Sleep well on an environmentally friendly bed
A good night’s sleep is one of those essentials of good health, like proper nutrition and exercise. It improves mood and increases your ability to think clearly and handle stress. Every cell is rejuvenated.
Synthetic bedding products are common, from polyester sheets to polyurethane foam mattresses. They’re made from nonrenewable petrochemicals rather than renewable agricultural fibers, and some people may be affected by formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted from synthetic products. If you are chemically sensitive, bedding products made with natural fibers and with no chemical treatments may be the best way for you to get a good night’s sleep. Even if you aren’t sensitive, you can benefit from the comfort and breathability of products made from natural rather than synthetic fibers.
Fortunately, there’s a long list of excellent natural-fiber bed products to choose from. For sheets and pillowcases, cotton is the most affordable and easy-to-find fiber, but you can also purchase linen, bamboo, hemp, modal (a type of rayon made from beech trees), or even silk bed linens. Blankets are made from a variety of natural fibers. Natural pillows bulge with feathers, down, cotton, wool, kapok, and even milkweed. For the fillings of quilts and comforters, your main choices are cotton, wool, down, silk, and hemp. For the mattress itself, where natural products may be less vital to your comfort and health, there are three types of construction–innerspring, foam, or stuffed–and innards made from synthetics, cotton, wool, hemp, or latex rubber.
If the list seems long–don’t despair. The rest of the articles in our bedding section can help you figure out which solutions will work best for you. Click on the following links to go to straight to the specific bedding topics or read on to get a great overview.
Detailed bedding articles
- Mattress and Pillow Covers
- Blankets, Comforters, and Quilts
- Mattresses, Box Springs, and Bed Frames
When shopping, look for
- Organic cotton. Some part of your bed will no doubt be made of cotton. Be sure the cotton you buy is organic. Conventional cotton uses even more pesticides per acre than growing food, so it’s even more important to the earth to buy organic cotton than it is to buy organic food.
- Sheets and pillowcases with no added formaldehyde. The main health concern associated with bed linens is formaldehyde, which provides wrinkle resistance in many fabrics. In high concentrations, though, it can cause asthma attics, nausea, a burning sensation in the eyes, nose and throat, and even cancer.
- Formaldehyde-free wood components. The main source of formaldehyde emissions in most homes is composite wood. Make sure your bed doesn’t add to the problem.
- Breathability. Synthetic bedding tends to be less breathable than natural products, so some people find it less comfortable.
If you want to avoid petrochemical-based products, there are plenty of natural-fiber linens, bed covers, mattresses, and bedding accessories to choose from. But keep in mind that all-natural mattresses are harder to find and may cost you more than conventional mattresses.
…to you and your health
A natural bed can be healthier and increase the air flow around your body, which may allow you to sleep better.
…to your wallet
The initial investment in a natural bed is high (more than $1,000), but you can make the transition gradually by starting with sheets that have no added formaldehyde.
…to the Earth
Natural fibers are renewable. And if you buy cotton that is grown organically (without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers), you’ll spare the environment.
Too much washing and drying. Stay clean, but don’t over-wash your bedding. Too many trips to the washing machine–or leaving it too long in the dryer–wastes water and energy and wears out the fabric. See the Washers and Dryers article for tips on eco-friendly laundering.
If a complete natural bed makeover is beyond your budget, purchase components one by one. Start closest to your body and work away, creating more and more layers between your body and the synthetic mattress. All of these component parts can eventually be used with your natural-fiber mattress to make a completely natural bed.
Here’s a list of bed components in the order that you might want to replace them. For more information, click on the topic headings.