You spend more of your life sleeping than you do any other activity. Have you ever thought about where you do that sleeping? More, have you thought about whether or not an organic mattress makes a difference?
Spoiler : It does matter. Very much.
We already know that what we put inside of and on our bodies matters. The exposure to toxins bombards our families in so many different ways. As we work harder and harder to eat cleaner and use more non-toxic products in our homes and with our self-care, we also are paying more attention to what goes on our bodies. We recognize the difference that organic clothing can make, seeing as it covers our body’s largest organ.
But have we ever really paid attention to things like our sofas and our mattresses? We definitely need to watch the things we put in and on our bodies, but just as much so, we need to watch what we put our bodies on.
Seeing as we spend over half our life sleeping? The materials that make up the mattresses we’re sleeping on are incredibly important!
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Myth That Sleep Isn’t Important
We probably understand the importance of sleep more than most. It’s not a secret that moms (and dads) often don’t get anywhere near the sleep that healthy brains crave, and we chalk that up to the pits of parenthood.
We make jokes about sleeping when we’re dead and that we are super functional with two hours a night of sleep, but the reality is that sleep is tremendously important for both baby and you! Particularly if you have a newborn, you need to do all you can to capitalize on as much sleep as you can. Your baby depends on you and your functionality 100%. This is where the old saying of, “If mama isn’t happy, no one is happy,” rings true. If you’re not well-rested, so many things get out of whack on your end. That may mean you end up stressed and take transfer that stress to your children. If you don’t put your sleep as a priority, you may be putting yourself at increased risk for postpartum depression. You may not be as safe with baby if you’re sleep-deprived, and your overall health may be compromised if you’re not getting enough sleep.
We so often make jokes, or blame ‘mom brain,’ on things like being unable to focus, not having a lot of energy, being irritable, having mood swings or panic attacks and even suffering cognitive deficits. The fact of the matter is, those are all symptoms of sleep deprivation as well, and while mom brain is a real thing…you need to make sure you’re doing all you can to ensure the best sleep you can.
Often, that boils right on down to the mattress you sleep on, and even what your mattress is made of.
What’s The Difference Between A Natural Or Organic Mattress and A Conventional Mattress?
We’re glad you asked. While you may guess that just like organic foods have no toxic pesticides and are often harvested in sustainable and eco-friendly ways, it’s similar for natural and organic mattresses. Particularly as consumers are demanding safer mattresses, new laws that address flammability also affect the materials with which mattresses are made.
When it comes to the big difference between conventional mattresses and organic mattresses, obviously materials are at the forefront. Traditional mattresses often include innerspring beds that are made with different fiber and/or foam layers. Or they include latex mattresses, memory foam beds and yes, some people still opt for water beds. The bulk of these traditional mattresses are made from man-made and synthetic materials that are not necessarily to be desired. For instance, polyurethane foams are often used in a traditional mattress. Guess what, though? The Environmental Protection Agency claims that long-term exposure to polyurethane foam may cause autoimmune disease, infertility, miscarriages, allergies, asthma, neurological disorders, child behavior issues and even cancer.
Yikes. We’re pretty sure that about 36 years would qualify for long-term exposure.
What is it exactly that is so toxic, and why is it allowed? Well, it boils down to the chemicals that are out-gassed. Polyurethane foam is the main material in the super popular memory-foam bedding. The problem is that polyurethane is a volatile organic compound, or a VOC. VOCs commonly are to blame for breathing problems and skin irritations. You know that smell that ‘new mattress’ smell? Really what’s happening is the gasses from the polyurethane are being released and attaching to dust particles in the air. You’ll breathe those babies in and then be exposed to the VOC.
If all of this is obviously not sounding good, why is it still one of the most popular materials of mattresses still? Well, it’s really impossible for researchers to say that it’s solely the polyurethane foam that is causing a rise in cancer or other diseases, and unless researchers can really explain the relationship between a third of your day, every day, exposed to the polyurethane foam and your residual health issues? No government regulation agency will touch it. In fact, the EPA has said that polyurethane foam mattresses have cured or finished diisocyanates that are *not* hazardous to your health. Somewhat contradictory, and enough for us to look for better materials in our mattresses.
And that’s just the polyurethane foam we’re talking about. Traditional mattresses also included materials that are often treated with adhesives, chemical flame retardants, dyes antimicrobials and other chemicals that are off-gassed and to which we’re exposed.
Organic mattresses, on the other hand, tend to include innerspring beds with organic padding and fabrics and latex mattresses. You also find that most organic mattresses use organic wool (a natural flame retardant) or organic cotton as their most common sources for padding and fabrics. Latex can be grown organically, and foam can be processed with Dunlop methodology to create an organic latex mattress.
Which leads us to another issue you’ll want to consider when choosing between organic or traditional mattresses. There are two main ways in which latex is processed when making mattresses: Dunlop and Talalay. The Dunlop method is the oldest and is an industry-standard. It’s a natural process, and if you’re looking for firm latex, those mattresses created with Dunlop latex will do so.
