10 Ways to Prevent Mosquito Bites in Your Sleep
Mosquitoes like to come out at night, but you can protect yourself. Here's how to keep mosquitoes away and prevent bug bites when you sleep.
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Bites at night
Bad news for deep sleepers: Mosquitoes are more likely to bite you at night. Nearly 80 percent of bites by the mosquitoes that carry malaria occur during the time when people are in bed, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. The circadian rhythms of most species of the biting bugs mean that they are most active at dawn and in the evening, although they will bite you long into the night if given the opportunity. So it’s up to you to not give them the chance to suck your blood.
Sleep with a mosquito net
They’re not common in America but mosquito nets, particularly those treated with an insecticide, are one of the most effective ways to prevent mosquito bites, according to a meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. When used properly (enclosing your entire bed with no gaps) they are a cheap and reliable way to prevent insect bites, says Joseph M. Conlon, medical entomologist and technical adviser for the American Mosquito Control Association.
Bug proof your yard
It’s a good idea to do everything you can to make your home and yard less appealing to mosquitoes. Get rid of any standing water, including in buckets, bird baths, or kiddie pools. Walk around your home and close up any gaps in screens or doors with weather stripping. If you live in a mosquito-prone area, consider having your yard sprayed. But you can skip the “bug zappers” as they don’t work. They instead can kill beneficial insects and birds as well as mosquitoes, Conlon says.
Shine a bright light
Mosquitoes are tenacious but they’re not particularly smart and it’s easy to throw off their internal cycle. Exposure to just 10 minutes of light at night suppresses biting in mosquitoes, according to a study published in Parasites and Vectors. The best part is the biting suppression lasted as long as four hours after the pulse of light.
Put on socks
File this under weird but true. Smelly feet are like sweet perfume to hungry mosquitoes, Conlon says. Showering before bed can help reduce the stinky temptation and covering up your feet with socks will reduce their ability to get to you. (Here’s another science-backed reason you should sleep with your socks on.)
Put on some sultry perfume
Victoria’s Secret Bombshell perfume is surprisingly effective at repelling mosquitoes according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Insect Science. The floral, fruity smell kept mosquitoes away for about two hours, working nearly as well as sprays that contain 7% DEET. It also performed better than many “all natural” insect repellents.
Wear long pajamas
Less bare skin means less space mosquitoes can reach. Wear long pants, long sleeves, and socks, and make sure they’re tight around the ankles, wrists, and collar so mosquitoes can’t sneak underneath. In addition, consider light colors. “Red, navy blue, and black are the three worst colors when it comes to trying to avoid mosquitoes, but anything dark will attract them considerably more than lighter shades,” says Kevin Chan, PhD, MHA, entomologist for Mosquito Squad. (Here’s why you’re a mosquito target.)
Run a fan
Keeping a fan by your bed can help you keep cool and block out sound with some white noise. But it can also keep mosquitoes away. Getting a breeze going can protect against mosquitoes, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology. It works in a couple of ways. Mosquitoes are weak fliers, moving about 1 to 1.5 miles per hour, so a strong wind can make it hard for them to get to you. Plus, mosquitoes find their targets through scent and the carbon dioxide you exhale, so the draft will make it harder to find you. (Here are other things mosquitoes absolutely hate.)
Shower before bed
One of the reasons mosquitoes find people to bite is through the scent of their sweat, which might have to do with the lactic acid in it. Rinse off the day’s sweat in the shower to make yourself less of a target for hungry bugs. Then dry off completely before crawling into bed, Chan says. (Here are ways you’re probably showering wrong.)
Keep your windows closed
Warm summer nights make it tempting to sleep with your windows open but if you’re concerned about biting bugs, don’t do it. Mosquitoes are masters of finding any tiny opening to get into your house. Window screens provide some protection, but closing your windows and doors and making sure there aren’t any gaps will ensure they don’t get in, Conlon says. (Here’s what to eat to keep mosquitoes away.)
Spritz essential oils
Citronella, lemon, cinnamon, and eucalyptus essential oils may deter the pesky bugs, according to a study published in BioMed Research International. The plants produce natural chemicals that interfere with the bugs’ sense of smell, which may keep them away from you. Make sure to dilute essential oil with water and before you spray it around your bedroom.
- Kevin Chan, PhD, MHA, entomologist for Mosquito Squad
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA: “Mosquito feeding behavior and how it influences residual malaria transmission across Africa”
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: “A Meta-Regression Analysis of the Effectiveness of Mosquito Nets for Malaria Control: The Value of Long-Lasting Insecticide Nets”
- Joseph M. Conlon, medical entomologist and technical adviser for the American Mosquito Control Association
- Parasites and Vectors: “Light manipulation of mosquito behaviour: acute and sustained photic suppression of biting activity in the Anopheles gambiae malaria mosquito”
- Journal of Insect Science: “The Efficacy of Some Commercially Available Insect Repellents for Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae) and Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae)”
- Journal of Medical Entomology: “Reassessment of the role and utility of wind in suppression of mosquito (Diptera: Culicidae) host finding: stimulus dilution supported over flight limitation.”
- BioMed Research International: “Essential Oils as Repellents against Arthropods”