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Smart Home

The invisible reason you're not sleeping well

Tiny parasites in everyone's home can make you tired and sick.

James Martin/CNET

There could be a sneaky reason why you're not sleeping at night. Or actually, 10 million reasons.

Your bed could be home to up to 10 million dust mites. I know that sounds disturbing, but the good news is you can get rid of them without calling an exterminator.

Why dust mites keep you awake

You might not know it, but you could be allergic to dust mites. If you are, then there's a really good chance that you're not sleeping well at night. 

A dust mite allergy can cause a repetitive sneezing, coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath, inflamed eyelids, blocked sinuses, a tight chest, breathing difficulties and watery eyes.

If any of those symptoms sound familiar, get checked out by your doctor or an allergist to confirm if you are indeed allergic. Even if you're not allergic, dust mites can cause breathing issues while you sleep if you have asthma.

How to wash those pests away

If you wait until your sheets start getting crunchy before you wash them, listen up. You need to wash your sheets once a week. 

Why? Because sweat and skin particles build up on your sheets while you sleep, giving dust mites a lovely environment to live and breed. 

Not only do you need to wash your sheets weekly to fend off these parasites, you have to do it right to make a difference.

Extreme heat or extreme cold kills dust mites. Since putting your sheets in the freezer won't clean off the sweat and skin particles, you should be washing your sheets in hot water. 

The Mayo Clinic says to aim for 130 water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 degrees Celsius) to kill dust mites and remove allergens.

Not sure how hot your wash water is? Check your hot water heater's settings. If your hot water heater doesn't show how hot the water is on the dial, there is a way to test your water. 

Turn on the hot water tap in your kitchen. Wait for the water to warm up fully, then fill a glass with it. Put a meat or candy thermometer into the water. Is the reading 130 degrees F (54.4 degrees C)? If not, you'll want to raise the heat on your water heater.

Even better: If your washer has a sanitize setting, use that. This feature activates heaters in the washer that will heat the water hot enough to kill germs and parasites.

Once your sheets are washed, drying them with high heat can kill anything that your washer missed. Dry your sheets for at least 15 minutes at 130 degrees F (54.4 degrees C) to ensure you eliminate dust mites.

Don't forget the mattress and floor

While getting your bedding bug-free is an important step, mites may also be living in your mattress and carpets. Vacuum your mattress every time you change your sheets and be sure to vacuum any carpets every couple of days to suck up the critters. 

If vacuuming your mattress on a regular basis seems like a drag, vacuum it once then cover it with a waterproof mattress cover. It will protect your mattress from sweat and skin flakes, so it won't attract little friends. Plus, you can wash the cover whenever you wash your sheets.

Editor's note: This article was originally posted on Jan. 11, 2016 and has been updated.

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