Death by Pillow

Very, VERY occasionally chronic problems are mitigated by ridiculously simple solutions.  For years now I have been plagued by sinus congestion at night.  Lately it seems to have gotten worse.  When I described this for my physician he asked an unusual question:

How long have you had your pillow?

I really had no idea.  I really liked my pillow.  It was a memory foam one that my wife used before moving on to something else.  Several years?  A dozen years?  Longer?

We talked a bit.  I had seen a specialist previously and the congestion was interfering with treatment for sleep issues.  The specialist suggested the use of a Neti pot.  Nasal irrigation does seem to work but, as I told my physician, I found putting water in my nose to be a high-order nuisance. I also expressed some unease at the long-term use of antihistamines (apparently there may be cognitive effects).  My physician mentioned that he could prescribe a nasal steroid instead.  But what he really wanted me to try first didn’t involve medication at all.

Wikimedia Commons
household dust mite

He suggested getting a new pillow.  He went on to explain that dust mites can invade the pillow over time and aggravate respiratory issues.

Apparently there is something to this and it may be a good deal worse.   Some years ago, University of Manchester researchers found significant fungal contamination in pillows used from 18 months to 10 years:

“The fungal spores found in the pillows fed off human skins scales and dust mite faeces…Lead researcher Professor Ashley Woodcock said the findings showed there was a “miniature ecosystem” operating inside pillows.  Source: BBC NEWS | Health | Pillows can harbour harmful fungi”

It’s been a bit less than two weeks since I ditched my (formerly) favorite pillow for a new one.  Still a bit stuffy which is probably due to spring pollen and the physician recommended something for that as well.  But I’ve slept soundly on about half of the past dozen nights.  Which is a huge improvement over none at all.

Usually when you think of killing someone with a pillow, images come to mind of an assassin smothering a victim by forcing a pillow onto their face.  Not by just having them sleep with one.  I have apparently been sleeping with my face in a microbial compost pile of dead skin, dust mites, dust mite carcasses, dust mite poo, and fungus.

That doesn’t seem to have been doing me any favors.