1 in 7 U.S. Travelers Have Encountered Mattresses Infested With Bed Bugs in the Past Year

UPDATED

Written by David Rubin

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Waking up to find mysterious bites on your skin or spotting tiny insects in your bed might send shivers down your spine—these could be indicators of a bed bug infestation and one of the last experiences you want to have as a traveler.

These incidents are becoming more common for travelers, with recent reports of bed bugs at prominent Las Vegas hotels.

To find out how prevalent bed bugs are in paid accommodations, in February Sleep Doctor surveyed 1,565 Americans who stayed overnight in paid accommodations within the past year. With 14% reporting such encounters, these findings shed light on the extent of this issue and how it impacts travelers.

Notable findings:

  • 14% of U.S. travelers report bed bug encounter in the past year
  • Travelers report encountering bed bugs in various levels of accommodations
  • One-third of bed bug spotters slept in the bed unknowingly
  • 80% say the encounter impacted their sleep for days

Twenty Percent of Bed Bug Spotters Were Sleeping in a 5-Star Hotel 

In the past year, 14% of U.S. travelers say they have come across bed bugs. The survey revealed bed bug encounters across various types of accommodations.

The types of accommodations where guests encountered bed bugs in the past year (note: respondents could choose multiple answers) include:

  • 1-Star Hotel (9%)
  • 2-Star Hotel (16%)
  • 3-Star Hotel (38%)
  • 4-Star Hotel (30%)
  • 5-Star Hotel (20%)
  • Motel (20%)
  • Bed and breakfast (10%)
  • Vacation rental (E.g., Airbnb) (19%)
  • Hostel (4%)

Attorney at Law Christopher Johnston isn’t surprised these encounters have occurred across property types.

“The vast majority of bed bug cases have come from the budget properties,” says Johnston. “Although I haven’t had a bed bug case from a high-end property in the last year, I know they are out there because bed bugs are challenging to eliminate.”


“When an infestation occurs, most properties do their best to move guests and fumigate the affected floors. This is often easier for a large property, as they have more room to move people. Smaller properties, however, often don’t have that luxury which leads some to hold off on fumigation until the slow season. No property sets out to be a bed bug destination, but once they’ve checked in, they may never leave!”

6 in 10 saw bed bugs in the mattress

The presence of bed bugs became known to guests most commonly by visual identification of the critters (63%). Additionally, guests became aware of bed bugs after getting bites or skin reactions (60%), finding evidence (e.g., fecal stains, shed skins) on the mattress (49%), finding out other guests had reported bed bugs (19%), and being informed by staff or management (15%).

One in Three Slept In Bed With Bed Bugs Unknowingly

Nearly one-third (32%) of travelers didn’t realize there were bed bugs until after they had slept in the bed, while 68% realized beforehand.

The majority of guests who realized there were bed bugs before sleeping in the bed decided to sleep in new accommodations. However, others stayed in the same accommodations in a different bed and a few resorted to sleeping on the floor. Surprisingly, 21% say they did still sleep in the bed.

The majority (66%) of guests say they were reimbursed for their troubles.

Dr. Thanu Jey, founder of MediBrace, once encountered bed bugs in a budget New York City hotel.

“My reaction was a mix of frustration and concern for my well-being,” says Jey “The impact on my sleep was significant, as I found myself constantly checking for bugs and feeling uneasy. This experience made me more cautious when choosing accommodations, and I now thoroughly research hotels before booking. It also influenced my packing habits, as I now bring a small flashlight and bed bug spray when I travel.”

Eight in Ten Say The Encounter Affected Their Sleep For Days After

The majority (80%) of travelers who encountered bed bugs say it impacted their sleep for days. 

Furthermore, 99% say the experience had an impact on the way they travel. Now, 73% say they will always check for bed bugs, 63% will spend more money to stay at nicer accommodations, and 55% will avoid certain accommodation companies/chains. 

Most (94%) are now concerned about encountering bed bugs in future travel.

“It’s important to note that the impact of encountering bed bugs extends beyond the initial exposure,” says Dr. Michael Breus, clinical psychologist and sleep medicine expert at Sleep Doctor. “The aftermath of being bitten can linger, with skin irritation and persistent itching prolonging the discomfort. Furthermore, this experience may serve as a lingering reminder, triggering elevated anxiety not only during travel but also in future circumstances.”

“To manage anxiety, empower yourself with knowledge,” explains Dr. Breus. “Understanding that the situation is temporary and poses no lasting harm can significantly diminish anxiety levels. You can also try engaging in pre-sleep distractions to redirect your focus away from worrisome thoughts. Finally, practices such as meditation, relaxation, or gentle stretching can be enormously helpful in reducing anxiety and helping you get a good night’s sleep.”

Methodology

The survey was completed on SurveyMonkey in February 2024. In total, 1,565 Americans who stayed overnight in paid accommodations within the past year were surveyed. The sample was census balanced for age, region, and gender.

About The Author

David Rubin

Certified Sleep Science Coach, Director of Product Testing


David is a Certified Sleep Science Coach with a lifelong passion for well-being and health optimization. His interest in sleep developed with the arrival of his son, when sleep suddenly became a precious commodity.

  • POSITION: Side Sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Hot Sleeper
  • CHRONOTYPE: Lion

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