The Definitive Guide to Buying a Mattress
Shopping for a mattress has never been easier if you’re armed with this info.
Replacing your mattress can be exhausting. Navigating the stores and websites, debating between foam and springs, and determining how much to spend can leave you feeling like you need a good nap.
Instead, skip the stress and follow these tips from Lexie Sachs, Senior Textiles Analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute, that will help you navigate the world of mattresses.
Where to Shop for a Mattress
Laying down in the store isn’t the only way to go anymore. New mattress-in-a-box companies have won over thousands of customers with convenient shipping and free trial periods. Online mattress buying has seen a serious boom, but it’s not right for everyone. Here’s what you need to know.
Shop in the store if.
Go the traditional route ifyouwant a greater variety and to feel them before buying.In a mattress store, you should never pay full price. Always shop the sales, and don’t be afraid to negotiate with the salesperson. Most stores will also offer removal of your existing mattress. The downside is it can feel overwhelming and it’s harder to compare prices to know if you’re getting a good deal. A big mistake is rushing the decision by quickly lying down on many different mattresses to find the one that feels best. If you’re going to invest in a mattress,take the time to recline for a while (at least 10 minutes)and make sure you don’t feel any pressure or pain.
Shop online if.
This newer route offers agreat alternative if you have trouble making decisions, since there are fewer options. Plus, you can shop from home!These mattresses generally arrive in a box at your doorstep within a few days and include free shipping and a money-back guarantee (even if you simply don’t like the mattress!) so there’s minimal risk. Online, the price is usually final, but it doesn’t include markups for being sold at a physical store. The downsides are that you typically have to set it up yourself and deal with getting rid of your old mattress.
Either way, always ask about the return policy.Not happy with your pick? You may get a partial refund if you bought it in a store, but online companies often arrange to pick it up for a local charity and will give back 100% of your money. Make sure you can test out a new mattress for a month risk-free; that way, you can get used to it before making a decision.
The Best Mattresses You Can Buy Online
The name Casper is synonymous with "mattress-in-a-box." Itsfour foam layers range from soft to firmto offer comfort and support, which our testers loved (especially the under-40 crowd). There’s both a less expensive version (with less layers) and a pricier one (with more).
Tuft & Needle was priced lowest among its competitors, but still stands out as atop mattress on Amazon. This simple model has two layers of foam: a firm, support layer on the bottom and a cushy, cooling layer on top. Our panel particularly liked the friendly customer service.
Unsure if you need a soft or firm option? This foam style gives you both: Justflip the mattress to change the support level. It has copper built-in to help keep you cool and avoid the overheating that is typically associated with memory foam.
Fill out a survey about your sleep habits, andHelix builds a "custom" mattress for youwith layers of foam, latex, and microcoils. They can even personalize each side, so you and your sleeping partner don’t have to fight about which mattress to get.
How to Choose Your Perfect Mattress
There are three common types of mattresses:innerspring, foam, and adjustable. There’s no one "right" material to choose, but in general, side sleepers need a softer mattress, stomach sleepers need a firm one, and back sleepers fall somewhere in between. Beyond the types of mattresses and firmness, you’ll need to think about a few other factors. From sleep style to negotiating with a bedfellow, here’s what to look for based on your needs:
If you like a bed with bounce
Traditional innerspring styleshave that familiar bouncy feel and may be firmer. Interconnected coils are extra-durable, but individual "pocketed" coils, each covered with fabric, reduce the ripple effect that happens when someone on one side of the bed moves.
If you prefer a firmer base
Memory foam optionshave less spring and offer more pressure relief. To determine quality, look at the density and thickness of the foam, which will determine how deep you’ll sink. The newer, online mattresses generally use several different layers of foam, with heavier ones on the bottom for support and lighter, cooler kinds on the top for comfort.
If you want a plush top
Innerspring mattressestypically have either a fiberfill or foam outer layer, covered in quilted ticking. But even if you want an uber-plush feel, don’t be swayed by a thick-looking pillowtop as it can compress over time. It’s often best to choose a firmer, well-quilted mattress, and then cover it with a replaceable mattress topper.
If you like to change it up
Consider anair-filled mattress, like Sleep Number, which has a remote that controls how much air is inside. Two side-by-side chambers allow you and your partner to customize the mattress firmness separately. There are also foam mattresses (like the ones from Layla) with soft and firm sides, so you can just flip it over as needed, and modular designs that let you move around the springs on the inside.
If you sleep on your side
You’ll want a surface that will support your body weight, and conform to your shape.Innerspringsmay have more pressure relief than some foam or latex mattresses, but asoft foam mattressor one with built-in pressure relief points around the shoulders and hips can work for side sleepers, too
If you sleep on your stomach
The last thing a stomach-sleeper probably wants is an enveloping memory foam — it would feel smothering! Instead, a firmer bed will provide the best support. Consider afirm foam, dense innerspring, or air-filled mattress.
If you sleep on your back
You’ll wantsomething in the middle— a surface that supports, but has some give so your spine is kept in a healthy alignment. You’ll find happiness with any of the mattress types, but you should do your best princess-and-the-pea impression to see what feels best to you.
If your partner tosses and turns all night
Consider aninnerspring mattress with pocketed coils, or memory foam, latex, or a dual-chamber air-filled mattress. Medium-firm picks will all have good "motion isolation." But remember, these models could actually be less comfortable on the body of a restless sleeper, as there’s little forgiveness against one’s movements.
If you and your partner’s preferences don’t match
Theair-filled mattresses with dual chamberscan help, or check out the online mattress company Helix. Each person can fill out a questionnaire and have a side customized based on the responses.
If you sleep hot
Manufacturers can get carried away with claims about cooling properties, especially when you consider all the layers (protectors, toppers, sheets, and so on) that go on top of the mattress. That said,foam or latexcan hold in body heat, especially if they’re very soft and a lot of your body sinks in. Newer technology helps alleviate this issue and you can always accessorize your bed with toppers and sheets that offer cooling benefits.
If you have allergies
Foam and latexare both inherently antimicrobial and resistant to dust mites and mold. If you opt for innerspring or air topped with fiberfill, be sure to encase it in an allergen-resistant cover to keep irritants at bay.
If you have back pain
Memory foam and/or latexis best for those with back pain since it molds to your body for support.
If you’re concerned about chemicals
Look forfoams certified by CertiPUR-USas well as certifications for other materials like GOLS for latex or Oeko-Tex for other fabrics to feel more confident about your purchase.
If you can’t decide what matters most
Some savvy manufacturers make ahybrid-style mattressthat combines the buoyancy of an innerspring core with the motion isolation of memory foam. It’s a best-of-both-worlds option that can satisfy many partner disputes and sleeping styles.
How To Choose a Mattress in 5 Easy Steps – The Definitive Guide
I think you will agree with me when I say that choosing the right mattress is no easy task?
First, you have to dispose of your old one and then go through a tedious process of selecting a new bed that will serve you well for years to come.
And having couple dozen options, manufacturers and handful types and materials doesn’t help, does it?
Luckily for you, you canfind out exactly how to pick a new mattressand most important thing to consider.
Table of contents (use it to jump to a certain section)
If you are in a hurry jump to our conclusion and summary.
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Step 1: Do You Really Need A New Mattress?
Many people change their beds after just a few years, and that’s perfectly fine if you can afford it. The fact is, it’s not a small investment, so take a moment to determine do you really need a new.
Generally, after seven or eight years you will most likely need a new mattress. Of course, it depends on the quality and material (we will cover the types and materials later in this article). And if you feel back or neck pain it might, your bedding is a good place to start.
Here is the average mattress lifespan in years based on material and type:
Step 2: Determine your Budget
A bit of personal backstory here…
Several years back I went to a store and purchased amattress priced at $2500which was not even the most expensive one there. During the first year or so it was perfect, and I felt rejuvenated, and I slept like a baby during that time.
But, something happened.
My new and awesome mattress started sagging and losing support and needless to say my back and neck suffered.
