It can seem like a daunting task to transform our entire home into the “green” ideal we have imagined. When we consider that we pretty much spend a total of 120 days sleeping on a bed, there is no doubt that one particular room requires our attention at all times: the bedroom – our own, and our children’s. It is also a logical first step when attempting to create a healthy, organized and happy household using sustainable, natural, and toxin free materials.
Sleep is the time when the body rebuilds tissues and replenishes physical and mental energy supplies. If we deprive it from this important step, a number of things can go wrong: our thinking and cognitive processes are affected, as well as our creativity, coordination and immune function… to name a few. The amount of sleep a person needs will vary with each individual. But most people require around eight hours … if one can fall asleep easily and remain asleep, that is.
There is a handful of important elements that can make a difference in ensuring that we get a healthy night sleep.
Although mattresses are largely a matter of preference, it is important to consider what materials our body comes in contact with, and what we inhale for several hours every night, all lifelong. What is the mattress made of? Is it safe?
In the book ‘Prescriptions for a Health House’, Mary Cordaro writes: “Most ordinary mattresses are made almost entirely of raw ingredients from the petroleum industry, which are made into synthetic components, such as visco-elastic and polyurethane foams, including Dacron that may be made with formulations containing TDI (toluene discarnate, which OSHA labels as a hazardous material) and other toxic chemicals. To meet the federal flammability regulations, they may also contain synthetic chemical fire retardants, called organophosphate chemicals. Mattresses containing natural materials, such as conventional cotton and wool, may also contain pesticide residues. The older a mattress gets the more toxic it becomes, if it contains organophosphate flame-retardants and/or pesticide residues, because those chemicals never completely dissipate. Instead, they are released as chemical molecules that never completely “out gas” (which is why you often cannot smell them), and then they bind to house dust, which is then inhaled or ingested(…) Mattress layers can also be held together with glues, and their fabrics treated with chemicals and harsh dyes. These materials are then wrapped in a quilted surface layer of synthetic fabric stuffed with polyester. These ordinary mattresses trap moisture, dirt and dust creating a dust-mite haven, which can exacerbate allergies.”
An organic alternative to conventional inner spring or visco elastic mattresses are natural latex mattresses. Natural latex is made from the sap of the rubber tree. They offer the benefit of not transferring motion, relieving pressure points, and hypo allergenic properties of visco elastic mattresses using a sustainable, natural product without chemicals. Needless to say that crib mattresses should also be taken into consideration.
It is important to consider fibers that will not grow mold (like down and feathers tend to do). You may want to use organic wool pillows, which keep moisture and mites away. Another option are natural latex pillows, which provides good support. For extra support and proper neck alignment, consider buckwheat pillows that mold the head contour gently. In case you suffer multiple allergies, kapok pillows might work well for you.
3. Bed linen
The choice of our bed linen also plays a role in keeping us healthy during our sleep hours. Favor sheet sets made of natural fibers: 100% cotton, or a blend of cotton/bamboo or linen or silk. Once again keep in mind that toxic chemicals are used in the fabric processing, such as formaldehyde, bleach, and synthetic dyes. Certified organic fibers are your best choice.
Another invisible source of toxicity are the carcinogenic petroleum distillates (or naphtas) and phenols present in the laundry detergents we use. Residues get embedded in the linen fibers and can be absorbed through the skin. Use perfume and phosphate-free, biodegradable detergents when washing your bedding. It’s better for our bodies and our water supply.