Sleeping in summer is a real challenge for some people. The main – but not the only – reason is the high temperatures. One way to alleviate the sensation of heat during hot nights is to use the most appropriate sheets according to each region.
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How often should those sheets be changed, and does the season influence how often they should be washed? The answer to this last question is yes, for a logical reason: when it’s hot, we sweat more, and sweat soils the clothes that come into contact with our bodies.
We often don’t think about it, but everyone is in contact with bed linen for a third of their time. A study by British scientists mentions that an adult person, while sleeping, can produce up to 100 litres of sweat every year. This makes the bed, according to the paper, an “ideal medium for the cultivation of fungi”.
Body waste and other substances that soil bed sheets
Such contamination does not occur only with sweat, of course. Many other body wastes end up on the sheets, such as dead cells, saliva, hairs, secretions, urine residues and other substances.
In addition, the amount of body waste left on the bed is greater if you sleep scantily clad or naked. This practice is more common in summer but can be maintained throughout the year, as it offers some benefits.
The dirt on the sheets is not limited to body waste: we must also consider the remains of makeup, creams and other cosmetics, animal hair, bacteria, fungi, pollen, dust and a multitude of other particles that people often carry – without realizing it – from their daily lives to the bed.
For To get an idea, just one fact is enough: it is estimated that in a pillow that has been used for six years, 10% of its weight corresponds to “shed skin, live mites, dead mites and mite droppings”. Two decades ago, John Maunder, an expert from the British Entomological Medical Centre, came to such unpleasant findings.
The study cited above, meanwhile, found up to 17 different species of fungi on pillows between one and a half and twenty years old. The work analysed both feather and synthetic pillows.
With pillows and pillowcases there is the aggravating factor that they are in direct contact with the face, putting at risk delicate parts such as the eyes, mouth, nose and ears. If we take into account that, in general, we are increasingly allergic, and that pollen and environmental pollution are two key factors in this regard, the hygiene of bed linen becomes essential.
And that’s not the only thing. Incorrect hygiene in sheets and bed linen can cause skin irritation, eczema and other problems, which in principle can cause discomfort for a healthy sleep and, over time, lead to major inconveniences.
Recommended frequency for changing sheets
Let’s go back to the initial question: how often should the sheets be changed? In general, once a week is a good frequency, as explained in an article by Philip Tierno, a microbiologist and pathologist at New York University School of Medicine.
But in summer, for everything explained so far, the recommendation is that the frequency is higher, and that the sheets are changed every three or four days. Or even more frequently, in the case of people who sweat a lot or in regions with high humidity, as the latter favors the proliferation of microorganisms.
This washing should also be done with hot water, with programs of 40 or 60 ºC, as this really acts against dust mites. In the words of John Maunder, “if you wash clothes with parasites at low temperatures, all you get are cleaner parasites”.
As far as humidity is concerned, make sure that the sheets (and all clothing, in fact) are cleaner.The best way to keep them dry before putting them back in the wardrobe is to keep them damp. Storing them damp is also a favour to dust mites and other microbes.
Another way to reduce the presence of these creatures is, interestingly, to leave the bed unmade, as a study by Kingston University in the UK found. This is because the conditions in the “inside” of the bed – that is, the space between the sheets and countertops – are the most conducive to these pests: warmer, wetter and darker.
If sheets and blankets are left untidy, that “indoor” space will be smaller. Of course, airing rooms – cross ventilation is not only effective against covid – and access to natural light are also key to bed hygiene.
Cleaning the mattress is also key
In addition, parasites lodge and leave their dirt not only on sheets and pillows, but also on the mattress. That’s why cleaning it is also essential (and, according to the US National Sleep Foundation, the mattress should be replaced every six to eight years).
There are a few essential steps to mattress cleaning. The first is vacuuming – as if it were a carpet – to remove as many microorganisms and dirt particles as possible. Then, if stains of sweat, blood, etc. are detected, they should be cleaned with soap and cold water.
Finally, it is advisable to apply baking soda over the entire surface of the mattress, so that this substance absorbs moisture and neutralizes the odor. After about eight hours, vacuum again to remove the baking soda.
This cleaning of the mattress is recommended every six months, unless there is an important stain. In that case, it is advisable to act on it before it dries too much, to prevent it from impregnating the fabrics and making it much more difficult, or impossible, to remove.
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