The Spirit of Interior Design:
Sleep Goes Green
By Eileen Wosnack
Sinking into sumptuous clean bed linens with candles softly aglow is a luxury that we all enjoy. Going green in the bedroom is more than just a popular fad today and, as most of us living the natural lifestyle have known for years, it just cannot get any better than that.
Sleep is a time to detoxify and regenerate. But pollutants commonly found in bedrooms, such as toxic chemicals, dust mites and low levels of mold in beds and bedding, affect our bodies’ ability to truly rest and heal during sleep. Common symptoms include chronic sinus problems, feeling “stuffed up,” sneezing and runny nose, sleeping poorly and/or waking up with fatigue, headaches, foggy thinking, joint pain, and skin irritations.
The trouble is that the cost of an organic bed, complete with an organic latex rubber, organic wool and cotton mattress and Forest Stewardship Council certified wood foundations and frames is expensive, sometimes more than the average person can afford. There are many options available now, but where does one start?
Three of the most important areas of the bedroom are the bed, the surfaces (walls and floors), and the bedding.
Starting with the bed, there are several price points to note when considering the lifetime investment of an organic bedroom. We sleep on our beds a third of our lives. That is one third of the time spent in renewal of energies that should be absolutely free from chemicals. If there is one investment to be made in the next renovation, though, this one is the least seen by others and the least impressive; it is likely the most valuable to your overall health.
Choose the absolute best mattress you can afford. Natural is good, however, organic is better. Several companies have begun to manufacture natural beds with lower levels of fire retardant chemicals and a new foam that does not off-gas as much as the old polyurethane foams did. Look for one without a Teflon finish to repel stains. If you are ready and able to take the plunge to invest in your sleep and your health, buy a totally organic sleep system. The rubber tree fluid used to create the latex, the wool and cotton used to wrap the mattress, and the FSC wood and adhesives are all put together using an old European technology to provide one of the gentlest, natural comfort levels in sleep that there is, all chemical-free.
The second option to consider, if the price is not affordable for the investment in a totally organic sleep system, is to get rid of your conventional mattress at least and buy either an organic latex foam mattress or an inner spring mattress with organic upholstery coverings. Another choice is to buy a cotton mattress or futon made with organic materials - and, if possible, no chemical fire retardants.
What you put on your bed is also important in the romantic bedroom setting. Invest in the best mattress cover and barrier cloth that you can afford to protect your mattress. There are several companies that bring in organic cotton bedding from India and one that contracts American farmers to grow organic cotton in the USA. The quality of the bedding is good, the cotton soft and, the best part of all, there are no chemicals used in the entire process from seed to sheet. Don’t forget that your pillows and duvets should be of wool, feathers, down, cotton, or silk.
Wash natural bedding in soap, not detergent. Washing soda may be added and a half cup of vinegar in the rinse water should aid in removing the residues of washing. If possible, hang the bedding out in the sunshine to air out and dry, or just to freshen it on a weekly basis. Turn your organic mattress end for end and flip it over every two months to provide even wear and to allow all sides to breathe.
Here is one tip you will love: Do not make your bed in the morning! Instead, remove the duvet to allow the mattress to evaporate the moisture from your body that collected as you slept. Hang the blanket on a blanket holder or over the edge of the footboard or a chair, open the window a crack and leave the bed exposed for the day. Now that was easy!
Sleep should be a wonderful, restful and relaxing experience, free from the onslaught of chemicals and other pollutants. Burning a beeswax candle before retiring will help purify the air and it doesn’t hurt to create a little romance in the atmosphere either. Be careful to place the candle in a safe place so it can’t be knocked over and extinguish it fully before falling asleep. Plants are another way to purify your indoor environment (as long as the soil doesn't create mold.
Then sink down into the clean, organic bedding and dream your dreams in green.
Eileen Wosnack is the principal designer of Spirit Interior Design in White Rock, British Columbia and founder of Eclectrix™ Organic Home, a sustainable organic interiors store. She is a member of the Canada Green Building Council and the Organic Trade Association. She is also an educator and speaker.