User's Manual: Sleep

How Healthy is Your Bedroom?

It’s not just somewhere you snooze. The 8-plus hours you spend there each night could affect your stress level, your sex life, even your health.


no-throw-pillows
Shannon Greer
We spend roughly a third of our lives in our bedrooms. So its not surprising that the state of your boudoir can affect not just the quality of your sleep and your sex life (duh), but also your stress levels, your allergy symptoms, even your exposure to toxins.

Like a lot of us, I suffer from allergies, I dont sleep as well as Id like, and Im definitely always looking for ways to improve my health. So I invited five healthy-living pros—an allergist, a sleep doc, a green-lifestyle specialist, a stress expert, and a sex coach—into my house to assess the state of my bedroom. Turn the page for the surprising health and happiness hazards the experts uncovered, and their tips for turning my bedroom (and yours!) into a truly restorative retreat.

First visit: the allergist
Make mold history My house was built in the 1880s and has suffered water damage over the years. One leak in particular is ongoing—no one can seem to fix it! And sure enough, there are telltale signs of mold on the walls, says David Fost, MD, an allergist
socks-on-bed
Shannon Greer
and immunologist in Verona, New Jersey. It seems Im living in the ideal breeding ground for all types of mold, from Aspergillus—the most common cause of respiratory disease—to Cladosporium, a fungus often involved in skin and nail infections.

"They can aggravate typical allergy symptoms like stuffiness, wheezing, and skin and eye irritation," Dr. Fost says. The remedy: Well need to plug up the leak for good (if thats possible), clean the area with a bleach solution, and keep the humidity low (between 40 and 60 percent) by using a dehumidifier and/or an air conditioner (which also removes moisture from the air).

Say sayonara to dust mites Next on the hit list is dust mites, which excrete a protein in their feces that can trigger sneezing and a runny nose. You cant see them, but Dr. Fost knows theyre there—mainly because I havent taken any precautions to keep them out. "In humid areas like the Northeast, where we are, a mattress will double its weight in 10 years from dust mites," Dr. Fost says. So Im basically sleeping in bug poop. Nice. The fix is to use hypoallergenic encasements on my mattress and pillows (Dr. Fost recommends Mission: Allergy). I also need to wash my sheets weekly in hot water, lower the thermostat (to 68 degrees in winter), and again, keep humidity levels low. It will also help, he says, to use a HEPA-filter vacuum and to clean with microfiber cloths that trap dust instead of launching it into the air. The good news: Dr. Fost does approve of the area rug I have on the floor instead of allergen-trapping wall-to-wall carpeting. Phew.


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Aviva Patz
Last Updated: March 09, 2011

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