What’s lurking in your bed?

Even sleeping spaces that appear clean may have bed bugs and other nasties hiding beneath the covers that can impact your sleep and health.

Roughly a third of our life is spent in bed, but rarely do we consider that something else might be in between the sheets with us.

So, which nasty surprises might be living in your bed?

Dust mites

These tiny bugs love hiding in the seams of beds and sofas, feeding on the dead skin cells we leave behind.

While generally harmless, the waste these mites leave behind can trigger allergic reactions, eczema, and even severe asthma attacks, according to the National Council of Asthma Australia.

So, if you are itching, wheezing, coughing or have a runny nose at bedtime it could be mites.

Luckily, these creatures can be removed with regular vacuuming, washing sheets and pillowcases every week in water hotter than 55°C and tumble drying.

Also open up the curtains every now and then because these bugs hate direct sunlight.

Bed bugs

Bed bugs are “surprisingly common” and like to hang out wherever we stay stationary for long periods of time, according to University of Sheffield’s Dr Will Hently.

They can be found in your couch, bed and clothes – and can be a pain to get rid of once they move in.

Dr Hently says infestations can affect people’s mental health and stress levels, and in extreme cases can even cause anaemia when many bugs feed on a person.

Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of and may take months of cleaning and using pesticides.

The best way to avoid them is not getting them in the first place.

Research has shown bed bugs love dirty clothes and this is often how they are transmitted, so keep the laundry basket in another room and your luggage off the bed.


While not as creepy as bugs, the most common mattress issue is mould, says professional mattress cleaner Steve Stoward.

“I have found that bed wetting, blood noses and babies vomiting are common accidents in the bedroom,” he says.

Mould can be a pain once it takes hold so call in a cleaner straight away, or at minimum Steve says wash the area thoroughly and drag your mattress outside to dry in the sun.

He advises avoiding keeping beds on the floor, as mould collects underneath due to lack of airflow.

How often should you change your sheets?

Every one to two weeks is the general consensus of how often to change your sheets, according to our experts.

Dr Moira Junge, of the Sleep Foundation, says this is about being clean, but it can also help you sleep better.

“There is certainly an understanding the bedroom is a space you need to feel very comfortable,” she says.

“If there are odours or sheets are damp and not pleasant aesthetically, it may contribute to a state of mind where there are problems with sleep.”

When should you change your mattresses and pillows?

Mattresses are long-term investments, but they do need to be replaced at some point.

There is no official use-by-date, but Steve says most mattresses can last a decade if cleaned regularly.

“At least once a year will help extend the lifetime of your mattress,” he says.

“But if it’s a cheapish mattress and it’s lost its shape and is out of warranty then I talk to people about getting a new one rather than servicing the old one.”

Pillows and mattress protectors can be replaced more regularly, around every one to two years, depending on the material they are made of.