Dirty bed sheets can cause asthma and other health problems

A survey has discovered that potentially almost a fifth of Brits are not changing their bed sheets at least once every month, possibly leading to a wide range of bothersome health conditions such as asthma, rhinitis and worsening the symptoms for those who suffer with the skin condition eczema.

Research was commissioned for the home retailer Dunelm Mill, which involved surveying over 2,000 people across the UK on their sleeping habits. TV’s cleaning gurus Kim and Aggie recommend that people should change their bed sheets at least once a week, and it would appear that only about two in five are adhering to their advice.

Approximately half of those surveyed admitted they slept in dirty sheets and it seems women are the more guilty when it comes to not washing the sheets. Over half of the women quizzed admitted that they fail to clean their sheets on a weekly basis, with 12% only bothering to change their sheets just once every month and 1% said they simply never changed them whatsoever.

Perhaps surprisingly, men fared a little better than the women, going some way to showing that men are not domestically lazy as many presume! In fact, 40% of the men who participated in the survey claimed that they did a weekly change of the bed sheets and an additional 8% said that they changed the sheets even more often than this. Overall, 36% of those surveyed do it every two weeks, 17% change just once a month, and 3% are so infrequent in their bed sheet-changing habits that they couldn’t even remember how many times they perform this task.

The research could also possibly suggest which areas around Britain are the most hygiene-conscious. It was found that the Scottish and those in the North West came up tops in regards to sheet-changing habits, with 50% and 51% respectively alternating their sheets once a week, or sometimes even more. On the other end of the scale, only 41% of people in the South East in the survey had similar claims.

There could be many reasons for the relaxed attitude to such a chore. For example, a survey conducted in 2011 by Sheila’s Wheels indicated that many people feel they do not have the time or motivation following a hard day’s work, coming home to prepare tea and then any other jobs that need doing such as food shopping, etc.

The second most common reason stated in the 2011 survey was energy saving. As we are still in the midst of a recession, many households are now struggling to pay bills more than ever, and it can prove a costly exercise for larger families having to wash and dry sheets for everybody. With four beds in a particular household, washing and drying sheets can add at least £1.50 to the cost.

However, cutting back on washing the sheets as regularly as required can end up costly to your health. Dr Adam Fox, a paediatric allergist at a leading London teaching hospital, warned: “Having good bedroom hygiene when it comes to changing your sheets is about more far than just freshening up your linen. We spend about a third of our lives asleep and this is reflected in the debris that we leave between the sheets. Our bodies shed millions of skin cells each day, many of which rub off in our sleep and are deposited in our beds. In addition to skin cells, our bodies also secrete fluids, sweat and oils during a long nights sleep. Whilst unsavoury in themselves, these deposits mostly pose a problem as they are all deliciously appealing for dust mites. Dust mites in themselves are quite harmless; however the droppings of these microscopic creatures are laden with allergens which can cause health complications. When inhaled, these allergens can provoke asthma and rhinitis and may also worsen eczema. In order to reduce the possible problems caused by dust mites the professional recommendation is that people with dust mite allergies should be taking a number of measures to reduce allergen exposure. Those who suffer particularly badly should consider investing in dust mite proof bedding and we should all be making it a priority to wash our sheets on a one to two weekly basis at 60 degrees. It may seem like a bit of a chore but taking these precautions helps to protect against the health complications which may be caused or worsened by the unwanted dust mites which share our sheets.”

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