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Waking up with itchy eyes, a stuffy nose, and repeated sneezing is unpleasant and may even be confusing. What, exactly, is making you feel sick? The down feathers inside your pillow? The type of fabric that your sheets are made of? Something else? It turns out that dust mites are often to blame for much of this morning misery.

Bedding, whether it contains feathers or a synthetic material, is a dust mite hot spot. When you breathe into your pillow and sheets each night, that creates a moist environment that allows these microscopic critters to thrive. In fact, your pillow can double in weight in just 18 months due to the buildup of these allergens. And considering that your head is on the pillow for roughly seven to nine hours a day, you spend a lot of time up close and personal with dust mites.

Not everyone is allergic to dust mites, but if you are, then, beyond nasal congestion, you may also experience coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and headaches. Dust mites are also a common cause of children’s asthma. If you suspect that you might be having a reaction, visit your doctor for an allergy test (allergy tests are covered by most insurance plans).

Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself. First, install dehumidifiers to zap some of the moisture from the air (dust mites die when the humidity level drops below 50 percent). Then, consider investing in mite-proof covers, which zip around your mattress and pillows to create a barrier between you and the mites, as well as bed bugs. Additionally, wash your bedding weekly in hot water and keep your bedroom clean and vacuumed.

It’s impossible to rid your home of dust mites completely, but a little extra time spent keeping your bedding as mite-free as possible will lead to better sleep and happier, healthier mornings.