The Talalay method is similar but adds a couple of steps beyond where the Dunlop process ends, which makes it a tad heavier with its carbon footprint. The latex that comes from the Talalay method is typically lighter and ‘fluffier’ and you’ll find several ‘pillow top’ latex mattresses use Talalay latex.
Organic, All-Natural Or Traditional? What Mattress Do I Pick?
There are actually three big categories of mattresses: organic, traditional and all-natural. Just like in all the products we consume, there’s wholly organic, wholly conventional and then there’s the middle where more materials than not are all-natural or mostly natural (though not necessarily organic) products. And, just like when you’re looking at what must be organic vs. what you can buy from the Clean Fifteen list, when looking at mattresses, you’ll need to prioritize your needs, wants and budget. There are several companies that make mattresses using natural fabrics, plant-based poly foams and natural latexes, and do so in an eco-friendly and sustainable way. It just goes to show why we need to investigate materials before we buy them.
Obviously, though, we do believe there are several reasons to strongly consider choosing organic or all-natural mattresses. Typically, those mattresses will offer you sleep options that are made with hypoallergenic materials that don’t have pesticide residues. The fire protection you’re given with these mattress options don’t have toxic properties, and in organic mattresses, you’re staying clear of high-VOC chemicals.
And when buying organic or even all-natural, you’re typically helping your environment by choosing mattresses made from sustainable farming and manufacturing processes. Yes, you want to sleep well at night, but a good part of that may come from the good feeling you get making choices that are good for Mother Earth too.
Traditional mattresses made with conventional cotton do no favors to our planet. You may be shocked to know that in terms of herbicide and pesticide use when growing, traditional cotton is one of the dirtiest crops in the world. You know how your mom always told you to wash your new clothes before you wore them? There’s good reason; they’re laden with chemicals, and those chemicals are horrible for us and the planet. Organic cotton (or wool) are much nicer to us and our earth, and many organic materials in mattresses are biodegradable or recyclable.
What Mattress Brands Are The Best?
Again, we’re glad you asked. At Mothering, we focus on finding information, research and products that natural mothers and families can appreciate because we too are mothers! We want our families safe and happy just like you, so we look for things that we’d use with our own families!
We went on an exhaustive search for the best mattresses in a few categories and we partnered with a sister site, The Sleep Judge, to find the best of the best. We recognize that while organic mattresses are fantastic, they’re also somewhat pricey, and not everyone can afford them. We looked for mattresses that were on the budget end and the luxury end, and even mattresses for our littlest sleepers’ cribs. We also looked into toppers and linens, as they’re often the deal-makers or deal-breakers in a good night’s rest.
Overall Best Organic Material Mattress: Avocado Green
You can read the full mattress review here, but suffice it to say, Avocado is one of our favorite companies. Founded by a couple who simply wanted to do better for their family, the earth and our pocketbooks they knew they could do better than traditional mattresses. “Green” is their passion, and they use GOLS organic-certified latex, GOTS organic-certified wool, GOTS organic-certified cotton and GOTS organic-certified kapok fiber. Their products are GREENGUARD Certified and they’re made in California. Avocado is a Carbonfree Partner, which means they offset any emissions from their factory and product shipping on an annual basis through carbon offsets they purchase through Carbonfund. More, one percent of all revenues go to nonprofits of the world as they’re members of 1% For The Planet.
Top that all off with the incredible Green Mattress (or vegan options, if you’re so inclined) and a reasonable price for organic craftsmanship and you can’t go wrong.
Best Luxury Sleep Mattress: Saatva Loom & Leaf
Don’t be tricked into believing that ‘luxury’ has to be outrageously expensive. In fact, with Saatva’s Luxury Loom & Leaf Mattress, that’s definitely not the case.
The Loom & Leaf is made with multi-layer eco-friendly support foams that give deep contouring support for luxurious comfort you’d expect to pay several thousand dollars more for. The 5-lb. Eco-friendly premium memory foam layer keeps you cool with no off-gassing. All Loom & Leaf foams are delivered stable and whole. The cooling layer of the Loom & Leaf is the proprietary Spinal Zone Gel and a breathable layer that helps keep you cool, offers premium lumbar support and supports regulated body temperature through the night.
And all that amazingness is covered with an organic cotton cover and natural thistle flame retardant (no chemicals) so you’re safe throughout the night.
Even better, Saatva works hard to keep all humans safe in various ways. Their charitable giving is widespread and shows passion about the planet and her communities. They regularly donate hundreds and hundreds of mattresses and partner with high-need organizations all over the country. Some of those organizations include Seeds of Hope, Angels Among Us Foundation, The Wounded Warrior Project, The Salvation Army, St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital and the Interfaith Community Service in California, to name a few. They’re committed to your satisfaction with their integrity and it shows in the Loom & Leaf.
