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4 Ways to Improve Bedroom Air Quality

We’ve known for some time that poor air quality causes serious health problems, not least of which is a lower quality of sleep. Now, a new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that sleep apnea sufferers are especially at risk. Researchers sought to examine bedroom air quality in particular, and found that subjects exposed to high concentrations of particulate matter (like dust and mold) exhibited worse apnea symptoms as they slept.

Given that indoor air quality can often be much worse than outdoor air quality, it’s no surprise that the market for solutions is growing. But what’s the best way to breathe easy in your bedroom? We put together some of our best tips below.

Keep it clean

Keeping your room clean isn’t just a matter of aesthetics. It’s essential for your wellbeing. The EPA ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental health risks, and the first solution is straightforward: “Usually the best way to address this risk is to control or eliminate the sources of pollutants and ventilate a home with clean outdoor air.” Before investing in costly cleaning gadgets, remember the simple things: keep your windows open for an hour or two each day; vacuum and dust at least twice a week; wash your sheets and curtains. Basic cleaning will go a long way toward eliminating the most common pollutants, such as dust and pet dander. (Apartment Therapy has a handy list of the worst offenders here.) Check out our complete guide to keeping your bedroom clean. And don’t forget about cleaning your mattress either.

Invest in an air purifier

As the EPA acknowledges, sometimes simple steps such as ventilation aren’t viable. For those of us who live in dense urban areas, fresh air can be something of a luxury. In that case, air purifiers might prove useful. The EPA cautions that there’s little evidence to support a direct link between air purifiers and improved health outcomes, but accepts that these products can be exceptionally good at filtering particulate matter. Consumer Reports found some evidence that purifiers can alleviate health problems, but expressed similar reservations. For example, only the most expensive purifiers can eliminate odors and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). In addition, since pollution is always leaking in through windows and other openings, these devices have to be run constantly to be effective, which can jack up electric bills. The bottom line: you shouldn’t expect miracles, but if you suffer from severe allergies and can’t ventilate your room otherwise, a purifier might be worth the investment.

Get some plants

With all the hype about purifiers and HEPA certifications, it’s easy to forget that we’re constantly surrounded by the most advanced air filtering system in the world. Trees and plants sustain life on this planet by breathing in carbon dioxide and other harmful gases, and producing oxygen in turn. The principle is the same in a bedroom. In fact, NASA conducted a study in 1989 on this very subject, together with the Associated Land Contractors of America. Researchers selected a handful of plants, including Peace Lilies, English Ivy, and Ficus, and measured their ability to remove organic chemicals from the air. (Remember: organic chemicals are among the pollutants that most artificial purifiers can’t tackle.) The results showed that in virtually all cases, the plants significantly reduced levels of benzene and formaldehyde in the air. That prompted researchers to conclude that “plants can play a major role in the removal of organic chemicals from indoor air.” For more, see our complete guide to the best bedroom plants.

Use green products

Ironically, many of the products we use to clean our rooms are themselves rife with pollutants. Synthetic products often produce fumes that can be harmful if inhaled, and the effects are compounded in confined spaces. In contrast, eco-friendly products are designed to biodegrade and emit fewer VOCs, and so are safer to use. It can often be hard to determine which cleaning agents are green, but it’s a worthwhile investment of time. Of course, cleaning products aren’t the only source of VOCs: furniture and paint are also notorious in this regard. Mattresses too can contain harmful chemicals. Where possible, look for organic and eco-friendly certifications. Your lungs and your brain will thank you!