Sleeping with chemicals

shutterstock_203820202_ sleeping wth chemicals, ewa eriksen

Text: Ewa Daniél Eriksen

When you go to sleep at night you expect to wake up revitalised and ready for a new day. You are probably not aware that you are sleeping with lots and lots of chemicals all through the night. Actually we are surrounded by chemicals. Some are good for us and we can’t live without them, but others can influence our health and give us allergies.

There is one good thing about this: you can do a lot yourself to prevent getting skin allergy by avoiding chemicals known to be allergenic such as perfume, allergenic preservatives for example formaldehyde, formaldehyde donors and Methylisothiazolinone (MI). We have looked at some of the bad-to-your-health chemicals that you can get exposed to when you go to sleep or just before. Read here and have a better and more healthy sleep tonight.

Take care of your skincare
Before you go to sleep you might use a night cream and a cream around your eyes. There is no reason to choose a night cream with perfume or colouring. It has no function or effect for the cream and instead – you risk getting an allergy.
Our advice: Check if the cream does not contain any allergenic preservatives – refer to a list available at and look for the word perfume, parfum or a specific perfume from the same list.

Say cheese without perfume
Then there is an area where you do not even suspect there would be perfume – your toothpaste. Did you know that most of toothpastes contain perfume? And many of them are from the EU list of 26 allergenic perfumes.
Our advice: Try to take a look at your and your children’s toothpaste – maybe it is time to use another paste which would be perfume-free.

Wash your hair
Most people take a shower in the morning, but if you use a lot of hair products such as wax, mousse and hairspray.
Our advice: Maybe it would be a good idea to wash it all out just before you go to bed so that you do not sleep with all the chemicals all night long.

Paint and the problem with being airborne
You might have heard about painter’s syndrome where painters got very sick after being exposed to dangerous chemicals in paint, glue and so on. This has lead to production of new paints based on water, which is good. But when you use water you also need to use preservatives to keep the paint free of bacteria and fungi. The two preservatives most often used are Methylisothiazolinone (MI) and formaldehyde. Unfortunately, they are both very allergenic and airborne. This means they can be transported through air so that you get exposed through the air after you have painted a room. So even though you are careful not to get the paint on your arms, face, legs and skin in general you still get exposed to MI through the air. One of the problems with paint based on water is that without all the harsh chemicals they do not smell as bad as they used to. Therefore you might think that it is safe to sleep in your newly painted bedroom and by doing so you get exposed to Methylisothiazolinone

The identical problem concerns the lacker used for preserving the wooden floors. Both formaldehyde and MI are released to the air we breathe, and also our children. Our organisms are being under attack from all sides without our awareness, where the actual reason for our long-term sickness begins.

This has led to what experts and dermatologists call an MI epidemic. A reaction to MI or formaldehyde is not only a rash, but in some cases people react with severe swelling of the face and airways and sometimes needs to be hospitalized.

Our advice: When you have painted your bedroom you should always wait at least two weeks before you sleep in the same room and remember to get plenty of fresh air into the room every day.

Dyes and formaldehyde in textiles
When you buy new clothes they often contain dyes and other chemicals. If you or your children sleep with in new pyjamas or in a nightdress, then always remember to wash it before you use it the first time. It should be enough to wash one time before use.

The same goes for a new bedding. New beddings have often been treated with formaldehyde in order not to wrinkle. Formaldehyde is very allergenic and can bring you a skin allergy and irritate your airways.
Our advice: Even though you like your bedding new and not wrinkly, you do need to wash the bedding every time you buy something new.

New quilts
You use your quilt many hours every night and often you will keep the same quilt for many years. When it comes to quilts a problem are the house dust mites. For the last couple of years we have seen that people with dust mite allergy are being convinced to buying quilts, which have had some kind of mite “treatment”. There are no proves that this can kill the mites. Often the “treatment” appears to be just a perfume, so instead of killing the mites you will expose your body to an intense fragrance for the whole night. The best way to prevent house dust mites is to wash your quilt four times a year at 60 degrees. This will kill the house dust mites for sure, and without all the chemicals in the quilts it will give you a better sleep.

Carpets look cosy and nice especially at the beginning, later on they begin to be a home for dust mites and become an invisible source of allergies, and then asthma.
It is better to decorate your home with additions, which are easy to clean, like interesting tiles or natural wood, which are simple to vacuum and wash with water.
Advice: we definitely don’t recommend using carpets by people suffering from asthma or allergies. A good way to warm up your feet on the cold floor is something called „Feet towel” which is cosy, thick and easy to change after some time. A good solution is also using a cotton mat, which is washable. The same goes for the covers for beds and blankets. Instead of fluffy types, it is better to buy cotton patchwork cover, which can be washed in 60 degrees, and then you can be sure that dust mites die.

So there you go, have a good night, sleep tight.

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About author

Ewa Daniél Eriksen is a Danish origin Master of Science (MSc) in Technological and Socio-Economic Planning with a specialization in toxicology and risk assessments. She works with chemical and allergy risk assessments, teaching pharmacist in contact dermatitis and speaks in the Danish medias for questions about cosmetics and contact allergy. She has been working for many years as a toxicologist at the Danish Asthma-Allergy Association. Now she is a chemical director at an international allergy certification organisation: AllergyCertified whose motto is “One World – One Label”.