As winter blankets the UK in longer nights and colder temperatures, sleep experts are urging the public to reconsider their morning routine, particularly for those who make their beds immediately upon waking. The seemingly innocuous act of making one’s bed could be contributing to or exacerbating health issues, warn experts.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that during winter, healthy adults tend to sleep up to two and a half hours longer due to the combination of shorter days, earlier sunsets, and colder temperatures affecting natural circadian rhythms. The reduced exposure to sunlight also leads to lower Vitamin D levels, linked to excessive sleepiness, anxiety, and depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), prevalent during the winter months, can further contribute to increased sleepiness among the population.

While the inclination to stay snug under the covers may be a natural response to the winter chill, sleep experts caution that this prolonged lounging can create a breeding ground for dust mites. These minuscule creatures, thriving in warm and humid environments, particularly bedding, feed on dead skin cells shed by humans.

Making the bed immediately allows these pests to survive and reproduce, potentially triggering health issues such as asthma, eczema, and allergies akin to hay fever. Symptoms may manifest as nasal congestion, skin rashes, sneezing, and watery eyes. Zoma Sleep experts recommend leaving the bed unmade for at least 30 minutes to an hour to disrupt the ideal conditions for dust mites, allowing moisture and sweat to evaporate and heat to dissipate.

Apart from delaying bed-making, there are other measures individuals can take to create a less hospitable environment for dust mites. Regularly washing sheets once a week helps remove moisture and eliminate lingering dust mites. Vacuuming mattresses, chairs, and other upholstery can also contribute to a mite-free living space by eliminating the skin cells they feed on. Investing in wool bedding can further reduce moisture, creating an inhospitable habitat for these pests.

The NHS underlines the significance of addressing dust mites in homes, citing them as one of the most common causes of indoor allergies. University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire provide practical advice to minimize exposure, including washing bedding at 60 degrees Celsius, encasing mattresses, pillows, and duvets in mite-proof covers, and minimizing the use of soft toys. Ventilating living spaces by opening windows and reducing heating can also deter dust mites.

In addition to these measures, the experts recommend damp-dusting to prevent skin cells and mites from becoming airborne and using a vacuum cleaner with a dust mite filter. When replacing household items, such as curtains and carpets, consider alternatives like blinds and wooden flooring to create less favorable conditions for dust mites.

While the advice may seem daunting, making small adjustments to daily habits and home environments can significantly impact overall health. Sleep experts stress the importance of being mindful of the impact of winter on sleep patterns and taking proactive steps to ensure a healthier and more restful winter season.

Aaron Shaw

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