Another two years had passed until I decided to buy a new oneonline at $850and this is the same one I’m using today after three years. Back to reality.
Not anyone will have the budget to walk into a store and buy something for several thousand dollars. Luckily, these days there are manyonline optionsyou can choose from rangingfrom $500 to $1200. There are also Black Friday bed deals (and Cyber Monday) that can result in additional savings as well.
Don’t get confused here. More money does not mean better quality. If you think that some of these online options are somehow worse than in-store ones, you are badly mistaken.Stores tend to inflate the prices as much as 1000%.
Here are some guidelines for you:
- Don’t always go with the cheapest option you find– This is a rule of thumb for most products you buy online. Spending less than $500 for a queen mattress simply because it means lower durability, more toxins and lower sleep quality in general.
- Higher Price does not mean Higher Quality– I bet you know this one, but it’s worth mentioning.
- Go with $1000 range for Queen size– This is usually where you will find the best bang for your buck.
- King / Cal King will cost slightly more– I would increase the budget for King and California King to $1400-1500 as you will have many more choices in that range.
- Now that you have your new budget set, I’m guessing you are asking yourself“what type of mattress is best for me?”Let’s dig in.
Step 3: Choose Your Ideal Type and Material
Ok, so this is where most people will go with their personal preference rather than anything else. If someone says “latex is the best,” I would not take this as final until I read other opinions and test it myself. Here are the most common options you will find these days.
This is the most traditional form of the mattress, and as of late, it’s received a bad rap. However, it is important to understand the potential benefits you could receive from going the traditional route, as well as the reasons why this option has lost its luster.
An obvious pro to purchasing a bed with springs is that it is one of themost affordable optionson the market, due in part to a decrease in demand and also in part to so many other options that have the potential to be more comfortable andbetter for overall health.
Another consideration is that these mattresses are known to last for decades. Spring beds are exceedingly durable. Being that the springs are typically made from different types of metals, they tend to keep their shape for many years.
Additionally, being that they are the most traditional style, they are also the most familiar. People recognize and understand what they are getting when they purchase a bed with springs. There is no guess work with this option like there may be with memory foam or other newer options.
The last notable advantage to this style of bed is that, because of the amount of space located between the springs, this option allows for the most circulation of air. This flow helps to keep the temperature down, allowing for acooler night’s sleep.
Example of the coil mattresses structure
Ideal for: People who want strong support, durability, cooling and great bounce. It also has an excellent edge support.
These mattresses are known for their fantastic cooling and comfort. Latex has a good bounce, responsiveness too.
Authentic latex foam is made from a tree called Hevea-Brasilenis tree, specifically from the white liquid extracted from it. Latex is harvested, and when the excess water is removed, you end up with raw material fantastic for various products, bedding systems being one of them.
It’s also great because you don’t get off-gassing and odors like with memory foam products.
Example of the latex bed structure
There are two types to choose from:
- Natural – More healthy option and environment-friendly. But it’s also more expensive so expect to pay around $2000 for a good natural latex mattress
- Synthetic – Made by mixing synthetic polymers with natural tree sap. Less expensive of course but less healthy in turn.
Latex is best forpeople who want good cooling, responsiveness, and bounce.
Memory foam was first developed in the 1970’s by NASA as a safety material for seat cushions to protect pilots and passengers during plane crashes. Since then, the material has blossomed into the burgeoning product employed by virtually every mattress maker.
Example of the memory foam bed structure
Why has it become so popular? The answer is that it is said to provide superior comfort and support for the entire body. Anyone who’s pressed their hand into this material immediately understands its appeal.
Memory foam uniquelyconforms to every inch of the bodythat is pressed into it. When you lift your body from the material, it slowly regains its original form, essentially making it perfect for every body type and every sleeper.
Another unique property of memory foam is itsmotion isolationcapabilities. You may have seen those commercials with a lady jumping on a mattress with a glass of wine at the other end. Miraculously, the wine doesn’t spill.
The wine doesn’t spill because the energy from jumping is not transferred to other parts of the mattress. This translates to better sleeping for partners, because the tossing and turning of one does not affect the other, a feature that is not found among any of the other options on the market.
One of the most common issues that people experience is that thematerial retains heat. If you are someone who requires a cool night sleep, the memory foam option may not be the best choice for you. While the manufacturers are coming up with new and better ways to keep the heat down, the jury is still out as to whether or not they’ve succeeded.
Ideal For: People who want body shaping, contour, pressure relief and good support.
The hybrid mattress is an unusual combination of both traditional spring and memory foam. Providing the best of both worlds, this option offers the contouring and lack of motion transfer of foam coupled with the support of springs.
Structure of the hybrid bed- example
The term “hybrid” is very loosely used to describe the combination we just mentioned. However, the amount of foam for these beds varies widely depending on the level of firmness desired. Some options employ less than 1.5 inches of foam, lending to the fact that they more closely resemble that of a traditional spring bed rather than the more modern memory foam option.
To find the most optimal version of a hybrid, it’s best to choose the one that hasclose to 3 inches of foam. Anything above that, and you might as well forego the springs all together.
One negative aspect of these beds is the fact that they are one of the more expensive offerings you’ll find. Purchasing one of these could put you in the multiples of thousands of dollars, a significant investment, but a worthy one if you plan to enjoy it long term.
Good For: People who want best all around product with good support, bounce, cooling and pressure relief.
And now the three less common but still important types:
These beds offer a unique ability tochange the sleeping positionbased on your preference. You can elevate the head or feet giving you more options than traditional products. These beds provide extra comfort for people suffering from chronic lumbar pain or just want to be slightly elevated to prevent snoring. They do look ugly though most of the time.
Perfect for: People with certain medical conditions like snoring, older sleepers and people with lower back pain.
These are usually coil, latex or memory foam beds buthave a layer of soft material sewn into the cover to make it more comfortable. These are also considered more luxurious and usually cost a bit more than standard options.
Good for: People who prefer more padding and softer feel.
A rather weird option, but sometimes very fun especially if you love waterbed sex. Some of the most common reasons for opting in for this type is a backache and arthritis relief. These beds are also great for people with allergies.
Good for: People with back pain, arthritis and allergies and anyone looking for something less conventional.
Step 4. Determine your Ideal Sleeping Position and Firmness
Most of us have a unique way of sleeping every night. No matter if you sleep on your side, stomach or back, or even if you switch throughout the night you will have to consider and choose the ideal type of bed based on your preference. So, take a moment and think, what’s your favorite sleeping position because that determines theideal firmness of your new bed.
The most important factor for back sleepers is firmness and support. If your mattress is too soft, your body will sink and cause back pain. You will need one that’s soft enough to provide pressure relief but still provides enough support. On a scale of 1-10, the perfect range would be 5-7.
According to The Better Sleep Council, only roughly 15% of people are back sleepers. Being that you are unique, it’ll take a special mattress to offer you the night’s rest you are seeking.
It’s the consensus that memory foam mattresses provide the highest level of comfort for people who sleep on their backs. This is because it provides adequate contouring to the spine while maintaining a longevity of proper support and structure.
Many people who often sleep on their sides, endure discomfort and pain in their hip joints and shoulders.It’s usually due to unsuitable bedding.
It’s advised that you go with a bit softer option than for a back sleeper as these they provide for an equal distribution of pressure while you’re sleeping on your side.
Ideally, you want to choose a mattress with firmness level of 3-6 (out of 10) which falls undermedium soft.
This is considered the worst sleeping position. The most important thing for stomach sleepers is to provide equal distribution of weight across your entire body as your torso will apply most pressure. If the mattress is too soft (not enough support) your spine will curve causing back pain.
You will want to look for something in 5-7 range, which falls undermedium to medium-firm. The good thing is that most options are in this range.
Step 5. Consider your Weight as a Factor
On first glance, you might be asking yourself,what does weight have to do with choosing a mattress?
The truth is, support, hug, feel, sinkage and even cooling will depend on your body type and weight. Another harsh truth is that there is no “best” mattress for every one of us.
