Is your bed causing your health problems?

It’s safe to say we resort to our bed when we’re feeling a little under the weather, but is our haven actually the cause of our health problems?

A scientific study has found that the bacteria, moulds and yeasts that thrive in the material can provoke allergies, cause infections and exacerbate existing lung conditions.

So the common health problems the majority of us suffer with, like back ache, shortness of breath and chronic rhinitis (runny nose), may be traced back to your old mattresses and bedding.

The study, commissioned by Dreams, was carried out under direction from University Professor and environmental hygiene experts, Dr Lisa Ackerley, analysing samples of eight year old mattresses.

Dr Ackerley said: “Most people would be rather surprised by the things you can find in an old mattress. Mould spores and bacteria build up over the years and although invisible, you could be breathing in these harmful spores at night.

“Due to the amount of human contact with the average mattress, it’s inevitable that microbes and unwanted guests will develop over time. People tend to focus on cleaning the things they can see – pillows and sheets, but the mattress itself can be a ‘hot bed’ of potential illness.”

Is your bed making you sick?

Are you breathing harmful spores in bed at night?

Samples were taken at different depths from the mattress exterior to the base layer. The tests revealed the presence of Enterobacteriaceae, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. There were also yeasts and moulds such as Cladosporium on the top layer plus Aspergillus and Saprophytic moulds deeper within the mattress.

Dr Ackerley added: “Finding bacteria such as E. coli indicates the presence of faecal contamination, which shows that if someone was carrying an infectious disease, it could be passed on to someone else sharing the bed, or using the bed at another time. Some Staphylococcus aureus bacteria can cause skin infections and there are strains that are anti-biotic resistant, including MRSA.”

Following the findings of the study, Dreams has created a simple five-step health check to improve the health of your bed and your sleep hygiene.

Bedroom health check list

  • Keep your bedroom well ventilated and open windows when possible. You can also leave the duvet pulled back for a few hours after waking, allowing the bed to cool faster. This will restrict the growth of moulds and yeasts – not just in the mattress but around the windows.
  • Put pillow cases, sheets and covers on to a hot wash as higher temperatures are required to kill germs and dust mites – ideals 60°C plus. Including a laundry additive will also help to kill bacteria and viruses.
  • Replace your mattress every eight years to ensure that it remains fit for purpose – supportive and comfortable, without a build up of potentially harmful microbes.
  • Using a mattress protector will help to reduce the amount of material absorbed by the mattress. You can wash this regularly, but of course you can’t wash your mattress.
  • Carry out a simple bed frame check at least twice per year. Look for any loose fittings or broken slats as this may affect how the mattress sits on the bed.
Is your bed making you sick?

Do you know what’s really lurking in your bed?

Dr Ackerley has put together a list of common medical conditions, which are often associated with age, and the possible bed related causes that could actually be the reason behind them.

Common medical conditions that could be caused by your bed

Symptoms: Neck pain, back pain in the upper central or lumbar spine, joint pain, compressed nerves, sciatica

Source: Mattress/bed frame

Possible cause: Sagging springs and floppy foam that doesn’t support your body correctly

Symptoms: Rhinitis (runny nose)

Source: Mattress/bedding

Possible cause: Allergens in dust mite droppings

Symptoms: Breathing problems, worsening of asthma, hives

Source: Mattress/bedding

Possible cause: Allergens in dust mite droppings

Symptoms: Coughing, wheezing, itchy eyes, eczema, asthma worsens

Source: Mattress

Possible cause: Mould spores (various)

Symptoms: Skin and wound infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia

Source: Mattress/bedding

Possible cause: Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, including anti-biotic resistant strains

Symptoms: Itchy skin and bite marks

Source: Mattress/bedding

Possible cause: Bed bugs

Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps

Source: Mattress/bedding

Possible cause: Viruses such as norovirus