Big Germ on Campus: Sleep Tips Website's Study Shows College Students’ Bedding Rife with Microbes

Microscopic study of pillows and mattress pads finds hundreds of thousands of potential bacteria, yeast and mold counts in college dorm bedding Investigates: “Fungus Among Us” Study is First of Its Kind

INFOGRAPHIC - Big Germ on Campus. See the nasty microbes growing inside college bedding. (Graphic: Carpenter Co. /

College & University Pressroom

RICHMOND, Va.--()--Never mind the bed bugs. A closer look at the pillows and mattress pads at the nation’s college campuses reveals a veritable petri dish of microscopic mischief: hundreds of thousands of bacterial, yeast, fungi and mold colonies partying atop college students’ beds. The study comes from sleep advice website

The first-ever scientific study of college bedding from throughout the country – Investigates: Fungus Among Us – discovered that, on average, the pillows in the study had 350,000 potential live bacteria colonies and 91,000 potential live yeast and mold colonies. The mattress pads were even nastier: with 2 million potential bacteria colonies and 330,000 yeast and mold colonies on average.

“These findings are enough to have college students pulling all-nighters…for fear of going to bed,” said Dr. Lisa Shives, a nationally recognized physician who specializes in sleep medicine. “These high levels of bacteria, yeast and mold mean that students’ pillows and mattress pads are reservoirs for vast colonies of nasty microbes. Given the potential health issues associated with these microorganisms, this study should serve as a wake-up call for anyone with old bedding, whether or not in college, to throw them out.”

Men’s pillows were statistically almost twice as microbe-infested as women’s – 480,000 potential bacterial counts vs. 290,000, respectively. However, the worst offending bedding belonged to a female college senior whose pillow contained a teeming reservoir of 170 million potential bacteria counts and nearly 40 million potential yeast and mold counts.

The study identified a “who’s who” of bacterial fauna, with 241 different microbes identified. While the majority of the microorganisms were those expected to thrive among sloughed-off skin cells, dust mites and bodily fluids, there were others that were far more problematic, including Shigella, a food poison that causes dysentery and is typically transported on feces; Moraxella catarrhalis, which can cause bronchitis, sinusitis, and laryngitis; and Cladosporium molds which under the right circumstances can cause skin lesions, keratitis, nail fungus, sinusitis, asthma, and pulmonary infections.

The raw data from the study is available on, including the “outlier” samples whose potential live microbial counts were in the millions and excluded from the averages. In addition, there is a slide show of petri dishes and sleep tips and information for college students on how to get better sleep on the site.

The study, which involved the testing of 50 pillows and nine mattress pads from current college students in 25 states, was commissioned by, an online resource of sleep-related information created by Carpenter Co. Independent testing was conducted by Connecticut-based Specialized Technology Resources, Inc. (STR), whose laboratories and offices are in 30 countries around the world.

National Survey Findings

The release of the findings coincides with the release of the results of a national survey of 1,000 students from around the country who were polled about their sleep habits and bedding.

As an explanation perhaps as to why college students’ bedding is so rife with microorganisms, the survey found that 41 percent of college students never washed their pillows and 43 percent never washed their mattress pads. Their sheets and clothing fared better: 46 percent of those polled said they washed their bed linens once a month while 45 percent said they wash their clothes after each use.

The survey also found:

  • 25 percent of college students allow pets to sleep in their beds
  • 50 percent of students shower at night, with the other 50 percent showering in the morning
  • 83 percent of students surveyed have had their pillow about a year or more
  • 63 percent of respondents attached at least a little bit of sentimentality to their pillow
  • 48 percent said they do not get at least 7 hours of sleep each night

“Just as sleep is a critical component of success in college, so is keeping healthy,” said Dan Schecter, vice president of consumer products at Carpenter Co. and creator of “While many parents spare no expense in providing their children with the resources they will need in college – computers, books and other equipment – they often neglect to give them the best possible sleeping environment. As this study and survey make clear, students can be doing much more to improve the amount and quality of sleep they are getting each night.”

About Carpenter Co. / is dedicated to helping people sleep better. Designed as an online resource, the Web site creates a forum for visitors to define, discuss, and discover solutions to their particular sleep needs.'s quest is to continually gather pertinent sleep information, then share this knowledge with the general public. The site also shares tips on the best sleep related products, both in stores and online. has created the Sleep Better seal as a way to easily identify products recommended for their superior quality or scientifically based design. Created by Carpenter Co., the world's largest producer of comfort cushioning products, provides information and advice that visitors can use to sleep better. For more information, please visit You can also connect with on Twitter and Facebook.

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Steve Cummings, 804-788-1414

Release Summary Investigates: Fungus Among Us - a study of yeast, molds fungi and bacteria in college bedding. Find out how college students are sleeping with the enemy.

Steve Cummings, 804-788-1414