How Dust Affects Your Sleep

Plus, 5 effective ways to remove dust from your sleep space (and get better Zzz’s).

Woman cleaning dust off a shelf with a microfiber cloth
Maskot ./Getty Images/Maskot

If sneezes and sniffles make it difficult for you to get the sleep you need, you’re not alone. Dust is one of the most common indoor allergens, and the symptoms it triggers can affect your sleep in numerous ways.

“Many people are allergic to dust mites, which are microscopic organisms that feed off dead skin cells,” says Dr. Fred Pescatore, a natural health physician and author of “The Allergy & Asthma Cure.” 

An allergy to dust is really an allergy to dust mites, since dust is their natural habitat and the source of those sloughed-off skin cells that make up their diet. Sensitivity to dust mites is often the first sign of allergies in young children. It’s also one of the most common triggers for asthma attacks, per the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. And when left unchecked, it can cause major disruptions to your sleep.

A dust allergy becomes particularly problematic at bedtime because allergy symptoms at night can wake you up, disrupting your sleep quality and your natural sleep cycle. It’s no wonder studies find that people with allergies are more likely to struggle with sleep disorders like insomnia, feel tired in the morning, and experience decreased productivity at work.

Tired of taking an antihistamine every night or worrying about your allergy-induced sleep issues? Read on for more on how dust allergies affect sleep, plus allergists’ advice on how to rid your room of dust.

Signs that dust might be impacting your sleep

A dust allergy is far more than just a minor annoyance. “Allergies will definitely affect your sleep and the quality of your sleep if they are not controlled,” says Dr. Payel Gupta, a board-certified allergist and immunologist and chief medical officer for Cleared, an allergy-focused telemedicine platform. “Long-term health is intertwined with sleep.”

When you breathe in allergens like dust, your body recognizes these tiny particles as unwanted intruders and launches an inflammatory response. This causes uncomfortable swelling and irritation in your nasal passages — aka allergic rhinitis.

Your immune system could also kick into high gear and release histamines into your bloodstream. These chemicals serve as your body’s defenders, but they also cause some of the most annoying allergy symptoms.

Left untreated, an allergic reaction to dust could lead to:

  • sneezing  
  • congestion  
  • stuffy or runny nose  
  • itchy or watery eyes 
  • itchy nose, mouth, throat, or skin 
  • postnasal drip, or the flow of mucus from behind your nose down your throat 
  • coughing  
  • wheezing, chest pain or tightness, or shortness of breath for people living with asthma 

“Anyone who has experienced these symptoms knows how difficult it is to unwind, relax, and fall asleep,” says Pescatore.

In one study of people with dust mite allergies, more than 70% of adults and 65% of kids said they had consulted a physician about their sleep challenges. Their most common sleep issues included overall poor sleep quality, snoring, nocturnal awakenings, and difficulties falling asleep.

If you suspect a dust mite allergy is keeping you up at night, step one is to contact a healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Along with medication, lowering your exposure to dust in your bedroom can help you reclaim the rest you need.

5 ways to de-dust your bedroom for a good night’s sleep

Dust can build up anywhere, but your bedroom provides some of the most popular hiding spots for mites. Pillows, bedding, mattresses, box springs, curtains, upholstered furniture, carpets, and stuffed animals or soft toys are all potential dust traps.

Use these tips to discourage dust mites in your sleep environment:

  1. Zip them out. Use zippered dustproof covers to keep dust from building up inside your pillows, mattress, and box spring.   
  2. Zap them with heat. Wash sheets and blankets once a week in hot water to kill dust mites. If that’s not possible for the fabric type, toss them in the dryer for 15 minutes on the hottest setting.   
  3. Consider a remodel. Carpets, curtains, upholstered furniture, and down-filled pillows are no-gos for people with dust allergies. If it’s in your budget, swap these items for hard flooring and roller-type shades to give your bedroom a dust-deterring upgrade.  
  4. Mask up and wipe down. Remodel not in the cards? Try a deep cleaning instead. About once a week, put on a mask to protect your airways. Then, wipe down surfaces with a damp or oiled rag. Suck up and trap dust with an asthma- and allergy-friendly vacuum cleaner. If you’re highly allergic, step out for about two hours once you’re done to allow any remaining airborne allergens to resettle.   
  5. Keep your room cool and dry. Dust mites thrive in warm, moist environments, while humans sleep best at a mild 65 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. To deter mites from settling in, keep the air conditioner on and run a dehumidifier regularly.  

These techniques won’t eliminate dust mites entirely. But by reducing your dust exposure, they could help you minimize the allergy symptoms keeping you up at night.