You’ve probably heard sleep doctors extol the virtues of practicing good sleep hygiene. Decades of research suggest that practicing healthy sleep habits, such as going to bed at the same time every night and blocking evening light with a sleep mask, can boost your chances of waking up refreshed in the morning. But have you ever thought about the role your bed hygiene might play in your ability to get a good night’s rest?
What Is Bed Hygiene and Why Does It Matter?
Sleep hygiene and bed hygiene are two different things. Sleep hygiene is generally defined as the habits and behaviors that help promote a better night’s rest. These may include things like eating a light meal for dinner, getting exercise and relaxing before bed with a weighted blanket.
In contrast, bed hygiene refers to the actual cleanliness of our bed. The reality is that we spend approximately 49 to 60 hours in our beds each week, sloughing off dead skin cells and transferring sweat, oil and other gunk to our bedding. Without regular cleaning, this unwanted debris can build up in our beds, contributing to allergies, asthma, eczema and other problems that can interfere with sleep.
And if that isn’t reason enough to establish a regular cleaning schedule for your bedding, consider these unsavory facts:
- Humans naturally produce up to 26 gallons of sweat in bed per year (Source: Business Insider)
- The average bed contains between 100,000 and 10 million dust mites (Source: Chicago Tribune)
- Your bed has more skin, oral and fecal matter than a chimpanzee’s (Source: North Carolina State University)
Pretty gross, right? Luckily, washing your bedding regularly can go a long way in clearing out any unwanted visitors, including pet dander, pollen, bacteria and spores of fungi. And with a few simple tips and tools, establishing a cleaning schedule for your bedding is easier than you might think!
When to Wash Bed Sheets, Blankets, Comforters and More
In many households, it’s normal to dedicate one day a week to doing laundry (usually Saturday or Sunday). But the truth is that not all bedding items require weekly washing. Certain types of bedding, including comforters, blankets and other materials that don’t come in direct contact with your skin, are generally fine to wash every month or so.
Here’s a quick rundown of how often to wash common types of bedding, including bed sheets, blankets and more.
1. Sheets and Pillow Cases
Frequency: Once a week or every two weeks
Because sheets come in direct contact with the skin, it’s generally advisable to wash them at least once every two weeks if possible. If you work out in the evening, sweat excessively during the night or allow your pets to share your bed space, consider increasing the frequency to once per week. If a once-per-week washing schedule sounds like a chore, consider investing in two sets of sheets. That way, you can wash your sheets less frequently without risking any possible respiratory or skin issues caused by sweat, oil and allergens.
Whether you’re dealing with sheets, blankets or a comforter, it’s always good practice to read the care label before you throw any type of bedding in the wash. That said, most sheets should be washed in cold water on a delicate cycle.
With sheets, it’s particularly important to wash them separately from clothing. If you wash your sheets and clothes together, the sheets may lose their softness, and your clothes may not get fully cleaned due to tangling.
Frequency: Once or twice a month
Blankets need regular cleaning as well, but how often you decide to pop them in the wash depends on how frequently they get used. For instance, if you have a decorative throw blanket that rarely gets used, you can likely get away with washing it once every three to four months.
If you cuddle up with your blanket nightly or use it for the occasional weekend nap session, you’ll want to wash it more frequently — anywhere from once per month to once per week.
The best approach to cleaning a blanket depends on the fabric. Cotton blankets can usually be laundered without much fuss, while others require special cleaning. If the care label doesn’t provide instructions, the safest thing to do is to hand wash and air-dry the blanket.
Frequency: Every three to four months
As far as regular cleanings go, comforters are one of the most neglected bedding items. They’re bulky and often require a large capacity washing machine, which many people don’t have at home. Consequently, most people don’t wash them until a spilled glass of wine or a muddy pawprint forces their hand.
Fortunately, comforters don’t need to be cleaned as regularly as blankets and sheets — about once every three to four months. A good tip is to wash them whenever the seasons change.
In addition to reading the instruction label carefully, make sure your washing machine is large enough to properly clean your comforter. If you try to cram your bulky comforter into a small washing machine, it won’t get sufficiently cleaned. Even worse, you could ruin your expensive comforter.
4. Duvet Covers
Frequency: Once every week or every other week
Most experts recommend washing duvet covers once per week or every other week. If you use a top sheet and shower nightly before going to bed, you might be able to go one additional week without washing. And if you’re avoiding washing your duvet cover because you loathe putting it back on, allow us to change your life by introducing you to the duvet burrito method.
Duvet covers can be expensive, so take care to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. (Some duvet covers are dry clean only!)
First, pre-treat any tough stains with a gentle detergent that’s safe for all fabric types. If you’re washing your duvet cover at home, use cold water on a normal wash cycle. Also, make sure you fasten buttons and ties before you toss it in the wash to avoid tangling.
With so many things battling for our attention daily, getting a good night’s sleep can be a serious challenge. Dirty bedding shouldn’t be a contributing factor to our sleep troubles. By following the suggested guidelines above, you can keep your bedding in tip-top shape and, in doing so, promote a healthier night’s rest.