Mold is found universally around the Earth. Outside in nature, it serves an important purpose. It degrades fallen leaves, trunks, and other complex organic compounds to simple inorganic molecules that can then be taken by plants, and used to make more carbohydrates in a process called photosynthesis. It is a needed step in the food chain, and without it, nature wouldn’t be able to function.
When we find mold inside our house, it’s an entirely different story. It is very unpleasing to look at the surfaces that have mold on them, and studies have shown that its presence could hurt our health. While it’s still being debated about all of the effects that mold exposure could lead to, it is confirmed that it can lead to allergy-like symptoms and that it affects people with asthma. Chronic exposure could lead to some other respiratory problems, and some studies go as far as saying that it could potentially impact our mental health, and contribute to depression. However, it is still not sure if the link is casual, and there is more research needed to get a definite answer.
Continue reading to learn more about mold, how it impacts your health and sleep, the ways to prevent it from infesting your home, and if it’s too late for that, how to get rid of it.
What is Mold?
When we say mold, we are talking about a lot of different types of fungi. They can live both outside and indoors, as long as the environment is warm and damp. Humid places are the number one spot for mold, so you need to make sure that your home doesn’t have any pipe leakage, window cracks, and that the air inside your house is dry.
Bathrooms and basements are rooms that are most likely to get mold, due to the high level of moisture in them. But don’t think that other places are immune, as they can appear anywhere. Finding mold in your bedroom is the most dangerous, as you spend so much time in there, and it can affect your sleep quality and your health.
Most common places that get mold are shower stalls, bathtubs, the area around plumbing, carpets, dump clothing, furniture, drywall, wallpaper, closets, and any other place with moisture, high humidity or water damage.
There are different kinds of mold, but the ones that are most prevalent in houses are Aspergillus, Penicillium, Alternaria, Cladosporium, and Stachybotrys.
Aspergillus is usually found in warmer areas especially in places that suffered some water damage, or that are naturally extremely damp. It is commonly found in house dust, and some species of Aspergillus produce mycotoxins that could potentially be dangerous to humans or some animals.
Penicillium is famous for the discovery of antibiotic Penicillin, that was first extracted by Alexander Flemming in 1928, and it was one of the most important medical breakthroughs. However, some species of Penicillium produce mycotoxins and can cause allergies, fewer and asthma. It is frequently found in wallpapers, carpets, old fabrics, and in all parts of the home that are damp enough.
Alternaria has large spores that can be inhaled and deposited in the nose, mouth, and upper respiratory tract causing allergic symptoms like itchy eyes, congested nose, and sneezing. It can be found indoors in carpets, furniture, different fabrics, and in damp places like the shower and window frames. If you have indoor plants, spores can also be found in plant soil.
Cladosporium usually grows on the outside, but there are some indoor species as well. They are found in dark, damp areas, and they can cause hay fever and asthma symptoms.
Stachybotrys chartarum is known as a black mold because of its slimy black appearance. It produces mycotoxins that are very toxic to humans. Symptoms include breathing problems, dizziness, bleeding in the lungs, feeling lightheaded, and flu-like symptoms. Luckily, it is not as usual in homes, as it needs extreme moisture to thrive.
How Much Mold Exposure is Harmful?
There is still no consensus on how much mold exposure is safe. It is recommended that you eradicate it on the first sign of appearing as it can have negative consequences on your health. Short exposure is not dangerous in most cases, but chronic exposure leads to a decrease in your overall health.
Mold is not toxic itself, but it can produce mycotoxins that could be dangerous to humans or pets. Also, mold reproduces by producing spores that are later carried by air. They are tiny, and they can end up in your respiratory tract causing allergic reactions. If you are allergic to mold, you’ll start experiencing symptoms as soon as you get in touch with it. Luckily, symptoms usually disappear when you get rid of it or leave the infested place.
There are some cases in which people still experience symptoms even after the mold is removed from their presence. Scientists found out that people with chronic symptoms still had some mycotoxins in their urine. It meant that mold is still present and located somewhere in their body. Researches suggested that it hides in sinuses in the form of a biofilm and that it can thrive in there for a long time. A biofilm is a massive number of mold cells that are protected by the slimy cover. Biofilm makes mold very persistent, as it is resistant to most treatments.
People with allergies often experience any of these symptoms upon exposure:
- Watery, itchy, or red eyes
- Runny nose
- Wheezing, sneezing, or coughing
- Skin rash
Sometimes, symptoms can be more severe and include upper respiratory tract problems, asthma attacks, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis in people with weakened immune systems. Mold exposure is particularly dangerous in infants and children, the elderly, patients with chronic lung disease, HIV, cancer, liver disease, and all the other people with a compromised immune system.
It seems that exposure to black mold has the most negative health effects, and children seem to be the most vulnerable. However, research is still not completely clear on all the health risks of different kinds of mold, and it is best to avoid it altogether.
Effects of Sleeping in a Damp Bedroom
Mold exposure can affect anyone, but children and the elderly are more vulnerable age groups. Adults suffer the same negative health consequences, but they are usually less severe, as they have stronger immune systems.
Different kinds of sleep problems are identified in people sleeping in damp spaces. Observed mold-related sleep problems include:
- Sleep apnea or snoring
- Sleep deprivation
- Daytime fatigue
It is imperative that you can breathe without interruptions during sleep, so your body can get enough oxygen and restore itself properly. People who sleep in bedrooms with mold might have a problem with that, and they can develop certain sleep problems.
