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Published on January 27th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans

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Sleep Safely with Organic Bedding

Have you ever been bombarded with allergy sensitivity, asthma attacks, or even more troubling medical conditions, and wondered why? 

Sometimes these conditions are caused simply by spending time inside.  The interior of our home is often a more toxic and unnatural environment than what we encounter outside because many of the things that fill our homes constantly circulate harmful and invasive toxins. 

Since our non-waking hours—quite a chunk of the day—are spent in bed, it’s especially important to take steps toward minimizing the level ofBedding toxicity in our bedding.  You may be thinking, "Who can afford organic, green bedding options?"  Since organic bedding comes without the host of pesticide-smothered fibers, toxic coatings, and dust-collecting qualities, the question is—can you really afford not to? 

Many green bedding alternatives are priced very comparably to non-natural options, and they provide a wonderfully soft and long-lasting defense to help fortify your sacred sleep space against a toxic invasion.

Here is your starter guide to natural bedding options for mattresses, mattress pads, bed linens, pillows, and covers…

Mattresses

A conventional mattress may last you for a long time—5–10 years—and during that time, your moisture-trapping polyurethane foam cushioning accumulates its fair share of dust mites, mold, and other allergens.  Your mattress also continues to release toxic fumes into the air of your nighttime haven. 

A mix of glues, solvents, fire retardants, and other treatments introduce an arsenal of pesticides, formaldehyde, and other heavy toxins with suspected carcinogenic effects, such as PDBEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) and styrene—a powerful carcinogen found in most carpeting.  Remember, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there—when these products are introduced into your space, your body is literally being invaded while you sleep.

The organic mattress options are antibacterial, antifungal (resistant to molds and mildews), fire retardant, moisture-wicking, and long lasting.

All-Natural Latex.  Synthetic latex is a petroleum product so if you go all natural with this foam rubber option, it can be a solid investment, literally.  Latex is much denser than other materials, and the size of holes positioned uniformly throughout determines how well the material conforms to and supports your body.  Beware—many natural/synthetic latex blends have been chemically treated and are deceptively advertised as "all natural."

You’ll find that some all-natural latex options are priced quite high, since the materials are more costly and consumer demand is not yet loud enough for big manufacturers to amend their ways.  Some companies offer full-sized natural latex mattresses for equal to the price of a larger run-of-the-mill mattress.

Wool.  Organic wool is so naturally fire retardant that most organizations do not require it to be chemically treated.  In a non-organic process, sheep are dipped in pesticides and given synthetic hormones, while those in an organic process are not.  Pure organic wool-filled mattresses are relatively scarce on the market right now, but they are available.

Care Tips

  • All mattresses should be set on a firm base to prevent sagging and turned once every few months to ensure they wear in an evenly distributed fashion.
  • Vacuum your mattress and air it in the sunlight every so often to keep it clean and mildew-free.

Mattress Pads

Generally this extra bit of padding comes to us in a cotton cover with 100% polyester fill.  Polyester is a petroleum-based fiber that traps moisture and provides a safe breeding ground for dust mites that feed off of mold and mildew. 

Your best organic bedding options are organic cotton, fleece wool using 100% virgin wool, or a latex/wool combination with an organic cotton cover.  These easy-to-find products are antibacterial, dust mite repellant, and hypoallergenic.  Fleece wool mattress pads are also fire retardant and moisture-wicking.  Pricing varies based on the thickness, which ranges from ¼"–5".

Many green bedding alternatives are priced very comparably to non-natural options, and they provide a wonderfully soft and long-lasting defense to help fortify your sacred sleep space against a toxic invasion.

Bed Linens

Sheets.  Most sheets owe their nice, smooth quality to a wrinkle-free formaldehyde finish that adheres to fibers and acts as aFresh Bed Linens sealant.  These finishes cannot be washed out and they are attributed to a wide range of harmful effects, from birth defects to cancer.  Many people report aggravated respiratory functions, headaches, rashes, and sleep pattern disturbances in connection with the bed linens that comes close to their skin.  Imagine if you could improve the quality of your sleep and the quality of your life by a simple switch of sheets . . . 

When purchasing bed linens made from alternative fibers, you’ll note that many product labels—such as those on modal products—direct you to wash them in cold water.  We wash conventional sheet sets in hot water to kill collected bacteria, but many of our green options come with inherent antibacterial and antifungal properties, negating the need to heat dirt and moisture out of them.

