Why Choose a Natural Mattress? Part I: Toxic Sleep

What is a natural mattress? And why bother investing in one? In this 3 part blog series, we’ll explain the differences between natural and conventional mattresses, and discuss how the materials they use can affect your sleep and even your health.

Part I: Conventional mattresses - do you know what you’re sleeping on?

Most conventional mattresses are made with synthetic fills, fabrics and foams, and require the use of chemical additives to fulfill a number of functions - from glues to hold it together, to the flame retardants needed to make these flammable materials fire-safe.

Many of these substances are unregulated, under-tested, and potentially harmful - associated with not only sleep disturbances, but a wide range of health and environmental implications.

Considering we spend about a third of our lives sleeping (more for children and infants), having these toxins in our mattress equates to significant exposure time.

Some examples of chemicals used in conventional mattresses are:

  • Petroleum-based polyurethane - used for foam mattresses - associated with irritation of skin and mucous membranes, chest tightness, and difficult breathing. Includes compounds classified as potential human carcinogens and known to cause cancer in animals. (Source)
  • Boric acid - found in foam mattresses - classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Toxicity Category III for causing reactions such as skin irritation (Source).
  • Phthalates - used as a binding agent, and to make the plastics in conventional mattress covers more flexible - linked to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, neuro-developmental issues, behavioural issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues. (Source)
  • Formaldehyde - used as an adhesive to hold mattresses together - linked to asthma, allergies, and classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). (Source)

    And these are just a few examples.

    Increased awareness about the dangers of certain chemicals has caused some governments and companies to ban or avoid their use in recent years. For example, PCDE’s are a flame retardant that was widely used prior to 2004, but subsequently phased out from mattress production when it was found to be toxic to the liver, thyroid and nervous system (source). It begs the question: how was a substance like that allowed on the market in the first place? And since it was discontinued, what other chemicals are being used in its place?

    Even if you do your homework, it’s often difficult to know what substances your mattress contains because manufacturers do not disclose their formulas, which are considered proprietary trade secrets.

    Growing awareness about the potential dangers of conventional mattresses has led many people to search for a chemical-free alternative, and is part of why we decided to make mattresses the way we do.

    But beyond avoiding potential toxins, there are lots of other reasons to choose a natural mattress, like the health, safety and sleep benefits of naturally-occurring materials. In Part II and Part III of this series, we’ll explore these benefits.

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