Do you wake up feeling more tired than when you went to bed the night before? Are headaches, nasal congestion or sore throats just part of your morning routine? Is it hard to remember the last time you slept well, or woke up without feeling stiff and sore? If you find yourself nodding, “Yes,” to these questions, it’s possible that your bedroom is making you sick.
- Your pillow
After a long, hard day, you probably let out a sigh of relief when your head hits the pillow. Unfortunately, pillows quickly build up excessive amounts of health busters such as bacteria, mold spores and dust mites, leading to allergy symptoms such as sore throat, headache and congestion. Pillows should be replaced at least once per year if they aren’t washable. Use an anti-allergy cover to protect your pillow, and change the pillowcase every few days.
If it’s not allergy symptoms, but headaches, stiff neck or sore shoulders that bother you in the morning, your pillow could still be to blame. Over time, pillows lose support and shape, leaving your head out of alignment with your spine. If your pillow doesn’t spring back to its original shape after being folded in half, or it’s a foam pillow with an indentation of your head permanently etched in place, it’s time for a replacement.
While houseplants add a powerful punch of colorful interest to your bedroom—and even help purify the air— if you tend to overwater them, not only will your plants eventually succumb to root rot, but it’s quite likely that their soil will become home to mold spores that can trigger allergic symptoms in those susceptible to asthma or airborne allergies. The solution is simple—only water houseplants when the top of the soil is dry, and never leave them sitting in a tray of water.
Sure, Fido and Mittens are beloved family members, but when it comes to bedtime, they are better off in their own cozy beds, not sharing yours. Not only are pets likely to disrupt your sleep, but their fur is full of allergens such as dander, dust, pollen, mold spores and bacteria. Give your four-footed friends their own beds next to yours, and you are all likely to sleep better.
While candles are undeniably romantic, and a great decorating touch in the bedroom, if you burn scented candles frequently, you risk less-than-sexy side effects. Scented paraffin candles can release harmful chemicals such as benzene and toluene as they burn, while the scent itself is an irritant to those with chemical sensitivities. You can minimize the risk by burning beeswax or soy candles, staying away from candles with metal-center wicks, and keeping a window cracked open while the candle is burning.
- Vacuum cleaner
Although your vacuum cleaner is the easiest way to tackle dust bunnies in the bedroom, if you are using a vacuum without a HEPA filter, you could be sucking up dust, pollen, dirt and grime, only to have it spray right back out into your bedroom air. Look for a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filters that contain even the smallest particles, and if the vacuum uses bags, make sure those are made from HEPA material as well.
- Cleaning products
Sure, you want your bedroom clean and sparkling, but not if it means eye irritation, respiratory problems or headaches. And that’s what many commercial cleaning products deliver to those sensitive to fragrances, VOCs and other irritating ingredients. Instead, use natural cleaning products that are free of harmful chemicals, or even better, use effective, simple DIY cleaners like vinegar to keep your bedroom clean.
- Your windows
If your bedroom window is permanently shut, you’re sealing in a wide range of pollutants, including dust, pollen and dander; fumes from cleaning products; off-gassing from carpets, furniture and paint; and chemicals from toiletries like hairspray, deodorant and nail polish. The Environmental Protection Agency claims that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than the air outdoors, a startling figure. When weather and safety permit, open your bedroom windows and let fresh air circulate through the room.
- The humidifier
Dry, itchy skin due to the use of central heat during the winter is a common problem everywhere, and in arid climates like the southwest, it’s a year-round annoyance. While running a bedside humidifier in your bedroom is a great way to relieve symptoms caused by dry air, if you forget to change the water daily or neglect regular cleaning of the humidifier, you might soon find yourself with another heath concern – allergy-like symptoms due to growth of mold in the humidifier. Change humidifier water daily and clean it thoroughly at least once per week.
- Your mattress
You spend a third of your life on your mattress, and it has the skin flakes, bodily fluids, dust mites, bacteria, dust and grime to prove it. Your mattress requires regular cleaning just like the rest of your bedroom. You’ll also benefit by protecting the mattress with a protective cover that’s impermeable to dust mites, fluids and small particles.
Other health issues come from the loss of support in an aging mattress. Mattresses more than five years old tend to develop sags, wear to the springs and foam, and flattening due to the weight of your body. If waking up with an aching back has started to seem normal, and you find yourself rolling into a valley in the center of the bed, it’s time to start considering a new mattress. Generally, you can expect to replace your mattress every five to ten years for the best support and sleep quality.
Sure, carpet is soft and pleasant on bare feet, making it the most popular flooring choice for the bedroom. But carpet holds on to every speck of dust, dirt, pollen, animal dander and general grime from shoes and feet, and it can even become a home to fleas if your pets are infested. At a minimum, your bedroom carpet needs weekly vacuuming and a good shampooing every few months. If allergies or asthma is an issue, you’ll feel better if you get rid of the carpet and install wood or laminate instead. It’s much easier to keep clean.