Too tired to change into your pajamas after a long day? Well, you might want to think twice before going to bed in your clothes.
Even wearing no clothes in bed transfers thousands of bacterium (from our skin and our intestines) to our sheets. “When we add our day clothes into the mix, the variety can increase dramatically,” warns microbiologist Jason Tetro, aka “The Germ Guy.” Potentially pathogenic (i.e. highly aggressive in its ability to penetrate the skin’s surface) species such as Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli, and Clostridium difficile can be transferred from our clothes to our sheets.
That’s not all: There’s a good chance of being joined by some fungi, such as Candida albicans and Tinea pedis (commonly known as athlete’s foot.) Oh, and it doesn’t stop there. “We can also bring in organic material, which the microbes consider to be food,” says Tetro. “This may help them grow to even higher numbers and in some cases, reach levels capable of causing infections.”
Nasties can also be transferred to bed sheets via clothes infested with ticks and fleas from pets or carpeting. If your clothes get contaminated after playing with your pet and you then wear them to bed, those critters can quickly embed themselves into the fibers of the mattress. “The ticks or fleas may come out of the mattress to snack on your blood and happily remain in your bed forever,” says Anu Rebbapragada, MD, Scientific Director at Dynacare in Canada. That’s, undoubtedly, pretty gross (and not exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep).
And a warning for gym junkies: Never wear your workout clothes to bed. “This clothing is usually moist and warm, which is the perfect environment for these organisms to multiply and thrive,” says Dr. Rebbapragada.
If you’ve collapsed on your bed in your daytime clothes on occasion, don’t panic too much. If you have a healthy immune system, you’re unlikely to experience any ill effects. “The worst case scenario involves someone with a weakened immune system who comes into contact with a pathogenic bacteria, for example an elderly person or a person with HIV/AIDS whose skin comes in contact with a drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus strain or an aggressive Streptococcus strain,” says Dr. Rebbapragada. However, for most people a more likely worst case scenario is a skin infection, ring worm, a fungal infection or a bacterial rash, some of which can lead to severe inflammation and spread within the body.