Once Upon An Organic Mattress: Why and how much it matters what you sleep on tonight
Jan 30, 2014 06:34PM
By Beth Leas
In an ideal world, people should spend one-third of their lives in bed, totaling almost 25 years of sleep in an average lifespan. National Institute of Health (NIH) studies show that consistent, quality sleep is critical to maintaining health, vitality and even our weight. When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, mattress’ quality can make a significant difference.
Comfort ranks as one of the top qualities to consider when purchasing a bed. According to Consumer Reports, it only takes 15 minutes to determine if a mattress will be comfortable for you. “Panelists who took beds home for a month-long trial rarely changed the opinion they formed after the first night. On the whole, their opinions were the same as those of our in-store testers,” the magazine reported.
What’s in a Mattress?
While a mattress’ age and shape make a significant difference in the sleep quality we experience, so too does the kind we are sleeping on. Most conventional mattresses are made with metal springs sandwiched between layers of polyurethane foam. It has become common knowledge among health conscious consumers that polyurethane foam (including popular memory foam mattresses) is made from petroleum, which can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). According to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, VOCs have been linked to respiratory irritation and other health problems.
Formaldehyde is used to make an adhesive that holds mattresses together. It has been linked to asthma, allergies and lung, nose and throat cancers. In addition, most conventional mattresses contain cotton pesticides, glues, stains and coatings, which can release gasses into the air we breathe. Consumers who are chemically sensitive or have allergies, as well as those interested in reducing their environmental exposure to potentially toxic chemicals, are trading in conventional beds in favor of an organic/natural one. Choosing mattresses made of natural latex, organic cotton batting and organic wool is one of the best ways to reduce the toxins inhaled while sleeping.
Organic Sleep by Sleep Etc.’s President, Jeff Klein, became passionate about offering organic mattresses in his showrooms after the birth of his daughter. “My wife was shopping for organic food and I began looking for a healthier alternative to traditional mattresses. What I discovered was that all natural and organic mattresses are not just healthier, but also incredibly comfortable and provide significantly better support for your body while reducing pressure points that cause you to toss and turn at night.”
Today, Sleep Etc. offers traditional, organic and natural mattresses side-by-side in Norwalk and Stamford showrooms, allowing their customers to see and feel the differences. “People come in looking for traditional mattresses and we are able to show them alternatives that are not only healthier, but also more comfortable and durable. Our job is to educate and inform, helping our customer make a decision that best fits for them.”
Construction Considerations of Organic Mattresses
Organic mattresses consist of organic cotton, latex and wool. The components are often cultivated using no pesticides and manufactured using chemical-free processes. As a result, the mattresses are hypoallergenic, durable and biodegradable.
Organic mattresses are characterized by their ability to support the body and alleviate pressure while simultaneously regulating body temperature to help you sleep warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Furthermore, by purchasing an organic mattress, you help reduce the amount of harmful toxins in the air and commit to a healthy sleep strategy. It is dust mite-resistant, hypoallergenic and anti-microbial. Wool is naturally flame retardant, resistant to mold and bacteria and also has an ability to repel water.
If you are looking for a healthy mattress option, it is vital to look for products made with organic, chemical-free cotton, latex (rubber) and wool. Not all organic/natural mattresses are created equal, and some can have the same issues as conventional standard mattresses. Chris Chamberlin, co-founder of The Clean Bedroom of Kittery, Maine with a showroom in Greenwich, warns “there are many manufacturers that claim to produce an organic mattress but they use only a few organic components – not all – like only an organic cotton outer cover. An organic mattress is made with materials that are certified organic and all natural: organic wool, 100% all natural rubber that comes from the rubber tree and makes up at least 95% of the latex foam, organic cotton. An organic mattress is made without the use of chemical flame retardants. Instead, the manufacturers use wool as the flame retardant. One of our manufacturers, Naturepedic, uses PLA, a synthetic that is made from plant derivatives of corn and potatoes as a flame retardant.”
“The cost of an organic mattress is no more than a Tempurpedic or a good Serta, Simmons or Beauty Rest,” says Chamberlin. “We see ourselves as health care professionals. We ask a series of questions of everyone who comes to our store that relate to their comfort needs. Then, we fit them on the mattress options we feel match their comfort needs. We have a mattress to fit every budget.”
There are also ways to improve your bedroom environment that are less costly than a new mattress. “Everyone should change their pillow every two years for sanitary reasons. Your pillow is close to your head and you’re breathing in allergens all night. Change your pillow to a freshly made material that is certified organic and breathe easier without allergens. Wool, cotton or natural rubber pillows are supportive and hypoallergenic because they are natural mold and dust mite-resistant,” explains Chamberlin.
In addition to being a healthier choice, buying an organic mattress may be a step towards reducing your carbon footprint. Buying from a socially responsible company such as Healthy Choice Organic Mattresses can help you do just that while supporting the local economy. “We are a very socially conscious business. Our latex comes from a supplier in Shelton, CT and our mattresses are handcrafted in Bethany, CT. We use only locally produced and American-made materials,” owner David Spittal says proudly. Healthy Choice Organic Mattresses has three showrooms in our area: Brookfield, Westport, and Mount Kisco, NY in Westchester county.
The life span of your mattress is another point of consideration. The average traditional spring or coil mattress has an expected life span of 8-10 years whereas natural rubber is very durable and long lasting. Healthy Choice mattresses come with a 25-year warranty. A natural latex mattress is expected to last much longer than a standard coil mattress, and should last 20 years or more due to its elasticity.
The Stuff of Dreams
There is plenty of evidence that quality sleep is a key element to a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, non-organic mattresses can be harmful to our health. It follows that a quality organic mattress is an important long-term part of healthy, quality sleep. “Consider this,” advises Spittal. “If you could buy a non-toxic, eco-friendly, more comfortable, much longer lasting mattress that is comparably priced to a traditional mattress, while also supporting a great local business, why on earth wouldn’t you?”
Beth Leas is Founding Director of Total Life Center at 152 East Ave., Norwalk and a contributing writer to Natural Awakenings. She can be reached at 203-856-9566 or BethLeas.com. See ad, page 13.
The Clean Bedroom • 79 East Putnam Ave., Greenwich, CT • 203-292-9275 • TheCleanBedroom.com/Connecticut-Showroom.htm
Healthy Choice Organic Mattresses • 141 Post Rd. East, Westport, CT • 270 Federal Rd., Brookfield, CT • 855-876-0868 • HCMattress.com