Sleep apnea is a breathing-related sleep problem. Sometimes, the sleeper can stop breathing for a few seconds due to some obstruction in the airflow, or stoppage can be partial. It is called obstructive sleep apnea or hypopnea, and there are many causes for this condition. Blockage or narrowing of the airway can happen due to mold spores. Usual symptoms of this condition are snoring and waking up panting and short of breath. It is a serious sleep disorder that needs seeking medical help. It is successfully treated with CPAP therapy.
Snoring goes hand in hand with obstructive sleep apnea, but it can sometimes be a sign of other sleep disorders. Sometimes, a person who is snoring loudly can wake themselves up from sleep, and cause sleep fragmentation. If you are sleeping with a partner, they can also have a hard time sleeping when you are producing loud noises. If you regularly experience it, you should visit a doctor and figure out what is causing it.
Sleep deprivation refers to chronic lack of sleep. The suggested amount for adults is between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation leads to mood impairment, lowered cognitive abilities, less focus, and it also increases the chances of developing severe health conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Sleep deprivation can even occur if it looks like you are getting enough sleep, but the quality of it is not satisfying due to frequent awakenings that can be caused by snoring or sleep apnea.
Daytime fatigue is a clear sign of sleep deprivation. It can be so severe that sometimes, even sleeping enough won’t feel satisfying enough. People with fatigue experience general tiredness; they have lower energy levels, less motivation, impaired mood, and their quality of life is highly affected. If not treated well, this condition can lead to even more severe diseases like insomnia and depression.
Insomnia is a condition where people find it hard to fall or stay asleep. It is hard to fall asleep when you are dealing with itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneezing. Congestion can lead to obstructive sleep apnea, and make it hard to stay asleep throughout the night. A 2005 study found that people who are living in damp buildings are much more likely to suffer from insomnia, than people living in dry conditions.
How to Prevent Mold From Growing in Your Bedroom?
The best defense against mold is prevention, as it can be tough to get rid of it once it starts growing. The reason for that are spores that can survive, even when the moisture is gone, and the air becomes dry.
Here are some tips that you should follow to prevent mold from invading your house:
- Whenever water is spilled, clean it right away, to avoid the humid environment that mold prefers.
- Regularly vacuum your carpets to get rid of any spores that might be there.
- Keep your indoor humidity levels below 50%. To keep track of that, you can purchase a hygrometer pretty much everywhere. Run your air conditioner, ceiling, and other fans to keep the inside air dry. If that is not enough, you can consider buying a dehumidifier to get rid of the excess moisture.
- Make sure to clean the filters often as spores can get inside of the air conditioning, and then running it will have an opposite effect of what you want, as it will spread mold around.
- Keep your bedroom door open, and keep the air flowing throughout your house. Proper ventilation is excellent for preventing mold growth.
- Make sure to run the exhaust fan when taking a shower. Leave it on for 15 minutes after you’re done as well. Don’t just clump up the wet towel, or your wet clothes, but rather hang it to dry out first, and then wash them. Keep your bathroom clean, and pay particular attention to the corners of your shower stall, a shower curtain, and area under the sink.
- If you don’t have a drier, hang your clothes outside. Also, make sure that they are thoroughly dry before folding and putting them in a closet.
- Make a little room between your furniture and walls, to enable airflow and better ventilation. Also, wipe down all furniture regularly to remove dust that can harbor mold spores.
- Check your bedroom plants for any sign of mold. If there are some, scope it out carefully, and afterward, repot your plant. Sometimes, leaving your plants outside for a few days can eradicate mold. Sunlight and proper airflow are mold’s arch nemesis.
- You should also regularly inspect your house for any water damage, or signs of faulty plumbing.
- Make sure all your windows and doors are properly sealed.
- Keep your house warm during winter months to avoid condensation.
- Use mold inhibitor the next time you decide to repaint your house, as they can be extremely effective.
For some people who tend to sleep hot, mattresses can be another place where mold can thrive. Due to excess sweat, they become perfect hiding places. You can prevent that by buying a hypoallergenic mattress, for example, latex model. Consider getting an additional casing, that goes over it and prevents any moisture from reaching your mattress. Consider investing in breathable bedding and pajamas, and you can even try sleeping naked.
How to Get Rid of Mold From Your Bedroom?
If you have identified mold in your bedroom, don’t wait any longer, try to get rid of it immediately. You should try a different approach depending on what surface it infested. Make sure always to wear gloves and a face mask when handling mold.
If it’s a hard surface like a wall or floor, use a hard brush, cleaning product, water, and soap to get rid of it. Make sure you take everything out and leave the area to dry out completely. Using bleach is a common suggestion, but don’t do it! It looks like it can contribute to long –term mold growth.
A soft surface like clothes, bedding, curtains, and carpets should be thrown out. You can try different approaches such as washing and drying it on the high setting, leaving it outside in the sun for a few days, but unfortunately, it may not be successful. Your mattress also falls in this category, so if it has already been infested, maybe it’s best to throw it out, get a new one, and follow our tips on how to prevent this from happening again.
If the infested area in your house is bigger than 10 square feet, you should call mold removal professionals. They offer free consultations, and they are excellent at detecting all the areas of your house that have been affected by mold. They’ll get rid of it, and also offer you some advice on what to do to prevent mold from invading your home again.
Dusan is a biologist, a science enthusiast and a huge nature lover. He loves to keep up to date with all the new research and write accurate science-based articles. When he’s not writing or reading, you can find him in the kitchen, trying out new delicious recipes; out in the wild, enjoying the nature or sleeping in his bed.