Bamboo.  We know it’s one of the strongest "grasses" in the great outdoors, but who knew bamboo had a softer side?   Durable, antibacterial, and antimicrobial bamboo-based sheets are rated as softer, more moisture-absorbent, and quicker drying than cotton.  100% bamboo sheets are available if you look, and bamboo/cotton blends are sold online and by well-known national chain stores—usually these contain approximately 60% cotton and 40% bamboo.

100% bamboo differs from rayon-based bamboo products, which are classified as regenerated fibers.  The rayon production process often results in a lot of pollution, though real bamboo does cost quite a bit more—we don’t always get everything in one neat package!

Modal.  This fiber is derived from the beechwood tree and is currently harvested only from plantation forests in the EU under strict sustainable foresting standards.  Modal is not only a sustainable, pesticide-free fiber—stats confirm it’s significantly more absorbent than cotton.  These extremely soft, silky, and stretchy green bed linens are available online and at well-known national chain stores.

Organic Percale.  Percale is very smooth, closely woven cotton.  Though cotton is the most heavily sprayed crop, organically grown cotton is not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides and organic cotton sheets are processed without chemicals and resins.  A similar, albeit more costly cloth option, is linen—a soft, vegetable fiber from the flax plant.

Pillows

The selection and care of pillows is especially important because these are kept close to your face as you sleep.  In addition to all-natural latex (the merits of which are outlined above), here are some reasonably priced alternatives to the traditional down or polyester-filled pillow with a cotton cover:

Hemp.  Hemp is a sustainable option that offers firm loft—a pillow’s ability to retain its shape and air content.

Kapok.  This tropical tree species native to West Africa and the Americas is an ultra-sustainable option because of its quick-growth replenishment—it’s often used as a replacement for down.  Natural seed fibers provide a soft, antibacterial filling.  The industry provides jobs for indigenous local populations.

Organic Buckwheat.  Loosely-packed hulls allow for optimal conformity and support for your body.  Loose packing helps the circulation of air, which minimizes mildew.

Organic, Fair Trade Cotton.  Very dense when packed, cotton compresses so it provides a firmer feel than wool does—cotton tends to retain its shape rather than springing back.  Much of the fair trade cotton on the market now bears the FairTrade certification mark—in 2005, it became the first non-food commodity to be labeled. 

Organic Wool.  Organic wool pillows come in a variety of densities and its moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating properties preserve a comfortable microclimate around the head.  Over time, wool compresses to about 1/2 its size, but the fiber’s durable resilience will have it springing back up.

For pillow covers, opt for organic cotton muslin, which creates a very soft and airy feel.  Many distributors pre-wash their untreated, unbleached product in non-toxic soap.  Search sustainable cotton and wool carriers at the Organic Trade Association’s The Organic Pages Online.

Green cotton contains no formaldehyde or bleach on the end product.  Many green cotton products are conventionally grown and pre-treated, while organic cotton is entirely free of bleaches, dyes, pesticides, and formaldehyde. 

Covers—Comforters and Blankets

Keep in mind that while some comforters are all-season items, many are designed for specific seasons—something that insulates you very well in the winter may be a bit too toasty for the summer.  Look for tropical lightweight comforters for summertime, especially with wool-containing products.

Airing Organic BeddingOrganic Cotton.  Spend your sleep time swathed in natural, unbleached, toxin-free comfort.  Organic cotton with wool stuffing and cotton stuffing are available.

Organic Wool.  Wool comforters are durable and moisture absorbing.  Do your research and find wool from sheep that have not been pesticide-treated, such as the growing variety of products that contain organic wool from the California-based Pure Grow Program.  Wool products generally run on the higher end of the price spectrum though, with proper care, they last for quite some time.

Air wool bedding in direct sunlight at least 1x/month, avoiding long exposure.  Wool fibers absorb and filter moisture—airing them allows that contained moisture to evaporate.

Cleaning.  Do not wash a wool comforter.  If there is a spill, sprinkle it with baking soda or spray the area with a few applications of a diluted vinegar mixture.  Recommended 1 part distilled white vinegar to 3 parts water.

For natural duvets, look for organic cotton, organic linen, or a linen/cotton blend.

Blankets made of organic cotton, organic wool, organic fleece, and bamboo are starting to dot the market—these soft, natural options are especially nice for the delicate skin of babies.

There are many options to choose from as you start to green your bedroom with pure, natural items.  The soft and luxurious feel of organic material caressing your skin will connect you with Mother Earth’s nurturing, healing side.  Start small and actively bring nature into your inner space to improve the health of body, mind, and planet.  





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