Best Mattress For Heavier Sleepers: Awara
The Awara is tremendously popular for heavier sleepers with its GOTS certified-organic materials and organic latex processed through the Dunlop method. The latex does an incredible job of remaining stable and keeping those heavier sleepers comfortable through the night.
Awara makes their organic hybrid mattresses in the United States, and they work together with ClimatePartner. ClimatePartner plants one tree for every Awara mattress sold, so you are literally repopulating the earth with every mattress bought. Awara is VOC-free, so there’s no off-gassing like there is in traditional memory foam.
Best Mattress For Hot Sleepers: Birch by Helix
Considered an A+ by the reviewers at The Sleep Judge, the Birch by Helix is a great match if you have a hard time cooling down. If you’re hotter at night, you may not hit that all-important REM sleep as easily, so making sure your mattress works with you is important. The natural materials Birch uses are what helps in this effort. The organic cotton cover is breathable, and has moisture-wicking features. The Birch wool is a natural, temperature regulating insulation material that naturally protects you from fire as well. The Talalay latex offers more breathability than the Dunlop method latexes, but if you typically are hot at night, this is important for you.
Best Quality Mattress For Budgets: Tuft & Needle
In 2012, Tuft & Needle founders took the idea of BedInABox’s memory foam mattress shipping directly to customers through online purchasing concept and ran with it. They weren’t super thrilled with the idea of memory foam to sleep on, so they invented Tuft & Needle Adaptive Foam.
Determined to offer consumers affordable quality products, they were the catalyst for many of the mattress companies that now sell solely online. Even though they merged with Simmons to have bigger platform appeal, they haven’t forgotten their roots. They regularly donate to community and country-wide non-profit organizations and they believe that employee involvement in their community is pivotal. Their employees give back to local community projects like Habitat For Humanity, and they donate mattresses to the homeless and less fortunate community members (to the tune of $9M) with their return project.
Additional Things To Consider For A Great Night’s Sleep
The linens we put on our mattresses are almost as important as the mattress itself. We sought experts and those in our mama review forums to find favorite picks for mattress toppers and linens.
Best Mattress Toppers
Avocado’s Mattress Topper is consistently a winner when it comes to mattress toppers. Made with Dunlop latex rubber foam, and covered by the built-in layer of Joma® wool, it’ll keep you warm and cool depending on what you need. There are no chemicals or additives and it’s OEKO-TEX Standard 100 Certified.
Another favorite is the Birch Mattress Topper. People love the natural materials: organic cotton for the cover and birch wool and wool fibers for the fire-retardant layer to protect. The Talalay latex gives a soft feel that’s not quite as ‘sinking’ as a memory foam, and it’s OEKO-TEX certified.
When it comes to linens, again, it’s important to remember that your entire body will be exposed to them all night long. Organic or eco-friendly and sustainably sourced natural materials are a must. Some of our favorites include:
- One Park: GOTS organic-certified cotton made ethically and minimally processed. The sateen weave is smooth and silky and perfect for year-round use.
- Whisper: These GOTS organic-certified cotton sheets are tightly woven using long-fiber yarn and they have an incredibly smooth and inviting feel to them.
- Sheets ‘n Giggles: If you’re looking for a few more color options, consider these oh-so-soft sheets made from 100% Eucalyptus Lyocell. They’re softer than you can believe, breathable and more moisture-wicking than a traditional cotton and they get softer with each wash! They’re made in an eco-friendly process with no pesticides or insecticides and they use 96% less water than standard cotton to grow. Sheets ‘N Giggles plants a new tree for every set of sheets they sell.
Don’t Forget The Dust mites!
We know, we know…you’re itching at the bit to get shopping! We understand. But let us share one more little fact about a must-do when it comes to mattresses.
Even the ones you encase in mattress protectors…
Let us introduce you to the Raycop RN. It’s an allergen vacuum that uses patented technology to remove dust mite matter, pollen and 99% of common viruses and bacteria from fabric surfaces. It’ll even get the pet hair and dander off your mattress. Why is this important?
Well, because your bed is the prime environment for those little buggers! They live to burrow into fabrics so they can eat your dead skin cells, and since you shed one to three pounds a year (and many in your bed)? They’re in for a feast. Your mattress may be home to anywhere between one million and ten million dust mites (fewer, obviously if you encase it, but don’t think that’s a 100% barrier!) and so allergists recommend additional vacuuming. That’s where the Raycop RN comes in and uses Ultraviolet rays to alter the DNA of dust mite eggs so the hatch rates drop drastically. It’ll trap over 99.9% of dust mite matter, pollen and pet dander, and keep you healthier (and less creeped out).
Even better, you can use the Raycop on your sofas, curtains…just about anything that might trap dust mites.
When it comes to sleeping, there are a zillion other factors you could consider to maximize your hours of shut-eye. But one easy way to start is to look at your mattress and bedding, and be sure they’re doing everything they can to HELP you have sweet dreams every day of the year!
Photo: Dima Sidelnikov/Shutterstock
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