Keeping up with household chores can be tough. Making sure all of your ceiling fans aren't collecting an overabundance of dust, sweeping up the crumbs underneath your kitchen table, sanitizing your door handles to keep little kid hands from leaving behind snotty germs — it all adds up fast. Because you're busy keeping the rest of your home tidy, sometimes it's easy to overlook the one place you're supposed to spend at least eight hours sleeping every night, and these seven gross things you're probably doing wrong in the bedroom could be impacting your health in a major way.
According to Janet K. Kennedy, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor, “A clean room is important for our physical and mental health. Keeping clutter at bay and changing bedding frequently helps to control dust, mites and other allergens that can interfere with sleep quality,” she tells Romper. “And messiness can be stressful because it serves as a constant reminder of tasks left undone and triggers thoughts about things that are best left to daytime. A clean bedroom can help us separate from the stress of the day and enter into sleep without so many distractions.”
Unfortunately, some of the cleaning you skimp on in your own bedroom can have an adverse effect, and it's time to step it up for the sake of your health.
1. You're Not Washing Your Pillow Every 6 Months
According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should be washing your pillow (not just the pillowcase, people) once every six months with hot water and mild detergent and using a protective case in-between. This will prevent a build-up of dead skin cells, oils, and other bacteria that can lead to dust mites and allergens that can cause harmful health issues. They also recommend replacing your pillow once every year or two after the pillow loses its shape and fluffiness to prevent neck and back problems.
2. You’re Not Washing Your Sheets Once A Week
According to a study done by mattress company Amerisleep, your sheets can contain 24,631 times more bacteria than your bathroom doorknob one week after washing. Can you just imagine how much more bacteria grows after multiple weeks?
Experts generally recommend washing your sheets weekly. While you may not get sick for sleeping in unwashed sheets night after night, you may be doing damage to your skin according to dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D. in an article for Self. She explained that the changes to your skin's microbiome due to sleeping in unwashed sheets can lead to acne.
I've definitely skipped one too many weeks (Ew. Yes, I know.) of washing my sheets when I've been too busy with all of my other wife, mom, and working person responsibilities to really care. However, knowing that this could be the very thing that is making those weird pimples on my shoulders keep popping up makes me seriously examine my sheet washing habits.
3. You're Keeping Clutter Visible
Out of sight, out of mind, right? If your bedroom has random things strewn about, your sleep habits might be impacted. In a piece for Psychology Today, psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter said, "Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally." Relaxation is essential for a restful night's sleep, so clearing the clutter in your bedroom to allow yourself to relax is key here.
The same can be said of electronic clutter in your bedroom, according to Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg, a sleep psychologist and a Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "The blue light from these devices can suppress the release of melatonin and potentially delay the onset of sleep. The best option is to remove all electronics from the bedroom (laptops, smart phones, televisions, game systems, and so on) and replace these with a great reading light and a basket of books you would look forward to reading, plus some magazines and puzzle books."
4. Your Closet Is A Disaster Area
I'll remember to clean out my closet once in a blue moon, not realizing how much the mess of ill-fitting clothes piled up in the corner is impacting my mental health because I'm too pre-occupied with packing school lunches and helping with homework. But in reality, the mental load associated with a messy closet is one that just adds onto the already high burden moms carry. Research has shown that decluttering can have a profound impact on anxiety levels, so cleaning out your closet may just help lower your stress level.
A 2015 study published in the journal Sleep by clinical psychologist Pamela Thatcher suggests a link between poor sleep, poor mood and concentration, and hoarders. While I'm not saying that having a messy closet makes you a hoarder, I am saying that having tons of unorganized junk piled in your closet might be preventing you from being in a good head space. If you sort through your physical stuff and clear space in your closet, your mood may improve.
5. You're Sleeping On The Same Mattress You Did As A Teenager
According to The National Sleep Foundation, you should be replacing your mattress every eight years. For years, I slept on a mattress that was passed down from my aunt to myself when I was in middle school — completely ignoring this sage expert advice because mattresses can be pricey. Little did I know that sleeping on an old mattress can cause back problems as the mattress begins to lose shape and spring, allergy issues when dust mites settle in after years of use.
The National Sleep Foundation also suggests that sleeping on an old mattress can cause chronic sleep disruptions due to general discomfort while sleeping, which can lead to a wide range of health problems as your immune system is not getting the support it needs from a good night's rest.
6. You Let Dirty Clothes Pile Up
I'm seriously airing some of my own dirty laundry here by saying that I am terrible about keeping up with washing my own clothes. My kids' clothes get washed with great regularity, but I am guilty of letting my laundry pile up in a corner in my bedroom. According to a report by The Spruce, this could be causing allergy issues.
Additionally, that dirty clothes pile could be harboring dangerous bacteria. NBC News reported that norovirus can live on fabrics for weeks, so if you go too long without washing your clothes, you're putting yourself at risk.
7. You Drink From Water Cups That Have Been Left Out
Waking up thirsty is something I'm sure you've experienced at least a few times. But you should probably think twice before reaching for the glass of water that has been sitting on your bedside table for a while. Reader's Digest reported that bacteria from your own backwash can fester in the glass and drinking it after it has been sitting out could mean you're ingesting more bacteria than you initially deposited into the water.
Elizabeth Sherwin, M.D., FHRS., pediatric cardiologist and electrophysiologist at Children’s National Health System tells Romper that generally, drinking water that has just been out overnight should be fine, but does say that you may want to exercise caution in certain situations. "Water does not 'go bad' or need to be refrigerated. However, if you or someone else who was drinking out of that glass was sick, then bacteria could still be present on the glass. If there is pollution in the air or other things that could contaminate the water (such as a cat on the counter drinking out of the glass), then I would not recommend drinking the water the next day," she says.