Many people struggle to sleep through the night due to congestion, coughing, sneezing and other allergy-like symptoms. You might even find yourself waking up with a stuffy nose and sore throat.
Chronic nasal congestion is a common problem affecting almost one in four Americans, a recent survey found. Over half of these people, 60%, reported that it affects their ability to get a good night's sleep.
So, what causes so many people to experience these symptoms at night and in the morning? One corner of TikTok is peddling the notion that it's an allergy to dust mites. Products you can purchase to get rid of them are easy to find on the app — from sheets that dust mites supposedly can't live in to special cleaners that target them.
While it's true that allergies — whether to dust mites or something else — may be one of the reasons you wake feeling like you have a cold, there are a few things to know before you revamp your bedroom and sleep routine, experts tell TODAY.com.
What are dust mite allergies?
Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in dust around your house, according to Mayo Clinic. While they're related to ticks and spiders, they're too small to see without a microscope. Dust mites live in bedding, mattresses, furniture with upholstery, carpets and more.
In fact, a mattress can accumulate so many dust mites that, "believe it or not, (its) weight doubles in 10 years,” Dr. Sai Nimmagadda, an allergist and professor at Northwestern University, tells TODAY.com.
About one in five people have allergies, and of that population, about half of them likely are allergic to dust mites, according to Nimmagadda. However, the only way to determine if someone actually has a dust mite allergy is to get tested for it.
The main signs of dust mite allergies versus other kinds that Nimmagadda has observed are congestion and postnasal drip. Symptoms like an itchy throat or watery eyes are often more related to pollen allergies (which can also make for a difficult night's sleep).
Dr. Ruchi Gupta, also an allergist and professor at Northwestern University, tells TODAY.com you should find out if you actually have a dust mite allergy before spending time and money to combat it.
Are some types of bedding worse for dust mites than others?
"Dust mites are very microscopic, of course, so they can go in between the bedding materials, and a lot of times they will also be within the crevices of the mattresses," Nimmigadda explains.
When it comes to the material of your bedding, Nimmigadda says he's not aware that certain materials are more hospitable to dust mites than others. What does make a difference, however, is how tightly your bedding is woven, he adds.
Dust mite covers that you can purchase for mattresses, box springs, pillows and comforters are often made of fabric, such as cotton, that's woven so tightly that dust mites can't make their through it, Nimmagadda says.
How to get rid of dust mites in bed
To prevent dust mites in your bed, Nimmagadda recommends washing your bedding in hot water, at least 130 degrees, once a week, as well as replacing your mattress every six to 10 years.
If you or your child sleep with a stuffed animal or something else that can't be easily washed, place it in the freezer once a week. In addition, replacing carpet in your bedroom with hardwood can prevent dust mites from breeding.
Nimmagadda says that dust mite covers are also an effective tool. But before you purchase anything to combat dust mites, from TikTok or elsewhere, he advises getting evaluated by an allergist because your symptoms could be caused by mold or pollen. He adds that he can't say one way or another whether products being sold on TikTok will be effective against dust mites.
Not making your bed may also reduce the dust mite allergens in the air. “You're picking up everything (and) throwing the sheets around, so as you’re standing right over it, you’re getting all of that dust mite particulate matter airborne (and) you’re breathing it in,” he says. “It could worsen your symptoms a little bit ... but I think that if you’re sleeping with (dust mites) eight hours already, making your bed is not really going to contribute that much more.”
Regardless of what may be causing it, if congestion, sore throat, coughing and sneezing have you struggling to sleep, Gupta says the most important thing to do is to watch your symptoms.
"If you're sleeping and ... having allergic symptoms and extra congestion, (it) can cause you not to sleep well, so follow your symptoms and then see an allergist and really get it confirmed before going crazy trying to make your bed safer or stop sleeping on sheets that you love," she says. "Follow your symptoms and see an allergist to get it truly diagnosed."