AUSTRALIAN pillow manufacturer Tontine has conducted a scientific research study on hundreds of used pillows from across Australia, and the results suggest our old pillows can make us sick.
Mycologia, the Australian research company that conducted the research for Tontine, found that pillows older than five years had twice as much mould in them when compared to pillows less than two years old.
The different types of mould present in pillows also appeared to be directly related to the age of the pillow.
Dr Heike Neumeister-Kemp, CEO of Mycologia and former chairman of the Indoor Air Quality Special Interest Group for the Clean Air Society of Australia and New Zealand, said, "This is great news for those of us who change our pillows every two years. Not so great for the rest of us."
With the average age of a pillow in Australia close to five years, the research suggests Australians are putting themselves at risk.
Irrespective of whether you are allergic to mould or not, breathing in large numbers of nasties from mouldy pillows puts your immune system under pressure as it needs to work harder to fight them off.
"As a parent, sometimes we're so tired that we can practically sleep standing up, but this research suggests we need to consider the health of our sleep, which can be directly related to the health of our pillow," said Dr Neumeister-Kemp.
The research also demonstrated differences in mould levels found in pillows from state to state.
The pillows collected in the Northern Territory had six times more mould than those collected in New South Wales.
Western Australia was found to have the next highest levels of mould, followed by Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, where the least amount of mould was found.
Tontine also tested children's pillows. The results showed that children's pillows are as bad as the adults.
This finding is scary when you consider that a child's respiration rate is higher than adults, so they are probably breathing in more mould.
This fact, coupled with a child's developing immune system, can increase the risk of adverse health effects.
Dr Heike Neumeister-Kemp said, "Of the types of mould that we found, there were a number of pathogenic species, which can cause disease, especially in those with low immunity."
Over time, a pillow can grow a complex ecosystem made up of dead skin cells and the things that feed on them.
"Most of us spend up to a third of our lives in bed and nasties build up inside our pillows, which creates a hygiene issue," Dr Heike Neumeister-Kemp said.
"Fungi love to grow in the warmth and moisture we sweat from our bodies. They use the nutrients from our dead skin cells to grow right under our noses," she said.
"These organisms can emit toxins, which we breathe in when we go to bed at night," Dr Kemp said.
The National Asthma Council of Australia also recognises the benefits in pillow hygiene.
"Research has shown that 43% of people with hay fever allergies report that their symptoms are triggered by dust, or dust mites, which is the second most common trigger behind change in climate or humidity," said Adam Trumble, partnerships manager of the National Asthma Council Australia.
Mr Trumble also said, "More than 50% of people with allergies report their allergy symptoms affect their sleep, causing them to miss out on a good night's sleep."
Synthetic pillows should be replaced every two years to reduce the amount of nasties in your pillow.
Taking care of your pillow
- Regularly wash your pillow, most pillows can be put in the washing machine on the 'delicate' or 'gentle' wash cycle.
- Make sure you dry your pillow in the sun
- Use a pillow protector
- Keep pets away from your pillow