We spend approximately one-third of our lives in bed. Add to that the fact that nighttime is when our bodies recuperate and rebuild from the assaults of the day. It’s no secret that our modern lives are filled with toxins and chemicals that our ancestors never had to deal with. From car exhaust to skin and haircare products, and food additives to industrial pollutants, our bodies absorb innumerable chemicals on a daily basis.
What better way to care for ourselves than to reduce our toxic load during the time of the day that we are predisposed to rest, restore, and recuperate. We can start by reducing or eliminating the toxins that are lurking in our bedroom.
Read on for my guide to eliminating the heavy hitters of bedroom toxins.
Your mattress is a literal hot bed of chemicals that are known endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. Most mattresses are made from polyurethane foam that emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which have been linked to cancer, respiratory ailments, and other health issues. They are then treated with flame retardants which have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, neurological dysfunction, and compromised immune function. Finally, they are encased in PVC or vinyl coverings which can damage reproductive function and have been linked to cancer, asthma, and endocrine function.
If you could change just one thing in your bedroom, this would be the one. Look for mattresses made from natural latex (unless you have an allergy to latex), wool, and/or organic cotton. You will also want to ensure that your mattress is not manufactured with flame retardants, VOCs, fragrances, antimicrobial agents, PVC, or vinyl. Look for the GOLS certification for the best quality natural latex, GOTS certification for mattresses made without many dangerous chemicals, and Oeko-tex or Greenguard certifications that will ensure low VOC emissions.
What goes on top of your mattress is also what goes next to your skin, so naturally, this would be the second most important thing to change. The majority of sheets and duvet covers are made from conventional cotton which ranks third in the world of agricultural crops that are most heavily treated with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. In addition to that, many of the dyes used in the textile industry contain heavy metals and harmful chemicals with a range of health implications from skin irritation to neurological dysfunction and respiratory issues to cancer.
Opt for organic cotton, linen, or bamboo sheets instead, and look for GOTS, Oeko-tex, or Greenguard certification to ensure that no toxic dyes or other harmful chemicals were used in the production and manufacturing processes.
Your pillow is obviously where you rest your head all night, so it makes sense that this would have a big impact on the quality of your sleep environment. Just like your mattress, your pillow is often made of the same toxic materials and treated with the same harmful chemicals that are in your mattress.
You will want to look for similar materials to your mattress – natural latex, organic cotton and/or wool. In addition, kapok and buckwheat hulls are time-tested alternatives to chemical-laden synthetics that can have a negative effect on your health.
Like your mattress, most upholstered furniture is made with synthetic foams, flame retardants, PVC or vinyl, chemically treated upholstery fabrics, and wood finishes and adhesives that emit VOCs.
When shopping for a new chair, bench, or ottoman for your bedroom, look for natural latex or other plant-based foam, organic cotton, and/or wool for the cushion filling. In addition to the certifications listed above, the CertiPUR-US certification sets a high standard for foam used in upholstered furniture and will guarantee that your furniture is produced without a list of harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, phthalates, VOCs, and heavy metals.
For the upholstery fabric, you’ll want to use the same standards that were applied to your bedding selection. Textile certifications like GOTS, Oeko-tex, or Greenguard will ensure that your upholstery fabric isn’t treated with harmful chemicals.
Indoor air quality can be 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. In addition to this, bedrooms tend to be smaller and more closed off than the public spaces of a home, especially more modern home designs with open concept living and dining areas. Because of this, there tends to be less air circulation in bedrooms. In addition, dust and debris tend to settle in carpets and rugs, corners and closets that don’t get cleaned often, and on upholstered furniture.
Adding a high-quality air filter to your bedroom will help to purify the air you breathe while you’re sleeping. There are many factors involved in choosing an air filter including room size, sensitivity to light and sound (different models may have lights and/or make more noise when operating), portability of the unit, the cost of replacement filters, and the frequency that filters need to be replaced. Once you have narrowed down your personal requirements, look for a unit that meets or exceeds HEPA standards. HyperHEPA by IQAir is the gold standard for eliminating ultrafine particulates which are the most dangerous to human health and generally the most prevalent in indoor environments.
There are, of course, additional changes that could be made to improve the impact that your bedroom has on your overall health. Things like building materials, the size and placement of windows, and the type of paint used will all impact your health. However, these changes require larger investments in time, money, and effort to achieve. Following the five steps listed above can be achieved in a short amount of time and with no commitment to renovations but will help you make great strides on your wellness journey. To learn more about how we design for wellness, visit our website.