Buying a mattress is a huge investment. Considering that you’ll spend about a third of your life sleeping, this item plays a pretty big role in your ongoing wellness. It’s important to choose the right fit for your body so that you’ll get the restful sleep that you need, but decisions on firmness and inches of memory foam aren’t the only elements you should be looking at when purchasing a new bed. What the bed is made of is, in our opinion, the MOST important aspect to consider.
Why Do Mattress Components Matter?
You can get all the sleep in the world, but if your bed is exposing you to harmful toxins, that rest won’t allow for the healing and recharging benefits we need. For example, off-gassing is a huge concern. Certain chemicals and materials used in mattresses can cause volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to be released into the air and Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOC) to be released in our house dust. Depending on the type of mattress, these VOCs can include formaldehyde, antimony, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), boric acid, halogenated flame retardants benzene, trichloroethane, and perfluorocarbons.
Many memory foam mattresses, for example, contain polyurethane foam, a synthetic chemical that comes from petroleum.
As these components off-gas throughout the mattress’ life cycle, they’ll make their way into your body. Some chemicals, like organophosphates, release toxins more and more over time, so the older the mattress gets, the more of a hazard it becomes.
Think about it, we’re sleeping 8 hours a night with our face right up against these toxins… This can cause a long list of potential health problems. For individuals with compromised and developing immune systems, that can particularly be a nightmare. Children’s bodies are particularly more susceptible as they’re still developing!
A couple of examples of adverse health reactions include:
- Formaldehyde: can irritate the nose, throat, and skin and increase the risk of coughing and wheezing.
- Flame retardants: can delay puberty, cause neurobehavioral changes, and disrupt thyroid hormones.
- Perfluorocarbons (PFCs): Some PFCs may interfere with growth, development, and reproduction, harm the liver, and increase the risk of certain cancers.
- Organophosphates: can trigger nervous system problems such as muscle weakness and numbness and tingling of the hands and feet (neuropathy), confusion, anxiety, loss of memory, loss of appetite, disorientation, depression, and personality changes, headache, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
Knowing what to look out for can ensure your mattress is positively adding to your awakened space and supporting your wellness. No one wants to sleep in a bed that’s negatively impacting their health.
Choosing the Right Fit
To make sure your mattress is actually the oasis you want it to be a solid investment, here’s what you need to look out for.
- Buy something made of natural materials like organic cotton, organic wool, and natural latex.
- Look for the GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard) and OEKO-Tex (non-organic latex) certifications
- Avoid metal coils. Metal coils can act as an antenna if there are electromagnetic fields in the room, leading to subtle exposure over time.
- Make sure the layers of materials are stitched together and not glued together. Oftentimes, companies use all healthy, non-toxic materials, but they use adhesive to keep the layers from slipping past each other.
- Be wary of foam mattresses claiming to be low-VOC and having a CertiPUR-US certification. This certification does not mean that there are no VOCs, it just means it has lower off-gassing than standard memory foam. Some sensitive individuals will still have issues with this foam.
- Check with the company to see where the mattresses are made. Beds should be made in facilities that produce only organic beds and bedding so that there’s no cross-contamination
- Find out if the materials used in the mattress are domestically produced, as transporting them from other countries increases the chances of exposure to contaminants like pesticides and other synthetic materials. This increase in transportation also increases the environmental footprint of the mattress
A mattress that can tick off each of these boxes is a great investment for your sleep and your health.
Which One Should You Choose?
There are a million and one mattress brands out there to purchase a mattress from and a growing number of natural mattress brands. To make your life a little easier, here are a couple of options that meet our criteria to start you off in making your selection.
My Green Mattress $: Some mattresses may have adhesives, but overall, they’re good for the price point.
Avocado Mattress $$: Avocado mattresses are designed in Hoboken and handmade in California, in their own factory. They also feature a 1-year sleep trial, and a 25-year warranty, as well as being a certified B Corp and Climate Neutral brand.
Lifekind $$$: Lifekind organic mattresses are certified to the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS), and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and are made by hand in California and Colorado.
Medley $$: Medley mattresses feature Dunlop latex for its durability and completely natural composition, and it’s certified organic by The Global Organic Latex Standard. They also use cruelty-free wool.
The Futon Shop $$: Futon mattresses are hand-crafted and use certified organic ingredients, which are ethically grown and farmed.
Obasan $$$: Their mattresses and sleep accessories are hand-crafted in their Ottawa factory by expert craftspeople and have 20-year warranty coverage. The materials used in the mattresses are also organic and ethically sourced.
Savvy Rest $$$: Savvy Rest natural, organic mattresses are made with 3-inch layers of natural latex (Dunlop or Talalay) in personalized combinations of Soft, Medium and/or Firm to provide the right cushioning and support for your body
Samina Sleep $$$$: These mattresses are the top of the line in terms of health and are an entire sleep system. The beds are made in Austria by a doctor/psychologist and include an open system so that moisture can’t get trapped within the item. Constant moisture can lead to mold and/or dust mites.
In short, there’s really no reason we shouldn’t buy a mattress that considers health first. There are so many options for natural beds these days and they are even cost competitive with beds made out of synthetic foams and chemicals.
Just Bought a Mattress?
If you recently purchased a mattress but realized it could have some of the components listed above, it’s best to return it and choose a healthier alternative. That being said, sometimes this route isn’t an option.
In this situation, you can prevent the off-gassing as much as possible by using a food-grade polyethylene mattress cover. Make sure to pair it with a mattress pad cover to help with the comfort level because this is essentially a food-grade plastic wrap for your mattress, which isn’t exactly super comfortable, but can prevent off-gassing for more sensitive individuals who can’t afford a new mattress at this time.
Important note: This is a band-aid solution and still might not provide you with relief.
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- Zhou T, Taylor MM, DeVito MJ, Crofton KM. Developmental exposure to brominated diphenyl ethers results in thyroid hormone disruption. Toxicol Sci. 2002 Mar;66(1):105-16. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/66.1.105. PMID: 11861977.
Ashley · @AwakeningSpaces
Awakening Spaces is a full service interior design and consulting firm that support health conscious individuals and those who have been impacted by mold, chemicals, and EMFs create safe nurturing spaces.
Whether you’re renovating, building new, or looking to improve your existing space, we’re here to help you navigate the massive project you’re taking on by looking at your environment holistically and outlining the steps you need to take so that you can feel confident that your home is supporting your health and you can get back to your life.