Let’s take a look at the following guidelines how to choose an ideal firmness level based on your weight:
- Light (Less than 150 pounds)– You will want a medium firm bed around5-6 firmnessthat doesn’t sink too much. If you are lighter than 150 lbs, you can even go with four since most beds are rated for average sleeper of 180lbs.
If you want a softer feel or if you are a side sleeper you can opt for 3-4 firmness range. These are soft orplush options.
- Average (150-200 pounds)– Like with the previous category you can choose industrystandard of 5-7, providing perfect support and comfort.
Some sleepers will want to opt for more softer beds, and that’s perfectly fine, just go with 3-5 range if you sleep on your side and you are all set.
- Heavier Person (200+ pounds)– Heavier people can cause more pressure points on their back, and ideally you want to choose a firmer option to adjust for sinkage. If you are having problems with cooling, you ought to consider coil mattresses.
Ideally, choose a thick (12”) or thicker bed. This will provide good support and soft feel.
How to Select the Right Mattress for You – Summary
Hopefully, you have finished reading the above but even if you haven’t these five steps will ease your task of choosing a mattress for you or your family.
- Do you need a new mattress?– If your current bed is over eight years old, I’d consider replacing it no matter what. If you are having trouble sleeping or experiencing back or neck pain I would start searching.
- What is your current budget?– Don’t go with the cheapest option you find. Aim for $700-1200 range for a standard queen size bed (see top options). Of course, if you are buying smaller ones for your kid or teenager, the price will be considerably lower. Don’t spend less than $400 though. The quality drop-off is huge.
- What are your ideal type and material?– This is hands down the biggest challenge. Memory foam offers good contour and hug but sleeps hot. Traditional coil ones provide good bounce and cooling and are generally more durable. I recommend foam or hybrid to most people except for heavier sleepers who should opt for innerspring.
- What’s your preferred sleeping position?– This determines your ideal firmness level. On a scale of 1-10 (one being soft and ten being very firm), back sleepers will want to opt for a medium firm (4-7), side sleepers for more softer option (3-5) and stomach sleepers will need more support to avoid sinking (6-7 range).
- What’s your body type and weight?– Lighter sleepers (150lbs or less) will want a 1-2 points softer mattress to get the same feel like an average (180lbs) person. On the other hand, if you are a heavier person you will need more support and thicker mattress to support the weight.
Author: Sleep Advisor
Our team covers as many areas of expertise as we do time zones, but none of us started here as a so-called expert on sleep. What we do share is a willingness to ask questions (lots of them), seek experts, and dig deep into conventional wisdom to see if maybe there might be a better path towards healthy living. We apply what we learn not only to our company culture, but also how we deliver information to our over 12.7M readers.
Sleep research is changing all the time, and we are 100% dedicated to keeping up with breakthroughs and innovations. You live better if you sleep better. Whatever has brought you here, we wish you luck on your journey towards better rest.
How to Pick Your Perfect Mattress
Ready for a new mattress? Here’s how to find the one that suits you best.
Getting a good night’s sleep depends on a lot of different factors — comfort, stress level, room temperature вЂ“ but to get it right, you’ve got to start with the basics and your mattress is the first building block to a restful slumber.
If you’re in the market for a new mattress and have recently taken a stroll down the aisle of a bedding store, you know that there is a dizzying array from which to choose. How do you know which mattress is best for you?
To start, says Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, the mattress needs to support your body in a neutral position, one in which your spine has a nice curvature and your buttocks, heels, shoulders, and head are supported in proper alignment
"If the mattress is too firm, it will push on those main pressure points and take you out of alignment," Shamie tells WebMD. "If it’s too soft, those pressure points won’t be properly supported, so your whole body flops back." Both of these scenarios can lead to an achy morning.
Generally speaking, one type or brand of bed isn’t better than another, says Michael Breus, PhD, a WebMD sleep expert and author ofBeauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep.But he does find that a firmer bed seems to be better for people with lower back pain.
In fact, researchers in Spain studied people with long-term back pain and found that on a 10-point hard-to-soft scale people who slept on a medium-to-firm mattress (5.6 on the scale) had less back pain than those who slept on a softer mattress.
Is It Time for a New Mattress?
How do you know if the bed you’re sleeping on is the right one?
"If you wake up in the morning and have some low back pain and can stretch and get rid of it in 15 or 30 minutes, that means you’re on an inappropriate mattress for you," Breus says.
The right mattress, on the other hand, is one on which you feel no pressure, almost like you’re floating in air, Breus says.
If you’re looking for a new mattress, experts suggest testing it in the store and laying down on each mattress in the position in which you normally sleep. Breus suggests spending at least 10 to 15 minutes on the bed. And, bring your own pillow! The more you can replicate the way you’ll be sleeping on the mattress once you get it home, the better your chances of picking the right one.
Innerspring mattresses are still by far the most widely used. They support you with coil springs, and in most built today, each coil is individually enclosed. This helps the bed weather years of use and prevents the coils from popping out of the mattress. On top of the coils are a wide variety of materials added for comfort, from pillow to latex to memory foam. It’s all a matter of preference.
Salespeople may try to sell you on the idea that more coils mean more comfort, but that’s not necessarily true, Breus and Shamie say.
"You don’t really need a coil count above 390," Breus says. Beyond that, the difference in feel is so small it would be difficult to notice.
Pros:There are plenty of innerspring mattresses on the market from which to choose. They range in firmness, the fluffiness of the pillow top, and in price to fit nearly every preference and pocket book.
Cons:There’s no direct relationship in most cases between price and comfort, but Shamie suggests steering clear of the cheapest innerspring mattress. If there aren’t enough springs and cushion to offer you proper support, he says, you’ll likely wake up with an aching back.
Conditions:For someone who is very overweight, spring mattresses may offer a firmer support, making them easier to get in and out of, Breus says. Firmer versions are good for people with back pain. But spring-based mattresses can be comfortable for almost anyone.
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam mattresses are growing in popularity. They are made of layers of different densities of foam that respond to weight and temperature, and are known for comfort because they contour to the specific shape of your body. Memory foam toppers are also available.
Pros:By molding to the shape of your body as your weight shifts through the night, memory foam reduces pressure points, and relieves pain. Memory foam also absorbs movement, so if you sleep with a partner, you’re not likely to be disturbed by his tossing and turning.
Cons:One of the biggest complaints with memory foam mattresses is that because these mattresses are temperature sensitive, softening and molding with your body heat, they can make you feel extremely hot during the night. Breus also says memory foam mattresses have been known to emit an unpleasant chemical smell.
Conditions:"If you have a hard time getting comfortable, if you have chronic fatigue, or some type of muscle pain, then a memory foam mattress would work well for you, assuming you don’t have temperature issues," Breus says.
Latex mattresses are made from either natural or synthetic rubber, and are known for providing a very firm, bouncy support that is uniform throughout the bed.
Pros:"Quite frankly, I think one of the best materials is latex," Breus says. He likes it for being very firm and supportive, but also for providing comfort similar to memory foam. Unlike the memory foam mattresses, however, Breus says latex pushes back, ultimately providing more support.
Cons:If you don’t like the feel of a firm mattress, latex is probably not the right choice for you.
Conditions: Either a latex mattress or latex mattress topper is great for relieving back pain because they offer the best combination of comfort and support, Breus says.
We’re not talking about the blow-up mattresses you put your holiday guests on for a few days. Higher-end air beds look like a standard innerspring mattress, but use air-filled chambers instead of coils, and are covered by a foam layer on top.
Shamie notes that air beds have long been used for patients with spinal cord injuries who are lying in bed for a long time. They can be adjusted so they don’t continue to press on the same areas of the body, which helps to avoid skin breakdown in patients who can’t move.
Pros:"Couples who have dramatic differences in their individual preference for comfort and firmness levels might do very well with an air mattress," Breus says. The reason is that the firmness of each side of the bed can be altered. If you like it firmer than your partner, these beds can be adjusted for that.
