A good night’s sleep is one of those essentials of good health, like proper nutrition and exercise. When Debra Lynn Dadd first wrote about natural beds in 1982, there was little to write about. Today our choices for natural beds and bedding are wide and varied–in types of mattresses and foundations, materials, and price range. The more you know about the options, the easier it will be for you to choose the natural bed that is just right for you.
But, first things first. Why a natural bed?
According to “Respiratory Toxicity of Mattress Emissions in Mice” (Archives of Environmental Health, January 2000), synthetic mattresses emit a variety of toxic chemicals, including styrene, isopropylbenzene, nitrobenzene, 1-methyl-2-ethylbenzene, 1,3-dichlorobenzene and others. The latest concern about chemicals in synthetic mattresses are the fire retardants PBDEs. PBDEs belong to a group of brominated flame retardants. Because PBDEs can account for up 30 percent of the foam’s weight, and they are not bound to the material, much of it can escape from foam mattresses as household dust. The long-term effect of exposure to PBDEs is still unknown.
Synthetic bedding items also give off toxic chemicals. Polyester/cotton bed linens and “easy care” cotton bed linens are all treated with a formaldehyde finish to keep them wrinkle-free. The finishing process combines the formaldehyde resin directly with the fiber, making it impossible to remove. Symptoms associated with formaldehyde exposure include headaches, skin rashes, respiratory problems, tiredness and insomnia. If you are frequently awake at night, try changing your sheets instead of popping a sleeping pill.
Mattresses are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They are regulated only for flammability. Manufacturers are allowed to do anything they want, no matter how harmful to health or the environment, in order to meet the flammability standards. No labeling laws require listing materials from which mattresses are made. Manufacturers of synthetic materials usually don’t reveal their materials-makers of natural and organic mattresses bend over backwards to tell consumers every detail about their materials.
Many natural fiber mattresses fall in the price range of a high-quality synthetic mattresses, others cost even more. If you can afford a natural fiber mattress, it’s one of the best investments you can make in your good health. Though they are expensive, natural beds last longer than synthetic beds, so the actual cost-per-night is less, in fact. And the quality of sleep is priceless.
For links to Web sites that sell natural beds and bedding, visit Debra’s List on beds and bedding.
Adapted from Guide to Choosing a Natural Bed by Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Home Safe Home (see Debra's List).