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Can Science Tell Me If I Should Make My Bed?

By   /  October 19, 2015  /  Comments Off on Can Science Tell Me If I Should Make My Bed?

Recently headlines in the popular press say you may be healthier when you don’t make your bed. But is that what the science really says? Here’s what I learned. In the end you’ll know if science can tell you to make your bed or not, and how On Pasture gathers and translates science for you so you can use it in your daily life.

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Fall Fund Raiser article topperI have a confession to make. No, it’s not that I’m a science geek. You already knew that. My confession is that for decades I did not make my bed.

I had a good explanation for this personal failing. I was a busy person and making the bed seemed silly considering I would just be getting in and messing it up again in 12 to 16 hours. But then something happened to me when we moved to Tucson, Arizona about a year ago. I started making the bed every morning shortly after getting up. I don’t know why I did it. Maybe it was one little thing that I could control in a world that had been turned upside down by our move. I liked how it looked when I’d walk into the room, and so I kept it up. But now, a little over a year into my new, improved habit, I’ve read something disturbing: Research may indicate that we are healthier when we DON’T make our beds!

Now what am I going to do?! Well, I’m going to look into the science behind this of course!

I started with the article in Elite Daily by Gillian Fuller who explains:

Did you know that you're sleeping with 1.5 million of these every night? But don't worry, they live in other parts of your house too.

Did you know that you’re sleeping with 1.5 million of these every night? But don’t worry, they live in other parts of your house too.

“Here’s the deal: At any given time, there are an average of 1.5 million microscopic insects called dust mites living between your sheets. These tiny, beetle-like creatures feed off human skin cells and require a warm, damp atmosphere to survive and thrive.”

The problem with this, in addition to the yuck factor, is that some people are allergic to dust mite poop. So Dr. Stephen Pretlove of the U.K.’s Kingston University School of Architecture decided to see what it would take to reduce the dust mite population. It turns out that they take water in from small glands on their bodies and he says, “Something as simple as leaving a bed unmade during the day can remove moisture from the sheets and mattress so the mites will dehydrate and eventually die.”

But I LIKE making my bed now, and I’m skeptical of things I read in the popular press, so I decided I better check into this whole humidity/dust mite survival thing. I head over to Google Scholar and type in “stephen pretlove research on mites” and I find out that Dr. Pretlove has been busy studying and writing on this topic for some time. Normally, scholarly articles appear in journals and I have to head to the University library to read them, but in this case, I strike gold. A number of Dr. Pretlove’s articles are available in PDF and I download them!

Now comes the really hard part: sifting through the paper looking for things I can understand. As I read I try to understand both his results, and how he arrived at them.  In this case I learned that Dr. Pretlove actually measured the humidity and temperatures in a whole variety of beds with different kinds of people using them, and where some people made their beds and others didn’t. Then he took that information, combined it with what we know about how dustmites breed and hatch, and created a computer model that could predict dustmite populations in different settings. It was interesting but complicated reading.

Should You Make Your Bed?

Cats on an unmade bed....what's your opinion on this?

Cats on an unmade bed….what’s your opinion on this?

Well, it’s complicated. If you don’t make your bed, dustmites will get dehydrated and some will die. In addition, if you keep your bedroom below 55 degrees F (12 C) they have a harder time reproducing. So it’s possible that you can reduce the number of dustmites in your bed by not making it, and by keeping a cold room. But dustmites are remarkably well adapted to changing environmental conditions. They can exist in a very dehydrated state for a months, and though changing humidity and temperature affects how rapidly they reproduce and how long they survive as individuals, it doesn’t take much for them to rebound.

There are also other life goals that Dr. Pretlove isn’t considering as part of his research. For example, one of my friends says if you’ve got pets in the house, making the bed is a nice way to be sure they’re not messing up your sheets for you. My grandma said we should make our beds because it kept you from laying back down in them in the middle of the day, so there could be psychological reasons for making your bed. And maybe you’re not allergic to dustmites, so this isn’t a factor for you. This dustmite research is only one part of the whole picture.

What Does This Mean For You?

Providing you the information you can use to decide whether or not to make your bed is just a part of this story. What I really wanted to show you is the process that I went through to get the information.  By the time I finished, I’d spent about 2 days reading about dust mites and the result of the studies by Dr. Pretlove and his colleagues. What that actually means is that I’d read for awhile until my head felt overwhelmed by all the new info, and then I’d do other work while I waited for my head to absorb and understand what I was learning. Then I let it all ruminate in my head for a few days so that I could come up with the essence of what I would tell you.

It’s the same process that Rachel and I go through when we’re looking into the latest claim about what you should do to manage your pastures or improve your soils or grow more forage. We find more resources, we look for the research and see if it meets the standards set by experts in the field. We read, absorb, learn new vocabulary, and then translate it all into something you can use right now. We do this because we know there is a lot of great information out there that can help you be more profitable and sustainable and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between that and information that’s just going to cost you time and money.

We think that makes On Pasture different. We also hope you think so and that you think that difference makes On Pasture worth supporting.  If you’d like us to keep on translating science into something that is useful for your place, head on over to the Fall Fund Drive page, and if you can give, give. Your support will determine if On Pasture continues or not.


P.S. If your kid comes to you and says, “Science says I shouldn’t make my bed,” now you can tell him/her “Oh no – you have to read the whole story.”  You can download this paper if you need proof.

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  • Published: 6 years ago on October 19, 2015
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  • Last Modified: October 19, 2015 @ 11:50 am
  • Filed Under: Consider This

About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

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