A healthy house is more than just a space free from toxins and mold. A healthy house is the foundation and start of a healthy life in whole. We wouldn’t expect an apple to stay fresh if we stored it in a wet paper bag outside. It’s the same thought with our home. It’s been said that our house is like a second skin to our bodies, creating benefits or problems.
Where we sleep is a place that we should take extra precaution about. It’s an area that we will end up spending about one third of our lives in. If we are in one particular environment more often, we should make sure it’s a healthy and safe environment to be in.
We are going to cover five ways you can make sure your sleeping environment is healthy. There have been studies shown that a healthy sleeping environment can actually promote sleep, and an unhealthy sleeping space can cause sleep disorders. It’s true that your house can cause insomnia.
And why does sleep matter so much? Sleep is one of the biggest contributors to a healthy lifestyle. When we get proper rest and sleep our body has time to repair itself from day to day stressors as well as detoxify the brain. When you’re rested you can function on a higher level. Improving your sleep environment can drastically change the quality of your day. Rachel at PillowPicker has written an incredible guide with 30 science-backed ways your body can benefit from a good night of sleep. You can check it out here.
Mold & Your Sleep
Mold is a huge sleep disruptor. There are two ways that toxic mold can affect your sleep when it’s in your sleeping area. The first way that mold affects your sleep is that it causes allergic-like symptoms of a runny nose and itchy throat. These external symptoms definitely don’t help you sleep soundly. They’re a nuisance when falling asleep and can wake you up in the night disrupting your sleep.
The second way that mold can affect your sleep is more of an internal disturbance of our circadian rhythm process. A study in 2003 showed that the mycotoxins that toxic mold produces causes sleep deprivation and disturbances by affecting our circadian rhythm process. They also found that toxic mold creates a byproduct that can act as an antibiotic, killing cells, affecting our sleep process. You see a house can cause insomnia.
Bedrooms can be humid spaces of the home due to the fact we are breathing all night long in a closed space, producing vapors into the air. This is why it’s important to make sure our bedrooms have proper ventilation to encourage airflow and reduce the chance of mold.
Some places to check for mold growth and mildew in your bedroom would be:
Dust is everywhere, even if you feel like you have an extremely clean house. And where there’s dust, there’s sure to be dust mites. Bedrooms are a real problem spot when it comes to dust as we shed skin and sweat all when we’re sleeping on our mattress. This means that where humans spend the most time, there will be more dust. Most of the time we would just shrug this little fact off and perhaps vacuum a little bit more. But let me be the first to tell you this is NOT the way to handle extra dust in your bedroom. Dust mites are a serious disruption to our bodies respiratory system and their skin and excrement are toxic to our bodies. So making sure your room has as little dust as possible is important.
Specifically speaking, dust mites cause an allergic reaction within our upper respiratory system such as a runny nose and hay fever. They also cause irritation in the lungs and eyes as well as sneezing. That doesn’t sound like the magic potion for sleep to me. The National Sleep Foundation also states that dust mites cause general immune system stress, which means you could be getting sick more often. These are all ways that dust and dust mites in your bedroom can really disrupt your sleep.
So how can you fix this problem?
There are some easy ways you can clean up the dust and make sure dust mites aren’t around your sleeping area:
DUST MITE SPRAY: Dust mites are opposed to certain essential oils, which works in our favor. You can either diffuse or create a simple spray of water mixed with 5-10 drops of any of the following essential oils: clove, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint or rosemary. You can spray this directly on your mattress and let it air dry.
Humidity & Moisture
Controlling the humidity in a bedroom is a great way to ensure mold doesn’t take hold and grow. Humidity is also important because an area that has high indoor humidity is an area that is conducive to dust mite reproduction. THe lower the humidity, the dust mites will end up dying off.
High humidity in an area also causes congestion in many individuals. Nasal congestion is caused by inflamed blood vessels in the nose which cause swelling of nasal tissue. And if you’ve tried to fall asleep while being congested, you know that it’s not an easy task. Congestion can also cause snoring and mouth breathing which tend to be sleep disruptors. The fact that your house can cause insomnia and sleep deprivation means we need to be careful of the indoor climate.
