- Manish Pandey
- BBC reporter
Some might think of this as a topic that doesn’t need to be discussed publicly, but it affects each of us: how often should you change and wash your sheets?
A survey of 2,250 UK adults revealed that nearly half of single men said they don’t wash their sheets at least once every four months. And 12% of respondents admitted that they wash when they remember, which could represent an even longer period without sanitizing them.
“That’s really not a good plan,” Lindsay Browning, a psychologist, neuroscientist and sleep expert, told BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat.
Single women changed bedding more often, 62% changing them every two weeks. Couples say they change every three weeks, according to data from a bedding company.
Why do we need to change our sheets?
To cut to the chase, Browning says we should change our sheets once a week or every 15 days at the most.
Hygiene is an important factor. And one of the reasons is sweat – especially on hot days.
“This is because sweat gets into the sheets, causing them not only to smell bad, but also to become quite clogged,” according to Browning.
She says we need airflow to feel fresh when we sleep — because that’s when we get the best quality sleep.
But it’s not just sweat that we need to worry about. Our own dead skin cells, which we get rid of during sleep, are also a concern.
“If you don’t wash your bedding enough, dead skin cells will accumulate on the sheets.”
Does it look awful? It gets worse. This buildup means that tiny creatures known as mites can feed on these cells, causing discomfort and even a rash.
“You won’t just be sleeping in the filth of sweat and dead skin cells, but dust mites as well.”
Does the time of year matter?
“We can be a little more tolerant in the winter months,” says Browning, stressing that changing at least once a week “would be ideal.”
If you’re taking longer than two weeks, “you’re entering not-so-good territory.”
Even if we sweat less in the winter, you still get rid of dead skin cells, she says.
“And you still go to bed with your hands a little dirty, with the same breath coming out of your mouth.”
In the survey, 18% said they showered at night to avoid soiling the sheets and used this practice as a justification for not changing the bedding more regularly.
Browning says summer still brings the added respiratory problems of allergic rhinitis and pollen.
“It’s really important to wash the sheets regularly because otherwise you’re going to have these allergens in the bed and it’s going to cause this congestion.”
Forgetting (67%), not being disturbed (35%) and not having another clean (22%) are some of the top reasons people say they don’t change their bedding more often, with 38% saying they don’t believe that bedding needs to be washed “more often,” according to research by Pizuna Linens.
Browning says your bedroom should be a “sanctuary” to sleep and “a wonderful, pleasant place where you feel happy.”
She has clients with insomnia and says that “if their sheets aren’t washed, look dirty and smell bad, it adds to that feeling that your bed isn’t where you want to be.”
“If we lie down and feel relaxed, comfortable and happy, that smell of new bedding helps us feel calm and happy.”
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