You’ll probably spend about a third of your life, under the sheets, wrapped up in a blanket, head lightly placed on a pillow, lost in an endless dream.
Your closest companions are what cover you: clothes, bedding, socks, pillows. Aka, linens and fabrics.
Sleeping, for a typical adult, is tallied up to being 9,587.3 days for the average lifespan. That, my friends, is a lot of shut eye. But while we’re all so concerned of how much, or little, sleep we are getting, how much attention do we pay to our sheets and bedding? While researchers have found that sleep plays an important role in our body’s organs, how do our sheets play a role in our lives?
I talked to a few of my friends about the subject. Dana* said she cleans her sheet, “every couple [of] weeks,” and in the summer she cleans them “every week.” While Robert* says he honestly can’t remember the last time he cleaned his sheets. For myself, I honestly just forget and never found myself feeling grimy in bed, but knew that I probably needed to change them. Living in the city, laundry is expensive and I don’t always have the means to clean my sheets asap (excuses, excuses, I know). Since I struggle from acne, I try and change out my pillow cases every two weeks which usually accompanies bed sheets as well. Greg* says, “I haven’t changed my sheets since I moved into my apartment a few months ago.” Look, Greg, some of us might be crazy but we aren’t that crazy.
Let’s move on to the science behind clean sheets. Mattress Advisor made it clear how much I’m pushing the boundaries when it comes to clean sheets. According to the brand, keeping your sheets clean also contributes to personal health. 26 gallons of sweat are poured into our bed sheets every year. Additionally, humans shed 10 grams of skin each day. Basically, a breeding ground for bacteria. And as you can expect, in the summer months when it’s hot and humid, the bacteria on your pillow can house “16 species of fungus each.”
Microbiologist, Philip Tierno from New York University even goes so far to call it a “botanical park” of bacteria and fungus. The bacteria lives between the folds of our sheets and can contribute to getting sick. The bacteria then finds it way into our noses and mouths, where we react with sneezing and an allergic response. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that 90 percent of American homes that they tested had “at least three detectable allergens.”
Mattress Advisor conducted a study of 1,000 American and their opinions of their bed-cleaning habits. Most people go 24.5 days without changing their bed sheets, and 25 days before changing their pillow cases. Scientists think that this is way too low and suggest to clean your bedding every week. The study also found that most people found it “gross” if they went up to 35 days without a wash of their linens. That’s roughly five weeks of unwashed sheets.
Who cleans their sheets more? Male-identifying people go 29.6 days without cleaning their sheets while women-identifying people go 19.4 days. People in relationships change their sheets a little bit more than those who are single. Married couples change their bedsheets every 19.9 days while single people go, on average, 37 days. You’re only responsible for your own grime when it’s you and you alone, right? The study also found that people who sleep in the nude wash their sheets often. For people who drool regularly, however, they wait 31.8 days to change their pillowcases.
What about after coitus? Women-identifying people wait 4.3 days to wash their sheets after sex while men-identifying people wait 11.7 days. This number increased after a one-night stand experience for male-identifying persons and decreased for women-identifying persons. For men, they wait 18.1 days after a one-night stand and women wait 2.2 days.
I write this article from the comfort of my bed (a perk of being a journalist) and I can’t help but wonder, should I fit another laundry day in this week? Between the cracks and crevices of my sheets are skin, fungus, and bacteria. It’s not an attractive and comfortable image to imagine as I’m nestled between my pillows and comforter.
Whether your bedding is washed or not is up to your personal standards—no judgement here—but I will leave you to ponder this quote from Philip Tierno which is sure to make you buy a new bottle of detergent and begin collect your laundry coins.
“If you touched dog poo in the street, you’d want to wash your hands,” says Tierno. Consider that analogous to your bedding. If you saw what was there — but of course you don’t see it — after a while you have to say to yourself, ‘Do I want to sleep in that?'”
IMAGE COURTESY OF GETTYIMAGES
*names have been changed