Why an Unmade Bed Is Healthier

Neatniks, cover your eyes.  New research from Kingston University in the United Kingdom [Not so new now, reported in the BBC January 2005] has concluded that an unmade bed is not only unappealing to the eyes, but also unappealing to house dust mites, which are thought to cause asthma and other allergies.

The average bed can be home to as many as 1.5 million house dust mites, and when a bed is made up, it traps moisture in the sheets and mattress —ideal conditions for those mites.  But the bugs apparently have a harder time surviving in the drier conditions of an unmade bed, reports the BBC News.

The big takeaway: Since dust mites are a leading cause of allergies and asthma, keeping your bed unmade could keep you healthier.

House dust mites are less than a millimeter long and feed on the scales of human skin.  They produce allergens which are easily inhaled during sleep. When we sleep, the bed becomes warm and even damp, conditions that help the house dust mites to grow and multiply.  “We know that mites can only survive by taking in water from the atmosphere using small glands on the outside of their body,” lead researcher Dr. Stephen Pretlove told the BBC News.  “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.”

While house dust mites are a major cause of allergies and asthma, avoiding them is almost impossible.  That’s why the Kingston University scientists have developed a computer model to track how specific changes in the home, including heating, ventilation, and insulation, can reduce the number of dust mites in beds.  They’ll be testing it in 36 houses around the United Kingdom to determine how people’s daily routines impact the mite population.  The knowledge gained could help architects and builders create healthier homes.

Not everyone agrees it’s possible to get rid of the critters.  “It is true that mites need humid conditions to thrive and cannot survive in very dry, desert-like conditions,” Andrew Wardlaw of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology told the BBC.  “However, most homes in the UK are sufficiently humid for the mites to do well, and I find it hard to believe that simply not making your bed would have any impact on the overall humidity.”

via email from D. Kimball Lord,

Just the excuse I have been looking for my whole life; so I could leave the bed a gigantic mess!  Of course, this will be just like every other story that claims something is good or bad for you.  A year from now, they’ll be saying that making the bed has more psychological benefits than the alergy benefits you get from killing the dust mites in your house.

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