The important thing to remember is that you don’t want to pull all the moisture out of your air. If you’re air is too dry your nasal passages, skin and eyes will be extremely itchy and irritated. We know that the ideal indoor humidity level is somewhere between 35% - 45%. You can monitor your humidity levels with a humidity monitor to see where your bedroom stands.
If your bedroom is too humid, some ways you can reduce the humidity are
Toxins can be such a broad term. Specifically though, I’m talking about the toxins that are added to your mattress. If you google this topic you will find a plethora of blog posts and websites showing you the problems with the modern mattress and the toxins that are added to make it “safe.” We know that toxins are a disruptor to our endocrine system as well as an external irritant. Our endocrine system hold our thyroid and pineal gland, both are responsible for helping us fall asleep and stay asleep. When these are disrupted by the toxins in a mattress THAT WE SLEEP DIRECTLY ON, there’s no telling what the effect could hold. It could be sleep disruptions that turn into sleep deprivation, or it could be insomnia.
The other side of that is the external irritants. Many of the chemicals in our mattresses can cause itchy throat and eyes as well as skin issues. These irritating conditions can make it very difficult to fall asleep.
The biggest offending toxins are the flame retardants they coat mattresses in. Initially this concept was added to prevent a fire if someone fell asleep with a cigarette in their mouth. Mattresses are covered in flame retardants now so they can withstand the heat and flame of a blow torch. Unless you’re sleeping with a blow torch nearby, it seems as though this practice may be unnecessarily causing some serious health issues. These same flame retardants were studied in a lab with mice. When the mice were exposed to the chemical toxins their brains became overly hyperactive. A hyperactive brain does not allow us to easily fall asleep, causing insomnia or sleep deprivation.
The other chemical offenders to where we sleep is the polyurethan foam they put in mattresses, which emits VOCs, a known endocrine system disruptor as well as an external irritant. Formaldehyde has also been found in mattresses, which causes asthma, allergies and lung cancer. What we sleep on can be just as important as where we sleep when it comes to a healthy environment.
To make sure chemical toxins aren’t affecting your sleep you can:
In the case for the link that your house can cause insomnia and sleep disorders, there is a lot to be said for electromagnetic fields. While there is still a lot left unknown about EMFs, what we have learned is they are a disruptor to our bodies. There are two ways that EMFs disrupt our body’s natural sleep process.
First we must understand that our body has natural electromagnetic fields. Our natural EMFs vibrate at a low number of cycles. Electromagnetic fields from electronics vibrates at a higher rate of oscillation. The discrepancy between these two rates of humans and electronics is what can prevent you from falling asleep. They have also found that the higher vibrations of unnatural EMFs can pull you out of a deep sleep, which will disrupt your sleep process, leaving you tired. A study performed in 1999 showed that magnetic fields in the same room as a sleeping person caused a decreased time in REM sleep as well as a broken sleep pattern.
The same study also that showed the pineal gland’s production of melatonin, which helps you fall asleep was decreased when individuals were exposed to more EMFs during the day. THat’s right, your exposure to electromagnetic fields during the day can actually inhibit your sleep at night.
The other way that electronics and electromagnetic fields can disrupt your sleep is by the light given off by the electronics that create the EMFs. When you watch TV or look at your phone, your body’s natural response to the blueish light is to decrease the production of melatonin. Melatonin is what your pineal gland produces to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. This is why we sleep in dark rooms and why it’s generally easiest for us to fall asleep at night.
There are some easy ways you can improve your sleeping environment by reducing exposure to electromagnetic fields during the day and night:
Learning how your house can keep you healthy is a great way to start changing your habits and lifestyle. We know now that your house can cause insomnia, sleep deprivation and other disturbances during sleep. We also know that sleep is one of the most important factors of a healthy lifestyle. Our sleep allows us to function on a higher level, and also allows our brain to detoxify. Help your sleep by helping your sleep environment first.
I am a Certified Professional Home Inspector and Certified Building Biologist through the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors and International Institute for Building Biology. I have trained with Internachi as well as the Water Quality Standards Academy and the EPA.