Like latex and memory foam, you can also find air toppers for your mattress.
Cons:Shamie says people sometimes fail to make their air bed firm enough and wake up with back aches. Less sophisticated air mattresses also pop up on one side when you sit on the opposite end. For that reason Breus says, you want multiple chambers so that doesn’t occur.
Conditions:These beds are particularly useful when sleeping partners have different needs. If one of you has a bad back, one side can be made firmer than the other to provide greater support.
These beds are able to bend and elevate at varying angles. As a result, the mattress has to be flexible. Different types of mattresses can be used on an adjustable bed вЂ“ memory foam, latex, or air, for example. Spring mattresses are more difficult to use, however, because the springs don’t handle the bending well.
Pros:For people who have difficulty getting in and out of bed or who like to watch television in bed, Shamie says, adjustables can make life easier by moving you closer to where you need to be.
Conditions:If you suffer from sleep apnea, sleeping flat can make the condition worse by cutting off airways and causing the tongue to fall into the back of the throat, Shamie says. People who experience acid reflux can also benefit by sleeping in a bed that elevates their upper body.
Shamie also suggests adjustable beds for people with hip or back pain who have a hard time moving from a lying position to sitting up or standing.
When you have guests staying for a night or two, sofa beds come in handy. The mattresses in these beds tend to be very thin so they are flexible enough to fold and collapse into the couch. It’s a great convenience to have a sofa bed, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who raves about their comfort.
Pros:Sofa beds are convenient, especially if you have limited space. But from a health perspective, Shamie and Breus don’t see any advantages.
Cons:A night or two on a sofa bed is OK. But "this is probably the worst kind of bed you can sleep on long-term," Shamie says. The mattresses used in most sofa beds are very thin and the springs quite weak. "It really leads to an uncomfortable situation," Shamie says.
If you’re really tight for space and need a bed that folds up, Shamie says that futons, while not the most supportive, are better for your back than the typical sofa bed.
Conditions:There are no conditions for which a sofa bed will be helpful, according to the experts. But if you have a bad back or hips, these beds will be especially uncomfortable.
When to Part With Your Old Mattress
Today’s mattresses are made to last a lifetime. But you probably shouldn’t plan on keeping yours for that long. Our bodies change over time, Breus says, so the mattress that was once a joy to sleep on may no longer feel comfortable a few years down the road.
In addition, mattresses collect dust mites, fungus, and other germs that can exacerbate allergies and impact your sleep patterns. After 10 to 15 years, it’s time to think about buying a new bed.
Ultimately, the experts say that the best bed for you is the one that feels most comfortable. And remember, Shamie says, "There’s no mattress that’s going to save your body when you get only five hours of sleep." In order to feel your best, you need to get enough restвЂ¦ no matter what type of mattress you’re sleeping on.
Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery, Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center.
Breus, Michael, PhD, WebMD sleep expert and author ofBeauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep
Kovacs, FM.The Lancet, November 2003; vol 362: pp 1599-1604.
How To Choose A Toxin Free Healthy Mattress
You eat organic food, get adequate sunlight and live a stress free life. You may even prioritise your sleep. All this in the name of health.
But are you undoing all this hard work every night?
Sleep is important time for the body. Not only are we in a vulnerable state, but it’s a time for repair and recovery. it is when memories are forged and muscles are built. All of this happens while you’re sound asleep in your bed, our recovery haven.
Given how precious this time is for our sleep, and the fact we spend a third of our life in our bed, one would expect the bed we sleep on to be the top of our ‘health priority’ list. But this isn’t the case. We continue to sleep on toxic surfaces laced in poisonous pesticides, toxic flame retardants and synthetic compounds. Sure our bed may be comfortable but it’s a toxic wasteland when it comes to health.
If the environment is not conducive to rest and repair our bodies natural ability to fight disease, burn fat and re-vitalise is hampered. The bed you sleep in may be the most important item in your house for health.
So how do you find the healthiest bed and mattress to optimise your sleep, your body, your health? Read on as I reveal what you need to know and look for when buying a healthy mattress.
Note – if you’re looking for my Healthy Mattress Buyers Guide, click HERE.
Why Most Beds Are Dangerous To Your Health
It’s no wonder why most beds are unhealthy. Look at the materials that go into a mattress. Foam made from petrochemicals, cotton sprayed in cancer causing glyphosate, flame retardants linked to infertility and obesity. then there is the fabrics treated with poisonous chemicals and dyes.
We avoid plastic bottles because of hormone disrupting BPA.
We try to eat organic to reduce our pesticide exposure.
Yet we happily smother ourselves on a mattress filled full of these toxic compounds. 8 hours a night. Every night of the week!
The biggest health offenders found in our mattress and bed include:
I have written an entire article on the dangers of flame retardants here – Are You Being Exposed To Dangerous Flame Retardants?
In this article I show how flame retardants such as PBDEs are found in alarming high levels in mattresses.
Worst, these flame retardants bind to dust particles and make their way into the air when the mattress foam or material is compressed. We lie on our bed and ‘poof’, we’re exposed to an enormous about of flame retardant particles. Breathing in these particles is the main pathway for flame retardants to enter the human body (1).
Then we spend 8 hours a night with our mouth, nose and eyes resting on the source of these flame retardants.
Why is this of concern?
Flame retardant exposure is linked to fertility issues, obesity, thyroid health problems, impaired brain function and cancer.
Spring Coils – nnEMF exposure
Metal coils are often used in mattress manufacturing process. Some manufacturers even promote the amount of springs within their product as a selling point.
But metal within a mattress can be a problem, especially if your bedroom is surrounded by a lot of technology or are sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMF).
The metal within the mattress springs (and the metal bed frame itself) can act as antennas for non-native electromagnetic fields (examples of devices that emit harmful nnEMF include smart meters, cell phones, cell phone towers, wall wiring, wifi routers, appliances, baby monitors etc).
We are already living a nnEMF saturated world, with wireless device use increasing exponentially. There are many unknowns and concerns around the human body being exposed to so many electric and magnetic fields so this is an area of health we need to be cautious of.
Our bedroom and bed should be a safe haven from a noisy, stressful world. Yet many of use retire at night laying on top of mini ‘antennas’, exposing us to further low levels of EMF.
Metal can also become magnetized and in turn interfere with the bodies natural orientation to the magnetic poles.
The irony of this is that exposure to nnEMF fields at night is linked to insomnia and poor sleep quality. So if you have followed all my sleep tips and still wonder why you aren’t sleeping well, it could be your bed!
A an article published in Scientific American looked at the link between nnEMF pollution from FM and TV radiation and cancers in the body. The author stated how:
Antennas are simply metal objects of appropriate length sized to match the wavelength of a specific frequency of electromagnetic radiation. Just as saxophones are made in different sizes to resonate with and amplify particular wavelengths of sound, electromagnetic waves are selectively amplified by metal objects that are the same, half or one quarter of the wavelength of an electromagnetic wave of a specific frequency. Electromagnetic waves resonate on a half-wavelength antenna to create a standing wave with a peak at the middle of the antenna and a node at each end, just as when a string stretched between two points is plucked at the center. In the U.S. bed frames and box springs are made of metal, and the length of a bed is exactly half the wavelength of FM and TV transmissions that have been broadcasting since the late 1940s.In Japan most beds are not made of metal, and the TV broadcast system does not use the 87- to 108-megahertz frequency used in Western countries.
Thus, as we sleep on our coil-spring mattresses, we are in effect sleeping on an antenna that amplifies the intensity of the broadcast FM/TV radiation. Asleep on these antennas, our bodies are exposed to the amplified electromagnetic radiation for a third of our life spans. As we slumber on a metal coil-spring mattress, a wave of electromagnetic radiation envelops our bodies so that the maximum strength of the field develops 75 centimeters above the mattress in the middle of our bodies. When sleeping on the right side, the body’s left side will thereby be exposed to field strength about twice as strong as what the right side absorbs.
