26 October 2020

Sleeping with the enemy: mouldy homes fuelling insomnia

With the clocks going back this weekend, we are drifting into sleep season. For many of us, the extra cosy hour in bed kick-starts the season of hearty stews, family nights inside, extra blankets and early nights. But for those spending the winter in homes prone to damp and mould, the clock-change could signal a less comforting picture with months of sleepless nights and unhealthy living conditions ahead.

According to a recent study of more than 11,000 adults, dampness and mould at home increases the risk for sleep disturbances, snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).

Research shows that insomnia is just one of a number of health problems exacerbated by a damp, mouldy environment. Numerous studies, including a German study of more than 1,700 10-year-old children, conclude that respiratory illness and insomnia are more common amongst people sleeping in damp buildings. The German study showed that children sleeping in damp conditions couldn’t sleep through the night and on average had a shorter sleep time.

For anyone stuck in a damp property, sleeping with the enemy isn’t merely a film title or a loose phrase, it’s a reality.

Some damp-ridden properties need to be condemned, but for many there are simple solutions that could resolve damp issues and help to alleviate sleepless nights. Here’s why damp and mould proliferate and how it can be tackled.

We are an indoor nation

We already spend more than 90% of our time inside and it is likely that Covid-19 has exacerbated this trend as people become more cautious about venturing out. Many employees are also working from home, meaning increasing numbers of household occupants are inside at any one time. As a result, the 90% stat is likely to be even higher.

The winter of discontent

Synonymous with the clocks going back and winter setting in is the season of damp and mould. Amidst the threat of coronavirus, the winter months have serious health consequences for those in poor housing conditions. With people spending more time at home than ever before, it could be one of the worst seasons for damp and mould yet.

Let’s take a look at how damp in the home occurs.

During the colder months of the year we are less likely to have windows open for prolonged periods minimising ventilation and creating more moisture in the air. Everyday activities like cooking, showering and drying clothes create moisture indoors. Condensation occurs when moisture from the air condenses on cold surfaces, leaving them damp and ripe for mould to grow.

According to one survey by Rentokil, 5.8 million British renters have experienced damp and condensation issues, as well as black spots on the walls of their homes.

Sleeping with the enemy

Sleeping in a damp, mouldy room is very dangerous. Research has shown that people of all ages can be affected by mould – they can’t breathe properly while sleeping, have poor sleep quality, skin rashes, and many other problems, including hallucinations!

The black mould common in poorly ventilated homes produces mycotoxins. These are chemical compounds toxic to humans and animals. Let’s not forget that we spend about a third of our lives sleeping – this means sleeping in a damp room also equates to a third of our life inhaling dangerous mycotoxins.

It paints a hellish picture for those stuck in poorly ventilated, damp and mouldy homes who really are sleeping with a poisonous enemy!

Mark Trowers, National Sales Manager (Social Housing) at Zehnder UK comments, “Mould isn’t confined to the autumn/winter, there are variants that proliferate in homes in the summer months too. There are many types of nasty toxins that are created and exacerbated by inadequate ventilation and poor indoor air quality and associated cases of ill health are rising all over the developed world, as is evidenced by leading health professionals such as Neil Nathan MD. The situation is such that not having suitable mechanical ventilation systems to deal with this is no longer an option. Without adequate ventilation solutions we are walking into a ticking timebomb of mould-related health costs.”

Why ventilation is a must for better sleep and better health

Installing effective ventilation can help to control condensation and expel pollutants and bacteria, providing better air quality indoors. Natural ventilation, such as opening windows, can’t counter damp and mould problems.

Retrofit solutions range from simple extractor fans, such as Unity CV3 through to continuously running mechanical extract ventilation units, such as the industry-leading ComfoAir Q MVHR (mechanical ventilation with heat recovery).

We know damp affects sleep and chronic sleep deprivation has been linked with a range of health problems from low mood to higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Adequate ventilation is a must for better sleep and better health. If you’d like to know more about ventilation solutions for sleeping safely contact Zehnder, the ventilation experts.