What are organic mattresses and why would you want one?
There are two main types of organic mattresses: • Coil Innerspring Mattress • Natural Rubber Mattress
The Coil Innerspring Mattress is made of a metal coil, surrounded by natural wool which acts as a fire retardant and regulates body temperature. Surrounding the organic wool is organic cotton which makes the mattress softer.
The Natural Rubber Mattress has a core made of rubber which comes from a rubber tree in Malaysia (a completely renewable resource). This part is similar to a memory foam mattress in that it provides great support and you do not feel any movement from other people on the bed. The rubber core is surrounded by a layer of organic wool on this mattress as well – again to act as a fire retardant and to regulate moisture.
Why is an Organic Mattress Better? • Healthier • Better Sleep • Better for the Environment
Organic Mattresses are Healthier for You Regular or conventional mattresses contain a number of toxic chemicals which leach out into the air over time. This is called off-gassing.
So, what are these chemicals? Many of them are fire retardants, such as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) or boric acid. The fire retardants make the mattress less likely to catch fire. In the 1970s, governments required fire retardants to be added to mattresses (and other upolstery) to increase consumer safety. However, many of these chemicals have toxic effects. • PBDEs have been shown to have health effects in animals and are so toxic that Europe is phasing out the use of them completely. • Boric acid has many known health risks just due to inhalation and the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centres for Disease Control warn of reproductive, developmental and neurological damage.
In addition to the above risks, fire retardants in mattresses have been linked to the rise in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) over the past few decades. This would especially affect the 5-10% of population are super accumulators. (Globe and Mail in May 2006) And some research has linked Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) to exposure from toxic chemicals being emitted from crib mattresses.
Other than the fire retardants, other chemicals, such as those that come from the break down of polyurethane foam, are off-gased. These chemicals are known carcinogens.
So organic mattresses are healthier because there is no off-gasing, but they are also healthier for other reasons. For many people it is the benefits that these products bring for patients with asthma or allergies that is most attractive.
As you may know, dust mites are a trigger for many people with asthma. Conventional mattresses are a haven for dust mites. In fact, a plastic mattress cover is usually recommended for asthmatics that have dust mites as a trigger. This can be quite uncomfortable because the plastic does not breathe, resulting in a sweaty, restless sleep.
The benefit of the Natural Rubber Mattress is that it is naturally anti-microbial, hypo-allergenic and dust-mite resistant – dust mites are unable to survive in the rubber or wool. So for people with asthma or allergies, dust mites can be eliminated from their mattress without the plastic cover.
Why are Organic Mattresses Healthier? • No synthetic materials so no off-gasing • No off-gasing of fire retardant chemicals because wool acts as a natural fire retardant • Anti-microbial, hypo-allergenic and dust-mite resistant – better for people with asthma, allergies or sensitivities
Organic Mattresses Provide Better Sleep
Another benefit of an organic mattress is a potentially sounder sleep.
In one study, it was found that people tossed and turned less and reported better sleep when sleeping on natural wool. It is hypothesized that this is because wool regulates body temperature – keeps you warm when it is cold and cool when it is warm. When you sleep on synthetic products, the experience can be similar to sleeping on a plastic covered mattress – you can wake up feeling sticky and clammy and unrested.
With natural fibers, the sweat evaporates. Wool absorbs moisture – it is able to absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture. And there are pockets in the wool which trap heat and let the air circulate near your body. In this way, your body temperature is regulated.
Organic Mattresses are Better for the Environment
As described above, organic mattresses are made of natural rubber, organic cotton, and organic wool.
Natural rubber is harvested by tapping the milk of the rubber tree. This is truly a sustainable resource because sap can be collected from the trees up to 180 days per year and the tree heals within an hour. Each tree can provide enough milk for one mattress per year.
Organic Cotton – the benefits of organic cotton are described here.
Organic wool is produced without the use of hormones or pesticides, both in the animal and in the animal’s food. Wool is a sustainable resource because the sheep are not killed; they are merely shorn each year.