Thankfully there is an abundance of mattresses made without metal foils and wooden bed frames, on the market today. You can see some of my top recommendations HERE.
For more on the dangers of nnEMF exposure I recommend reading the work of Robert o Becker.
Mattresses make the perfect storage site for dust and dead skin cells. The typical mattress increases in weight as the years go by, the source for this increase in weight? Dead dust mites and their excrement.
A paper published by Ohio State university found that a typical used mattress has 100,000 to 10 millions mites inside it (2).
An adult female mite lays up to 40 to 80 eggs. The life cycle from egg to adult is about one month with the adult living an extra one to three months.
Mites main food source is human skin. But they also need water and or humid conditions. Thus making a mattress with a human covered in skin and expelling a pint of water a night an excellent habit!
This build up of dust, and dust mites can cause all sorts of allergic reactions in humans. We wash and air out out clothes and sheets on a regular basis, but beds and mattresses sit in a corner of a room for decades collecting dust and feeding dust mites.
Off Gassing Chemicals
Most mattresses and bed frames on the market today contain a high amount of synthetic materials. From polyurethane foam (or polyfoam), to toxic glues, these man made chemicals contain high amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
VOCs leech enter the air, making concentrations of VOCs up to 10 times higher inside compared to outside environments (3).
Examples of these VOC’s include toluene and isocyanates which have been linked to asthma, liver issues and cancer (4). New mattresses and bed frames are the worst offenders for off gassing.
A lot of manufacturers will recommend airing new mattresses out for a few hours (or days) ideally in a room you don’t spend much time in. But most people ignore this recommendation and will sleep on their new chemical laden mattress the day they get it.
Thankfully the older the mattress, the less problem off gassing chemicals are, but older mattresses generally have more problems with dust and flame retardants.
When it comes to bed and mattress shopping, most people focus on two things, comfort and price.
Unfortunately, both of these factors are easy to achieve with the use of synthetic materials. Not only are these materials much cheaper to produce, but given the technology we have with foams, mattresses can be made to suit all types of bodies and desires.
From memory foam to pillow top, there is a mattress for every individual, and at a competitive price!
But there is a downside, and that is the negative impact these materials have on our health. I have covered the main concerns around flame retardant use, and off gassing chemicals above. But other problems include:
- Poor breathability.Adequate air flow and temperature control is important when it comes to a healthy mattress and optimal sleep. I go into more detail on this topic in my Deep Sleep article.
- Exposure to pesticides.Even mattresses using ‘natural’ materials such as cotton are heavily sprayed with pesticides, contaminating them with an assortment of chemicals. Genetically modified cotton consumes 25% of the worlds pesticide use.
- Skin reactions.Non-natural synthetic materials can cause skin reactions in some sensitive people. Even if this is not a severe problem, it is still a stressful attack on the body during a time when we should be recovering and repairing from the days events.
But don’t despair. Thankfully today there are many ‘healthy’ mattress and bed manufacturers around the world.
Below I run through the questions you should ask when shopping for a healthy new bed or mattress.
Questions To Ask When Buying A Healthy Bed and Mattress
Just because a mattress is labeled ‘green’, or ‘natural’, or even ‘organic’ doesn’t mean its perfectly healthy for you.
Green-washing is widely used in the mattress industry. This is where manufacturers include one ‘green’ material in their product so they can say their product is ‘natural’.
An example is with foam made with soy. These foams are largely made with petrochemicals but contain a small about of soy. But this is enough to justify a ‘natural foam’ label on the product.
Likewise with the term ‘natural’. Even if the mattress was made from 100% natural materials, this does not mean it’s a healthy product.
Conventional soy and cotton are both GMO crops – meaning they are exposed to enormous amounts of glyphosate, this poison makes it’s way into the fabric of the mattress. For more on this read Glyphosate: The Weed Killer Found In Our Food, Water and Beds.
Finally, it is important to note that ‘Green’ ‘Eco-friendly’ and ‘Sustainable’ labels do not translate into a healthy product.
A bed frame sourced from wood from a sustainable forest may get the greenies tick of approval, but it could be heavily treated with formaldehyde and other VOC materials.
Now on to the questions you should ask when looking for a healthy mattress:
Is it marked ‘natural’? If so, what do they mean by this?
I touched on this above. Just because a mattress or bed frame contains ‘natural’ products, doesn’t mean it’s entirely made of natural materials, nor does it mean these natural materials are safe.
This is like labelling a doughnut that contains wheat as ‘natural’, despite the wheat being genetically engineered and laden in glyphosate. Then finding out the rest of the ingredients are actually synthetic artificial sweeteners and trans fats.
Sure it’s better to have a mattress that is free from petrochemical based materials, but you need to investigate how these materials have been processed or treated, and if the entire mattress is made from natural materials or just a small percentage.
Does it contain flame retardants?
I was horrified when I researched flame retardants and their impact on our health. You can read my findings here – but these chemicals are everywhere in our homes, especially in our furniture and beds.
Finding a mattress free of flame retardants should be the top of your list when it comes to purchasing a healthy mattress. Though this can be challenging as most foams contain flame retardants.
There are many names used for flame retardants, so be sure to dig deep into the makeup of the foams used. I have a list of all the common flame retardant names that you can access here.
Note – Some states and countries have strict regulations around flame retardant use in furniture and bedding. You may find mattresses must have a certain amount of flame retardants in them.
If this is the case where you live, you have two options.
- Go to your GP and get a prescription for a mattress not containing flame retardants.
- Find a mattress that uses natural, non-toxic forms of flame retardants. These include Hydrated Silica, wool and boric acid. But even these may have some health issues. Read my article on flame retardants for more.
What type of core structure does it use?
There are many ways to make the internal core structure of a mattress. Some safe, some extremely toxic.
I have provided a basic rundown on these structures below.
This is made from the sap from rubber trees. Though often it has other materials added to it, so check with the manufacturer that is 100% natural latex foam (or at least find out what the other materials are).
It has great anti-bacterial properties and is a natural product. But some people can react to latex, so test this before buying an expensive mattress made of natural latex!
- Synthetic Latex
This is made from petroleum compounds. It will contain VOCs and the compounds used to make synthetic latex have been linked to many health issues include nervous system problems and cancer (5, 6).
- Polyurethane Foam (or PolyFoam)
A commonly used synthetic foam as it’s cheap to make. However it will contain a lot of VOC’s and flame retardants (as it is very flammable). Avoid.
- Polyethylene Foam
A much safer petroleum based foam, but it can still contain contaminants.
- InnerSpring Metal Coils
No toxicity issues. But if you are concerned about nnEMF I would avoid this.
Extremely toxic. Similar to polyurethane foam. Off-gassing is a big problem.
- Plant Based Foam
This is usually a blend of polyurethane and a plant oil such as soy bean oil. Obviously there is less petrochemical products in this foam, but you need to check the amount of plant material used as often it is only a few percent.
Also, soy is a GMO crop so there will be pesticide contamination in the product.
Investigate to see the if it is 100% plant based foam and whether it was made using organic crops. Avoid if not.
This has natural flame retardant properties. Some people react to wool on their skin. Also, ensure the wool hasn’t been treated or processed with harmful chemicals. Organic wool naturally treated is best.
This is made from coconut husks. It’s not a commonly used material in the mattress world, but it is a natural product with minimal downsides.
Remember, Ask for specifics. And ask for any certificates they may have for the materials used in making the mattress. If companies use healthy and safe materials, chances are they will promote this fact. If you have to go digging it’s a bad sign. Though be wary of green-washing!
Does it use Memory Foam?
As I mentioned above, memory foam is made from polyurethane and is extremely toxic.
