 per cent of the weight of a two-year old pillow may be composed of dust mites and their droppings.

So what do you need to do for a healthy bed?

1. First, get rid of the dust! Vacuum the room and around and under the bed, and the mattress and send your duvet off to be cleaned. Wash pillows if they can be washed and tumble dry to stop clumping – or send them off to the laundry as well. Use pillow protectors on your nice clean (or new) pillows and a mattress protector – you can wash these easily.

2. Wash bedding at above 60°C if you can, or even higher – I have white cotton and go to 90°C. This blitzes everything – but if you have more delicate fabrics, then wash at a lower temperature but always use a laundry cleanser. Remember bacteria grow best at body temperature, so a 30-40 degree wash isn’t going to do the job without a laundry cleanser.

3. Wash bedding once a week if you can, or at least every two weeks.

4. Have a shower before bed – then you keep the dirt down! At the very least, wash your hands before bed time.

5. Wash nightwear every three days.

6. Have some anti-bacterial wipes handy in case you have any spills.

7. If you have a cat or dog and allow it on the bed, get a blanket for them to lie on and wash that every week at least.

8. If someone is ill, step up the cleaning and launder the linen more frequently.

~ By Bianca London