Your Pillows Could Be Making You Sick

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If you’re like any other functioning human, you love bedtime. In fact, you probably love the way your head feels when it’s cradled in your favorite pillow that you got three years ago — pause. Did you know that keeping your pillows for too long could be the reason you get sick? We’re sorry to burst your bubble, but if you don’t know when to replace your pillows, you might be in trouble.

Researchers at the University of Manchester found that synthetic and feather pillows used from one month up to 20 years had, on average, over a million fungal spores. If that’s not terrifying enough, wait for it: they also found that the most common variety, Aspergillus fumigatus, has high potential to cause disease in people with pre-existing conditions.

In an interview with, Michelle Goldman, who is the CEO of the Asthma Foundation NSW, said that even those without pre-existing conditions can suffer from bad bacteria that grows on old pillows.

“Most molds produce millions of spores that are easily airborne,” Goldman said. “When breathed in, they can cause a range of respiratory disorders, not just in people with asthma.”

So how exactly do the mites, fungi and bad bacteria actually get into your pillows? By none other than our own bodies, according to Dr. Heike Neumeister-Kemp, CEO of Mycologia Australia.

“They love the moisture we sweat and use nutrients from our dead skin cells to grow,” Neumeister-Kemp said. “Over time, pillows can grow quite a complex ecosystem.”

Now that you’re guaranteed to have pillow nightmares for the rest of your lives, how do you escape this terrifying fate?

First, you need to wash your pillows — and the actual pillows in addition to the cases. Take a look at the tag and wash them according to the instructions, carefully. Then, make sure to replace them about every six months, especially if they’re synthetic. That’s often, we know.

We don’t know about you, but we’re throwing our pillows out ASAP.