More people are paying attention to the importance of sleep as a way to stay healthy. The average human being spends roughly one-third of their life sleeping, which makes choosing the right mattress an important life decision for your health and wellbeing. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of organic mattresses available on the market, but there is still a notable amount of skepticism and a lack of understanding about what exactly an organic mattress is. Many people wonder about the higher prices associated with organic mattresses and ask themselves, “Are organic mattresses worth the price”? and “What are the dangers of non-organic mattresses?” Making the choice to switch to an organic mattress requires an understanding of what an organic mattress is, what the benefits are of an organic mattress, the potential hazards of a non-organic mattress, and what to look for when selecting an organic mattress.
An Introduction to Organic Mattresses
Before choosing to switch to an organic memory foam mattress, it is important to know what you are getting when you select an organic mattress. What differentiates organic mattresses from non-organic mattresses is that they are certified by a third-party organic certifying agent as being organic. Many people typically associate an item being classified as organic as meaning that it is natural, environmentally friendly, and eco-friendly by default, but this is not necessarily true. While some organic products are environmentally friendly, made using natural materials, and eco-friendly, not all organic products are. In addition to this distinction, it is also vital to know that not all organic mattresses are the same and that there are varying qualities and types of organic mattresses available, which means that to find the best possible mattress for your sleep and lifestyle needs, it is necessary to conduct preliminary research to gain an understanding of what the various available options are. It is best to look for mattresses that are certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard and Global Organic Latex Standard. Always be sure to verify that the organic certifications have not expired, as some companies may try to dupe consumers into buying their first order organic and then switching back to non-organic materials in the next order while continuing to use the prior certification to lure consumers in.
Many of the organic mattresses available contain both organic and natural materials to create their mattress, but the exact materials vary between each company and model of mattress. Organic mattresses often include natural latex foam, though the amount of organic latex foam can vary significantly between companies and models. It costs less to purchase non-organic latex, so target mattresses that include a higher percentage of Global Organic Latex Standards certified organic latex, as this latex must be made using at least 95% certified organic ingredients. Latex comes in several forms, including synthetic (man-made), natural, and blended, which is a combination of both natural and synthetic latex. Organic mattresses often include other natural ingredients, such as organic wool or cotton. Often, organic mattresses are made of an organic latex foam that functions as a support layer and is layered on top with certified organic wool, all of which is then encased in certified organic cotton. This composition structure will change with each mattress. Be sure to research all of the products used in the making of the organic firm mattress to ensure that it is a high-quality mattress designed using natural, safe components.
Some organic mattresses may also include innersprings. Innersprings can serve as a type of replacement for a layer of natural latex foam for support and may be a cost savings measure. A mattress with springs is often not as comfortable and supportive as those made using natural latex, and innersprings can be breeding ground for bacteria and dust mites. Innersprings provide an area within the mattress in which dust mites can nest, which can lead to an increase in allergies. To select the most beneficial organic mattress, look for mattresses using organic latex as opposed to an innerspring system.
The Benefits of an Organic Mattress
Purchasing an organic mattress can be a commitment, but there are a number of impressive benefits that organic mattresses offer that non-organic mattresses do not. Below are a few of the most notable benefits of an organic mattress.
- Chemical Free: The materials used to make organic mattresses, primarily organic latex, organic cotton, and organic wool, is made without the use of pesticides and are manufactured using chemical-free processes. Organic latex mattress materials are grown, harvested, processed, and manufactured without the use of any synthetic chemicals. The organic wool and organic cotton used in the formation of the mattress is not dipped in harmful chemicals. While non-organic mattresses are made using carcinogenic chemicals designed to act as flame retardants, organic mattresses rely on organic wool to act as a natural flame retardant. The chemicals used in non-organic mattresses to achieve the required flame retardancy have been linked to a number of conditions and diseases capable of endangering health.
- Durability: Organic mattresses are much more durable than a traditional non-organic mattress because the materials used to make them do not break down as quickly. The materials selected for use in organic mattresses are long-lasting and flexible, which allows them to hold their natural form longer than synthetic mattresses. While organic mattresses may cost more initially than non-organic mattresses, their durability makes the upfront cost a sound investment over time.
- Safer for Infants and Children: Organic mattresses are recommended for infants and children primarily because of the lack of dangerous chemicals used to act as a flame retardant. In addition to this tremendous benefit, the organic wool used in organic mattresses aids in the regulation of body temperature, which is especially helpful with infants in keeping them calm and relaxed as they sleep. The organic wool also provides a soft, cushioning surface to help keep infants and children comfortable and soothed throughout their slumber. The insulation that wool provides enables it to help keep infants and children cool during the warmer months and warm during the cooler months, making it the perfect material all year round.