The team at The Mattress Underground have this to say about memory foam:
All memory foam is synthetic and made in a similar way to polyurethane foam with some "rather nasty" chemicals added to it. Most have a tendency to not smell very good when they are initially made and the worst of them can be rather bad and last for a long time. Some memory foams can also give off toxic fumes which can be quite harmful and if the foam itself breaks down into dust and these are breathed in, this can also be a source of concern over time (in other words don’t wait to the last possible moment to replace them). If you are one of those who loves the feel of memory foam, you will need to give up on your hopes of having a "green" or "natural" mattress (in spite of many false claims to the contrary in the industry which are completely misleading). If you do purchase a mattress with memory foam, make sure it has been certified for any offgassing or toxicity by a reputable testing organization such as Oeko-Tex or CertiPur. For safety reasons as well as durability considerations, I would also tend to avoid memory foams made by unknown manufacturers.
Are the natural fibres in the mattress truely natural?
Natural fibres may include hemp fibres, coconut fibres, wool or another plant or animal based fibre. Generally they are quality materials with great breathing properties.
But you need to be wary if you see ‘natural fibres’ on the label. Be sure to do some further digging.
Many forms of natural fibres are processed in extremely ‘unnatural’ ways.
What glues or adhesives do they use?
Mattress layers are often held together with toxic glues. A mattress maker may use quality and safe materials, but then glue them together with cheap glues that off-gas.
Quality mattress manufacturers may avoid glues all together and instead tightly bind all the layers of the mattress with an organic cotton cover.
If there are glues in the mattress or bed frame, then ensure they are water based glues.
Does it contain polyurethane?
Polyurethane is a synthetic compound with an assortment of toxicity issues.
The Mattress Underground has this to say about polyurethane in mattresses:
Polyurethane is completely chemical in nature. Even though some of [the foams] are partially made from polyols (one of the foam ingredients) which are derived from plants. Some of these are more highly processed than others still have an environmental impact in their manufacturing in different ways (some like soy which is a GMO crop and is responsible for some of the destruction of the rainforest) more so than others (like castor oil which requires less processing). There is no such thing as a natural polyurethane foam. While they do not usually have the same issues with toxicity and outgassing as memory foam, this is still a potential in their manufacturing and I would also make sure that if your mattress has polyfoam in it that the source is North American or has been tested by a reputable testing organization such as CertiPur as well.
Does the mattress contain cotton? If so, ensure it’s organic.
Cotton is a GMO crop, meaning it can be sprayed with glyphosate and not die (farmers to do this to control weeds, while the crop continues to grow).
Glyphosate is an extremely poisonous chemical, and has been linked to a number of health issues. I cover this in great detail in my article Glyphosate: Why You Need To Eat Organic. Most associate glyphosate with food, but the chemical can make it’s way into the body through skin contact and inhalation.
If you intend of sleeping on your mattress for a third of your day, I would recommend using organic cotton.
Also, you may want to investigate how the cotton has been processed.
Is it truely organic?
If the ‘organic’ label is used on the mattress, dig deeper to see what this actually means.
Organic labelling in the bedding industry is not the same as the food industry (which is tightly regulated). Mattress manufactures may simply label their mattress as organic because it contains natural plant material, or a small percent of organic cotton.
Or perhaps the mattress cover is made with organic material, but the latex in the mattress itself is not organic.
The Mattress Underground has this to say on the topic:
The word "organic" is so commonly misused in the entire industry that some retailers or manufacturers believe they need to use "organic" for competitive reasons instead of it’s more technically correct meaning . and with the current state of the market and consumer misunderstanding of what organic really means when it comes to mattresses . to some degree they may have legitimate concerns.
There are three levels of organic certifications (see here for more specifics about certifications).
First are the raw materials and if this is an agricultural crop then it can be USDA certified as a raw material.
Second is the actual component or layer itself which is made from organic raw materials. In this case it would be GOTS certified if it was a fabric or GOLS certified if it was latex. These can be called "organic" but not USDA certified organic. There is more about organic latex and other types and blends of latex in here .
Finally there is the certification for the complete production chain from raw materials to the final mattress itself to make sure that every step meets the organic guidelines. This would technically be the only mattress that can legitimately be called an organic mattress vs a mattress that includes all organic materials but this isn’t the normal "practice" in the industry.
Other than this you would have a mattress that "contained" organic components or materials but the mattress itself wouldn’t be organic . as a final product.
While of course many people look for organic certifications to make sure there are no chemicals used in the production or manufacturing of any wool or cotton in a mattress for "safety" reasons more than because of the actual farming methods that are used for the agricultural crop (cotton especially uses more pesticides in it’s production than any other agricultural crop so it may be important to make sure it’s organic or at least pesticide and chemical free), I would also be aware that there are some very high quality and "non chemical" wools available that aren’t certified organic but use organic farming and production methods even though they don’t certify their wool because of the additional costs it would add to their wool. If the wool was from this type of source (such as eco wool ), then an organic certification may not be as important but of course this is always a personal preference issue and for some people an organic certification may be important for personal or lifestyle or environmental reasons or other other reasons besides the actual quality or performance of the materials themselves in spite of the additional costs that may be involved (see post #3 here )
Again, be wary of green washing.
Are there metal springs in the mattress?
As I covered above, metal springs in the mattress, or even a metal bed frame can cause issues for those sensitive to nnEMF.
Even if you are not sensitive to nnEMF there is a growing amount of research showing that chronic exposure to nnEMF can cause various health problems.
Some experts even suggest that the metal wire in a bra has an ‘antenna’ affect and is a health hazard (7).
Given the increasing amount of nnEMF pollution in this world, I personally would avoid buying a mattress with metal springs within it.
If you insist on buying a inner-coil spring mattress, then I would recommend using a wooden bed frame to sit this mattress on, instead of a metal frame bed. The length of a bed frame is a similar length to common nnEMF waves.
If you are serious about buying a healthy bed and mattress, avoid metal. But it is important to remember that simply avoiding metal in your mattress does not protect you from nnEMF. If you have poor wiring in your bedroom wall, or a wifi router on, or your phone is not in airplane mode, you are exposed to a lot of nnEMF.
Does it have good temperature regulation properties?
My Oura sleep score suffers when it’s hot. Yet my sleep quality drastically improves in winter.
Low temperatures at night time are important for quality sleep. In fact there is evidence to show that the body temperature should be lowest during the night and this correlates with improved sleep quality.
If you are sleeping on a mattress that doesn’t ‘breathe’ or holds a lot of body heat, you are negatively impacting your sleep. It’s much easier to warm up when it’s cold with extra blankets than it is to lower your body temperature when it’s hot.
When it comes to mattresses, and mattress materials, there are some that are good at heat regulation and others fail miserably.
For more on this topic, I go back to the knowledgeable folk at TheMattressUnderground
The words "temperature regulation" and "sleeping cool" and many others are more loose marketing terms in today’s environment where every manufacturer tends to talk about how their mattress are cool sleeping without providing the why behind the what.
There are three main "technologies" being used to encourage "cool sleeping"
The first are the gel materials which work through thermal conductivity. These conduct heat away from the body to differing degrees (like putting your hand on a marble countertop) until the temperature has evened out at which time like most memory foam they will start to insulate you and can increase temperature because they are less breathable and can allow for higher humidity levels than other materials.
Thermal conductive gels (like a marble countertop) has a cool feel to it but the cooling benefits end once temperatures have equalized and from that point onwards the foam is insulating. In other words they are one piece of the puzzle.
The second is "phase change" materials which are a form of gel which changes it’s state from a semi solid to a semi liquid and will either draw heat or release it depending on the temperature difference between it and the surroundings. These too don’t regulate humidity levels and the sleeping microclimate.
Finally there is ventilation or "breathability" which can wick away the moisture and store it inside the fiber and away from your skin or "wick" it to another layer to keep your sleeping environment at a lower humidity level which allows the natural cooling processes of the body to work more effectively. Evaporation is the natural cooling mechanism and it works less effectvely in higher humidity levels. Humidity levels close to the skin will affect how we perceive temperature just like high humidity levels outdoors will make us feel hotter than it really is. Temperature regulation without good ventilation is "temporary" and can still allow the buildup of humidity close to the body which increases the effective sleeping temperature.
