Our latest look at the UK’s sleep routines focused on what we wear to bed, and quite unexpectedly revealed some rather alarming hygiene statistics. Quizzing nearly 2,500 18-30 year olds, we found that the average length of time men wear their pyjamas before washing them was a startling 13 nights, while incredibly women went even further, wearing the same nightwear for an average of 17 nights!
Of the reasons behind why nightwear is washed so infrequently, the top result for women (54%) was that by alternating between multiple pairs it’s easy to forget how long they’ve been out for, while men mainly claimed that they didn’t do the washing so just wore what was to hand (73%). When it came to particular hygiene considerations, 41% of women and 50% of men claimed that since their nightwear didn’t smell (to them at least), they didn’t see why wearing them for such long periods was a problem.
One of our most popular sleep surveys over the last couple of years was about bed sheet hygiene, and the particular statistic that single men in a certain age range are somewhat reluctant to wash their sheets on a regular basis. This nightwear survey, albeit inadvertently, touches on the same issues. The fact that pyjamas and other nightwear are being worn for such extended periods of time without being washed naturally suggests that the bed linen and duvets are subjected to a similar fate. Even if the bedding is washed more regularly, the fact that it’s coming into direct contact with unwashed nightwear means that it won’t stay fresh for very long. In short, by neglecting to keep your pyjamas clean you’re making your entire sleeping environment unhygienic and potentially unhealthy.
“Pyjamas are against your skin. You shed skin cells at a vast rate all the time. They are full of microorganisms. We all have skin and gut organisms that are usually not harmful on our skin and in our gut. But if they get into the wrong place they can cause problems. Quite a lot of us carry staphylococcus bacteria, which can cause infections if they get into cuts and bruises,” explained Professor Sally Bloomfield from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, after viewing the results of the Ergoflex survey. "We all carry E Coli bacteria in our bowel. Again, most strains are not harmful. But if they get into the urinary tract they can cause infection. That would cause cystitis (a urinary tract infection). Some people carry MRSA, which is obviously gets very hard to treat, especially with antibiotic resistance."
“If you change out of your pyjamas you could transfer the microbes on to other clothing. When you put your pyjamas in the wash if they get heavily contaminated with microbes, they will be transferred to all the other linen in the wash. They could be transferred to other people. Washing should get rid of most microbes, but not all if you have worn them for two weeks. The clothes won’t be hygienically cleaned because the microbes will have built up, so they will be transferred to underwear and other clothing that comes into contact with the skin. This is particularly important if you live in a student flat of five or six people, or a family of two adults and three children,” added Professor Bloomfield.
Much in the same way as freshly cleaned bed sheets and duvets can create a sleep-inducing sense of relaxation, regularly washing your nightwear can have the same effect. While a well-worn set of pyjamas may feel comfy, the added effect of cleanliness could help them to actively promote good sleep.
Besides the obvious factor of comfort, an important consideration with nightwear is how warm it makes you. Winter is of course a time of plummeting temperatures, and it’s only natural to adapt your nightwear to the season. However, lots of seasonal pyjamas are simply too warm to comfortably wear for bed on all but the coldest nights. Similarly, the temptation to layer up or wear more items of clothing for bed is a bad idea. The body naturally prefers a cooler bedroom environment for good, sustained sleep, so preparing for bed as if you were about to embark on a polar expedition really isn’t the way to go. If your nightwear retains too much heat you’re certain to wake yourself up feeling too uncomfortably warm.
Indeed, this issue was touched upon in our survey, with 19% of respondents saying that they regularly wake up wearing less clothing than they had on when they went to bed. Socks were the most commonly removed item, with 31% saying they didn’t keep them on all night.
By changing your bedding with the season, rather than your nightwear, you’re far better prepared to achieve a comfortable temperature during the night and get an undisturbed sleep. A higher tog rated duvet, or an additional throw blanket at the foot of the bed will ensure your temperature doesn’t drop too low, and allow for a restful night’s sleep whatever the weather’s doing outside.
However you prepare for sleep, we'd say that freshly laundered nightwear should be near the top of your priorities!