- Natural Flame Resistance: While non-organic mattresses achieve the required flame retardant level by using harmful chemicals, organic mattresses are naturally flame resistant because of the organic wool used in their construction. Wool is naturally flame resistant primarily because of the protein it contains, keratin. The keratin within wool works in tandem with the moisture that is held within the wool fibers to make it a difficult material to catch fire. Wool also contains a protective Lanolin coating that increases its resistance to combustion. The use of organic wool in organic mattresses removes the need to add harsh, harmful chemicals.
- Biodegradability and Sustainability: Organic latex mattresses are not only chemical free and ideal for children and babies, they are sustainable and biodegradable. Organic wool organic cotton and organic latex are renewable resources that have a relatively low impact on the planet, which helps to reduce the carbon footprint and protect the ecosystem. Because these materials are produced in accordance with organic standards, they replenish and maintain the fertility of the soil and utilize natural fertilizers during the cultivation process. This helps to foster continued soil fertility and health. The process by which latex is extracted from the rubber tree also eliminates the need for the tree to be cut down for the extraction process to occur. This creates a sustainable system of latex extraction that is accomplished without damaging or destroying the tree in the process. When the latex is extracted correctly and safely, a rubber tree can produce latex for up to thirty years. Latex is a natural and biodegradable substance. Wool is a renewable resource that is shorn from sheep each year and is much more environmentally friendly than its oil-based synthetic counterparts, which contribute to the global pollution of the environment. Wool is a sustainable resource that is harvested safely and humanely from ethically treated sheep. Cotton, the other primary material used in organic mattresses, is grown using environmentally conscious methods that have a low impact on the environment and without the use of harmful pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Organic cotton is a biodegradable resource that will naturally break down into the earth.
- Comfort and Pressure Relief: While having a healthy and environmentally conscious mattress option is important, it is also vital to consider the comfort and support a mattress will offer in order for it to be a realistic and beneficial addition to your life. Organic mattresses are not only a chemical-free, sustainable choice, they are also inherently supportive and comfortable because of the use of organic latex. Organic latex naturally molds to the curves of the body and forms to your unique contours, providing support and relieving painful pressure on nerves and within muscles. Organic latex is elastic by nature, making it capable of bouncing back after you remove the weight of your body, which prevents the compression that occurs with synthetic foams.
The Dangers of Non-Organic Mattresses
Even with the substantial benefits organic mattresses offer, some still may be doubtful of whether or not to choose an organic mattress over a non-organic mattress. However, there are many people that are not aware of the serious dangers that non-organic mattresses pose for them, their children, and their loved ones. Mattresses are required to meet mandated flame retardant standards, which organic mattresses accomplish through their use of organic wool, but non-organic mattresses rely on harsh, dangerous chemicals to achieve the required flame resistance. One of the most commonly used chemicals is polybrominated diphenyl ether, which is also sometimes known as PBDE. Polybrominated diphenyl ether has been banned in Canada, Europe, and several states. Manufacturers are not required to disclose its use in their mattresses to consumers despite the fact that it is recognized as a harmful chemical. Polybrominated diphenyl ether collects in the body over time and does not leave the body once the exposure ends. There are a number of adverse health side effects associated with exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ether, including thyroid problems, cancer, brain and reproductive damage, and decreased sperm count. This is not the only harmful chemical manufacturers use to increase flame resistance, other chemicals used include formaldehyde, boric acid, and antimony. If you are going to spend one-third of your life sleeping, choosing a mattress that is laden with harmful chemicals increases the risk of developing health conditions as a side effect of prolonged chemical exposure. Sensitivity to these chemicals may be more severe for infants and children, particularly as they are undergoing cognitive and physical development processes. In addition to this danger, in some non-organic mattresses, the springs that are within the mattress are magnetized, which increases electromagnetic radiation.
Tips for Finding the Right Organic Mattress
If you have decided that an organic mattress is a right choice for you, the next step is to begin the process of finding the right mattress to satisfy your lifestyle needs. Organic mattresses are not all the same, so keep in mind that it may take some research and comparison to find the perfect mattress for you. As you are looking, be sure to verify with companies that each component within the mattress is certified organic so that you are purchasing the most natural, healthy option possible. This will help eliminate companies that are attempting to conceal non-organic materials within their mattresses to cut costs while marketing their product as organic. As you are searching, always try to speak with a representative from the company about the mattresses, or mattresses, you are interested in and ask them to explain each layer within the mattress to you. This is particularly important for mattresses used for children and babies as they are more susceptible to developing side effects from exposure to chemicals and harmful materials. When you are speaking with the representative, also be sure to verify what type of glue is being used to bind the various layers in the mattress together. It is useful to ask if the glue is Greenguard certified as well since Greenguard certified products have been tested for VOC emissions to study if they release toxic chemicals or byproducts. Greenguard certified glue will meet a safe emission level. These initial questions will help you on your journey to finding the perfect natural material mattress.