While all of these can play a ‘temporary" or "partial" role .ventilation and sleeping microclimate is by far the most important.In other words . just feeling the "coolness" of a material has little to do with how cool you will sleep over the course of the night unless there is good ventilation and regulation of humidity levels.
This is why you hear about so many people buying various gel foam materials and still ending up sleeping warm because the essential ventilation issue may not be well addressed even though they may have some effect.
There are many elements to the sleeping cool "equation" which includes the upper layers of the mattress, the ticking and quilting materials, the mattress protector, and any sheets and bedding on the mattress and all of these work together to regulate temperature and allow (or not) the natural processes of the body to keep itself cool. In other words . don’t be "faked out" by the temperature of a material when you put your hand on it or lie on it for a few minutes.
Hope this helps solve the "sleeping temperature" puzzle and sort out some of the marketing exaggerations from the facts behind them.
So what are suitable materials when it comes to humidity control, thermoregulation and moisture wicking?
Woolis one great choice as it can help regulate temperature, humidity and store moisture in the wool fiber without having that ‘wet’ feel. It allows to sleep drier and cooler in warmer (and more humid) temperatures. Wool is also naturally dust mite resistant.
Cottonalso has great moisture wicking properties, but it has a wet feel when it absorbs water.
Foamsgenerally have more insulating properties, but some can be more breathable than others. Latex is the coolest, followed by polyfoam, followed by memory foam.
Softer foamsare more breathable, but it’s important to remember that you sink into softer foams and increase the surface contact on the skin.
Natural fibersare generally the best for wicking and storing moisture as they store the moisture in the fiber itself.
Fibre blendsor plant fibers that have been processed have these similar properties but may not be as good as a pure natural product.
Mattress manufacturers understand the unique properties of certain materials, and will often layer the materials accordingly (for instance the cotton may be against the body, but underneath moisture is stored in the wool).
Each layer in a mattress can either add to or detract from the other layers that are involved in the microclimate and their ability to ventilate (add to the dispersal of heat and water vapor) as well as wick moisture and store moisture away from the body is all part of the puzzle.
The foams in the comfort layers are a part of this. All foams are insulating materials but some are more breathable (which can allow for the dispersal of heat) than others. In addition to this . if you add gel or other thermally conductive materials or phase change materials into the foam this can have an effect as well (on temperature until it evens out but not on ventilation which is more important in the longer term).
Next above the foam is often the quilting layer which can be either more foam or natural or synthetic fibers. Next above this is the fabric used in the mattress ticking itself.
Next is the mattress protector, next is the sheets, and then comes the person (and what they are wearing) along with the layers on the other side of them which is their blankets and bedding.
All of these play a role. If any of these layers "stop" the ventilation then you have dead air (insulating) and temperatures can go up. If moisture isn’t wicked away from the body . then you lose some ability to disperse heat.
Temperature control does not just stop at the mattress. It will depend on the mattress protector you use, the sheets on your bed, the clothes you sleep in and of course the airflow and temperature in the room.
Note: I will be taking a deep dive into healthy sheets, pillows, blankets and mattress protectors in the future, so be sure to sign up for my newsletter to be the first to hear about my findings.
When it comes to buying a mattress to support airflow, the key is more natural fibres, and to ensure the foams are breathable and not insulating in nature – especially the foams close to the surface of the mattress.
Is the wool treated or untreated?
Wool is often mothproofed with harmful chemicals. Also, some companies add chemicals to the wool to increase fire resistance.
Be sure to ask the manufacturer if the wool has any additives.
Where is the bed/mattress made?
You may find the perfect mattress, with all the right materials and proper certificates in place, but it’s important to look at where the mattress is made.
Ideally it would be manufactured in a facility that only produces organic beds. Cross contamination in manufacturing is a real concern. You don’t want your organic natural materials to be processed in a machine that has just processed synthetic materials full of chemicals.
If they outsource some of their production (ie, some of the sewing), then ask about the production facilities of these external suppliers.
Likewise with transport – make sure the mattresses are well sealed for transport and aren’t exposed to toxic fumes or chemicals.
Does it have an environmental green label? If so, what does it actually mean?
If the bed or mattress is certified with an eco-friendly, or green label, make sure you find out what it actually certifies.
You need to ensure that the certificate tests for:
- SVOCs (semi-volatile organic compounds) such as pesticides and flame retardants
Certificates are broken down into 3 types:
- First party certifications – these are created by the manufacturing company themselves. The certificates will only check for the things that the manufacture does well, while ignoring any possible issues.
- Second party certificates. These are setup by the industry or trade associations. Slightly better than the first party certificates, but it is still not an independant, unbiased certificate (a lot of the manufactures fund these associations).
- Third party certificates. These are totally independent organisations – often ran as a not for profit or as a government organisations. Certificates from third party organisations are the mist trust worthy but you should still do your own research.
Some third party certificates that exist in the bedding space include:
- Oeko-Tex. This certificate limits toxic chemicals such as flame retardant use and formaldehyde within mattress components (not the entire mattress).
- Global Organic Textile Standard: This standard looks at the processes used in the manufacture of textiles. It also applied to the end textile product.
- Global Organic Latex Standard: This applied to latex, meaning the latex is certified organic.
- Greenguard:This is an indoor air quality certificate, and thus items with this certificate must have limits on chemicals (VOCs etc) within them.
Please note thatCerti-Purcertificate is a trade association standard that is operated by the ‘Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam’. This standard restricts the use PDBE flame retardants (which use is banned anyway), heavy metals and formaldehyde (which aren’t used in mattress foam production) and has some limits on VOCs. While better than nothing, this is an industry funded certificate and you should look beyond this simple stamp of approval.
Also, some manufacturers may have an ‘environmental’ stamp of approval, this may mean it’s good for the world, but it doesn’t necessarily imply it’s a product that is good for you. Green does not always mean healthy.
For more information on these certificates please head to this page.
Does the mattress company reveal what their mattress is made from?
If you can’t find answers to all these questions on the manufactures website, you may need to contact them. If they don’t answer your question this is a good sign that they’re using unsafe materials in their products.
Put yourself in the manufacturers shoes – if you were using safe materials and had good manufacturing processes you wouldn’t keep these facts to yourself. You would want to share them with the world.
Don’t be afraid to ask these hard questions. Buying a bed or a new mattress is a big investment, and if you value your health you should ask these questions.
If the manufacturer won’t comply, find someone else who will. I have put together a guide that may help you find a suitable mattress manufacturer HERE.
What is the mattress cover (known as a ticking) made of?
The mattress cover acts as a support structure holding all the internal layers together (this is why some mattresses are free of glues) and provides another layer of comfort.
Some mattesses may have quality internal materials, but the exposed cover is syntehtic, or uses an inferior material.
If it is a cotton cover, make sure it’s made from organic cotton. Especially as this cotton will come into contact with the skin. And check to ensure it hasn’t been treated in anyway.
A wool cover is a good option, though check if it has been treated and ensure wool doesn’t cause irritation on your skin.
Polyester covers should be avoided. These are made out of petroleum and contain a lot of synthetic chemicals.
Does the mattress contain any anti-bacterial chemicals?
You may think a mattress with anti-bacterial properties as being a positive thing, but unfortunatley most anti-bacterials used in mattresses are registered pesticides (Staph-guard and Ultra-Fresh are two examples).
Also, anti-bacterial chemicals may kill some bacteria, but not all bacteria, leading to the growth of resistance bacteria in your sleeping surface.
The Perfect Healthy Bed and Mattress?
I know that is a lot of questions to be asking when searching for a new healthy mattress!
If you are looking for a quick reference guide on some healthy brands of mattresses, be sure to download the chart I have put together HERE.
Otherwise, what is an ideal healthy bed and mattress?
Let’s look at some criteria first:
The bed and mattress should be:
- Easy to clean
- Breathe well, with the ability to absorb and dispel moisture
- Not be supportive of mould growth
- Be nontoxic and free from harmful chemicals
- Free of metal
- Support quality sleep
Knowing all this, what would I look for in a healthy mattress and bed? The materials I would want my mattress to consist of include:
Natural latex is a healthy, natural alternative to synthetic memory foam. It doesn’t need extra metal springs or coils and it is free of chemicals and toxins.
