We spend about one-third of our lives in the bedroom, so it pays to make it as healthy a place as possible. Here's why the quality of your bedding is so important for a good night's sleep. 

Healthy bedrooms make happy people

Investing in quality beds and bedding may cost extra, but will increase comfort, contribute to good health and protect resources. It will also save you money in the long run, as quality products last longer.

 

Which bed should you choose?

  • Many of the beds and most of the mattresses we buy incorporate synthetic materials. These materials are derived from nonrenewable petrochemicals, can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that emit harmful fumes and are seldom recyclable.
  • When selecting your next bed, opt for a base made of natural materials. Preferably wood from a sustainable source, and sealed with non-toxic, biodegradable stains or varnishes. Avoid bases made of wood composites, such as particleboard, as these are often made with adhesives containing VOCs.

    When choosing your next mattress, consider one that is made of natural, biodegradable materials, such as cotton, wool or natural latex (which is harvested sustainably from rubber trees). Research what’s available on the Internet and visit natural bedding outlets before making your choice.

  • If you are prepared to spend for the long term, consider a pure latex mattress. Many are guaranteed for 10 years and can last up to 25 years. Latex is light and offers good support. It is also less likely to harbour dust mites than other materials, is naturally antibacterial and is resistant to moisture buildup. Check with the manufacturer that no chemicals have been added.
  • Cotton and wool mattresses are generally reasonably inexpensive, comfortable, durable and allow good air circulation. Wool is also an effective heat regulator. They do, however, require regular airing in the sun to avoid compaction (and to ensure that moisture retention and dust mites are kept to a minimum), and are often heavy and difficult to manoeuvre. Check with the manufacturers that no chemicals have been added. 
  • Good-quality inner spring mattresses are widely available for reasonable prices. They can offer good back support and last for 10 years or more. Bear in mind, however, that most such mattresses are made using synthetic materials, particularly polyurethane foams, which may emit chemical fumes.
  • If you opt for a mattress made of synthetic materials, contact the maker and ask about potentially harmful chemicals. Such as flame retardants, that might have been used in production. Some companies adhere voluntarily to European safety standards that regulate chemical emissions.
  • If you buy beds and bedding that you suspect may contain VOCs let them stand in a well-ventilated space for a couple of weeks before use, and continue to air them regularly. Fumes will diminish over time.
  • If you purchase a bed base or bedroom furniture made of a wood composite consider sealing it with eco-friendly paint or varnish to minimise off-gassing of fumes. 

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Greener bedding

  • Choose sheets made of natural fibres derived from environmentally friendly sources.
  • Consider wool blankets instead of a duvet. Heavy duvets often make us too hot, resulting in disturbed sleep patterns.Wool is particularly good at trapping heat, and using three or four blankets allows you to adjust the covering to suit the temperature.
  • If you buy a duvet, opt for natural fillings and coverings, such as wool, cotton or down, rather than synthetics.
  • Select pillows containing natural materials such as down, wool, cotton or latex.
  • Place a protector made of natural fibres, such as wool or cotton, around or on top of your mattress. This will help absorb sweat, protect you from dust mites in the mattress, and can make an old mattress more comfortable.

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Bedding and the environment

  • COTTON: Inexpensive, comfortable, lets air circulate, wears well. Conventional production uses large amounts of water as well as fertilisers, pesticides and bleaches.
  • Requires large doses of chemicals to absorb dyes.
  • DUCK and GOOSE DOWN: Natural, soft, light. Effective heat and moisture regulator. Usually a by-product of breeding ducks for food. Moderately expensive.
  • HEMP: Strong, breathes well, naturally hypoallergenic and antibacterial. Production requires relatively little water and few or no pesticides. Absorbs dyes easily without chemical additives. Not yet widely available; moderately expensive.
  • ORGANIC COTTON: Same qualities as conventional cotton, but produced without chemicals and dyes. End product  is therefore safer, but more expensive.
  • POLYESTER: Inexpensive, easy to maintain, but doesn’t breathe well. Derived from non-renewable petroleum; production yields toxic waste. Can contain VOCs.
  • WOOL: Renewable, plentiful. Effective heat and moisture regulator, naturally flame retardant. May contain pesticide residues, and dyed and treated wool may contain chemicals. Moderately expensive.

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Sleep right

  • Keep furniture to a minimum so that you can dust and vacuum easily and regularly.
  • Choose furniture made with wood from a sustainable source. Check that varnishes and stains are low in toxicity and biodegradable.
  • Refresh the air in the bedroom by opening windows every day.
  • Pull back the covers every morning to air the sheets for a few hours.This will help evaporate perspiration and get rid of dust mites.
  • When you change the sheets, let the mattress air for a while. Vacuuming the mattress and spraying it with a solution of eucalyptus oil will minimise dust mites.
  • Hang your bedding in the sun for 3 hours to eliminate dust mites, mould and mildew.
  • If dust or dust mites continue to be a problem, remove carpets, heavy curtains, padded headboards and cushions. Consider storing clothes in another room.
  • Minimise the number of electrical appliances in your bedroom to reduce your exposure to electromagnetic fields, and keep your bed away from power sources—even those on the other side of a wall.

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