Is Making Your Bed Bad for You?
In a famous commencement speech by U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, a Commander for Special Operations, he advises the graduating class at the University of Texas at Austin to make their bed every morning. “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day.” Many people echo his statement and firmly believe in the health benefits of having a made bed first thing in the morning, and how it contributes to better productivity until the end of the day.
Author Charles Duhigg also writes in his bestselling book “The Power of Habit” that something as simple as a made bed can be one of the little things that can change your life, he adds that ticking bedmaking off your to-do list first thing in the morning can give you a sense of accomplishment that sets your tone for the rest of the day and having that as a morning routine can help you develop good habits which can affect other aspects of your life as well.
But when you often wake up with bleary eyes, a runny nose, and a cough or two, you may want to rethink that. It’s not the flu. Most likely, it’s dust mites: the scourge of allergy sufferers everywhere. Does tidying up your bedsheets in the morning really provide a small sense of pride? Should you really develop keystone habits such as making your bed in the morning for your mental health? Or is becoming a bedmaker really not for you? Let’s dive into some scientific thoughts…
Dust Mites Die on Unmade Beds
Impossible to see with the naked eye, dust mites are eight-legged creatures that feast on the skin cells you shed while you sleep. Though they won’t bite you like bed bugs do, they excrete enzymes in their feces.
Actually, dust mites can produce two times their weight in fecal matter. When inhaled, people can have an allergic reaction to them. They are the source of sneezing, wheezing, coughing, itchy and watery eyes, runny noses, stuffy noses, eczema and asthma.
Because these mites love warm and damp places, bedrooms tend to be the most widely infested room in the house. Your mattress, pillow, and blanket are the perfect environment to meet all your needs. In fact, there are as many as 1.5 million microscopic mites crawling around in the average bed. This is one of the caveats of bed-making early in the morning when the sun’s up.
A report in 2005 suggests that failing to make your bed in the morning may actually help keep you healthy. See, if you pull up your sheets and duvets, and make your bed immediately, all of the skin scales, sweat, and mites will be trapped underneath.
According to Dr. Stephen Pretlove of Kingston University’s School of Architecture, “We know that mites can only survive by taking in water from the atmosphere using small glands on the outside of their body. Something as simple as leaving a bed unmade during the day can remove moisture from the sheets and mattress so the mites will dehydrate and eventually die.”
Voila! No more dust mites. And a reason to not make your bed every day!
Or so they say.
How to Actually Get Rid of Dust Mites
Some researchers question the findings of this report, like allergist Myron Zitt, M.D., past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. He believes that not making your bed every morning fits a convenient narrative for those who want to skip the chore.
In truth, there are other much more effective and practical ways to reduce dust mites. If you really want to reduce the allergens in your bedroom, here are some realistic ways you can do it:
- Use a hypoallergenic mattress and pillow
- Cover your bedding with an anti-allergy protector
- Lower the temperature and humidity level of your room with a dehumidifier
- Remove dust by regularly wiping and vacuuming
- Wash fabrics in hot water at a minimum of 54°C (130°F)
- Steam clean carpets, rugs, and furniture
- Freeze items of clothing and stuffed animals
- Use a tea tree oil/eucalyptus spray
- Keep pets out of the bedroom (but if you can’t, make sure to do more cleaning each time to avoid the build-up of dust mites)
No rest for People with Allergies
As much as you may want to believe otherwise, not making your bed is not the cure-all for dust mites. It’s best to turn to tried-and-true methods of getting rid of these critters so you can successfully wipe out the allergens in your bedroom. It takes commitment and constant cleaning, but it’s all worth it for your well-being. No more waking up coughing and sneezing!