A quality natural latex won’t sag and should last 20 years or longer. Ensure you go with 100% natural latex.
For more on the pros and cons of latex see this article.
Wool is naturally fire resistant, meaning there is no need for the toxic flame retardants. It has amazing temperature and moisture regulation properties while been resistant to dust mites.
Just ensure you go with a untreated, or chemical free wool.
Cotton is one of the most commonly found materials in the bedding industry, yet cotton crops are exposed to massive amounts of pesticides and other chemicals.
Pure cotton is a quality material with great properties, but if health is a priority, only go with mattresses that use organic cotton.
Hemp, coconut, bamboo and other plant based fibres are relatively new and unheard of in the conventional mattress scene. But some organic, health conscious mattress makers are turning to these fibres.
Being a natural material they generally have no or very little toxicity issues. They also breath well and are quite durable. However, be sure to look into any treatment or processing that may have been done before these fibers end up in the mattress.
Thats for the mattress, what about the bed frame itself?
For this, the solution is simple. You want to find something that is free of metal, allows good air flow and is made with non-toxic materials.
A wooden slat bed frame made made with untreated wood and free of any high VOC glues or paints.
Not only does this remove the nnEMF issue, there won’t be any off gassing issues with the frame and the slat bed frame raised off the floor allows adequate air flow around and under the mattress.
Also – if the Bed Frame can be adjusted to support inclined bed therapy (learn more about this HERE) then that is an added bonus.
Sheets, Pillows, Mattress Covers
I will cover this topic in a future article. Be sure to sign up to my newsletter to be the first to hear about my findings.
What I use and What brands do I recommend?
At the time of writing, I haven’t decided 100% on what bed and mattress I will purchase for our new home. (Update – I brought a mattress! See below for more)
I will admit however, I am drawn to the idea of buying a futon bed. Here in New Zealand there are many health conscious organic futon bed and mattress makers. The price of these setups is much lower than a conventional mattress with the same quality materials.
The big appeal for me is the fact that you can move and air out the mattress. Something that is rather difficult to do with a conventional mattress.
But watch this space. I will share my own buying journey in my weekly newsletter, so keep an eye out for my weekend emails.
In the mean time, be sure to download my handy healthy mattress buying chart HERE. In this chart I have listed some of the worlds healthiest mattresses, a long with the key pros and con’s of these mattresses.
UPDATE: I decided on a mattress!
So it’s been a good 9 months or so since I wrote this article. And after a lot of research, I finally settled on – what I think – is the best AND healthiest mattress on the market. TheSaminamattress.
The only issue is that it may be the most expensive mattress on the market!!
Saying that, the build, comfort, support, and of course materials used in this mattress (or ‘sleep system’ as they call it) are the best of the best.
I have written a comprehensive review on the the Samina mattress/system/bed which you can read here. Otherwise, you can learn more about the Samina mattress at www.saminasleep.com Ask for Claus and tell him Alex Fergus sent you, you’ll be looked after well!
If you don’t want to spend the many hours required to find your perfect healthy mattress, then THIS chart will save you a lot of time!
You can access this guide by clicking HERE.
Note: A lot of people have contacted me asking if I had a cheaper alternative to the Samina product. The Samina System is a premium product and it may be too expensive for some. If this is the case, then I would suggest looking at the Botanical Bliss Organic Natural Latex mattress from PlushBeds.
Found This Interesting? Then You Might Like:
- My FREE Sleep Resources Page
- The Healthiest Bed In The World? Reviewing The Exceptional Samina Mattress System
- Inclined Bed Therapy: A New Angle on Brain Detoxification
- How To Increase Deep Sleep
- How To Improve Sleep: 25+ Experts Share Their Helpful Tips
- Insider Health Secrets Revealed By A Top Health Coach
1. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Oct; 118(10): 1444–1449. Published online 2010 Jun 21. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1001905
3. EPA addresses VOCs and indoor air quality here: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html
5. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (2010) http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxPro les/tp53-c2.pdf
6. ATSDR: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=81
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Alex is a ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex’s Credentials HERE.
5 Things to Know Before Buying a Natural & Organic Mattress
Shopping for a Healthy Mattress?
At Essentia, we know a thing or two about making natural and organic mattresses. We’ve been leading the way for over 10 years!
Our organic mattresses are tested for VOC’s and we’re as transparent as they come.
So we can definitely help you avoid getting bamboozled.
Here are theTOP 5 thingsyou should know before buying a natural mattress or non-toxic mattress to keep it healthy.
5 Tips for Choosing a Natural Mattress
1) Go with Organic Fabrics
Go Organic! Look for unbleached organic cotton with organic fill and organic dyes to avoid harsh chemically treated fabrics.
25% of the world’s pesticides are used for cotton crops. ¼ pound of pesticides are used to make 1 t-shirt. Choosing organic materials makes a huge difference to the environment and keeps you healthy.
Warning, industry-standard Certified Organic Cotton Cover is:
1) Organic Top
2) Polyester Fill
3) Unbleached cotton backing
Make sure it’s certified organic all the way through from top, fill and back.
2) Choose Natural & Organic Latex
Rubber tree sap that has been frothed up and baked is called natural latex foam.
There are different qualities to latex ranging from:
– Synthetic Latex (man-made)
– Blends (varying % of natural and synthetic content
– Natural Latex
– Certified organic latex
Natural latex or better yet, a certified organic latex mattress is probably what you’re looking for when shopping for a healthy mattress.
However, all types of latex can be durable (can last 20+ years depending on the quality) as well as provide you with a consistent feeling mattress for years.
3) Avoid Fiber Fill or Batting
Batting is soft padding that covers springs or latex foam inside the mattress.
Organic Cotton or Wool is the most common form of batting you’ll find while shopping for a natural or healthy mattress.
These fibers soften the surface. Because natural latex is firm and rubbery, topping the mattress is necessary to improve its comfort.
Don’t forget to clean these fibersat least once a year. Most companies won’t mention this. Make sure the animal fibers are removable for easy cleaning. Unless they’re chemically treated, animal fibers should be cleaned to keep things sanitary. Imagine wearing the same wool sweater every night for years. Actually, it would be a full body suit. Gross right? You can read more about this on our blog post on wool.
Warning – Wool as a Fire Retardant does NOT work.
Wool is a natural fire retardant but wool does burn. Most organic mattress makers claim wool pass fire barrier tests. We tested thick 20 ounce and even 30 ounce wools, both failed. We didn’t do any further testing beyond this weight because denser wools are no longer comfortable.
Every supplier we contacted informed us, after a little a persistence, that all manufacturers add fire retardant to their "wool fire barriers". So wool is backed with fire retardant fiber but they promote wool as the fire barrier! Most mattress salespeople don’t know this fact.
4) Say NO to Spring Mattresses .
The least expensive way to go is a spring mattress with natural padding, however, this may not be the healthiest mattress.
A recent study covered in Scientific America shows a strong correlation between spring mattresses andmelanoma cancer.
It turns out that the springs act as an antenna that amplifies the intensity of FM and TV broadcast signals. That’s definitely another reason you should avoid spring mattresses.
If that wasn’t enough, spring systems act as an incubator for dust mites, mold and mildew since its cavity creates a damp dark area for things to fester in.
This is why spring mattresses double their weight after 10 years. Skin, dust mite feces and dust accumulate in this area.
A solid foam mattress like a natural latex mattress is ideal as there are no open areas where accumulation and reproduction can occur.
We will always have dust mites but the goal is to reduce them to a “normal” level so that it doesn’t trigger allergies.
5) Avoid Fire Retardants
Every mattress sold in the United States must contain enough Fire Retardant to withstand a 2 foot wide blowtorch open flame for 70 seconds, even organic mattresses or latex mattresses.
Some fire retardants have been linked to cancer, birth defects and much more. Read more about fire retardants in mattresses.