Has your bed ever caught on fire? Mine hasn’t. What would you do in order to prevent your bed from catching on fire besides blowing out your candles before you fall asleep? Would you protect yourself with fire retardant chemicals that off-gas every night while you sleep? Would you do it if these chemicals were known to cause health problems? Some of you are probably like, “great, another product I have to worry about.” I feel you.
As some of you know, Johnny and I have been building a tiny house for the last few months while temporarily living in a basement apartment. This is the kind of basement where your towels never dry and you always feel the slightest bit damp. We only agreed to stay here as a temporary, cheap option while we build and knew the risks of mold in a space like this, especially in our damp Pacific Northwest climate. A few nights ago I was moving our mattress, an old Ikea futon given to us by a friend, when I noticed a sprawling micro-climate of black mold across the bottom...and it was wet. Besides being completely grossed out I made this connection with how I had been feeling the last month. I would wake up in the morning more tired than I should be with a slight headache and shortness of breath. I now attribute my issues to my black fuzzy foe living beneath where I sleep. It was like the upside down world had come to haunt me.
So we added “get a mattress” to our ongoing list of things to do. This was incredibly frustrating because we are swamped with projects to complete on the tiny house and strapped for money with our large land purchase earlier this year. So not only did I get sick from this scenario, now I needed to spend money and make the effort to go buy a new one. It may sound simple but unfortunately, as I mentioned at the beginning, there is more to mattress toxicity than the possibility of mold.
Earlier this morning as Johnny was researching mattresses he jokingly stated, “the simple desire to have something that’s not covered in poison makes you feel high maintenance.” We laughed outwardly but inwardly the stress of trying to live a toxin free life is real. Johnny also stated, “you know something is wrong with a culture when it costs more money to buy something that is unprocessed than something covered in chemicals.” This goes for our household products and our food industry. I had already been exposed to black mold because of my mattress and now I might have spend my nights sleeping in a chemical nest.
It is required for mattress companies to use fire retardants on anything from a mattress to a couch. The only way to get around it is to buy a mattress made of wool, which is naturally fire retardant. The chemicals found in 90% of mattresses are as follows:
Fun Right? Apparently the mattress has to remain unlit while being blasted by a two foot wide, open flame blow torch in order to pass the test.
For healthy individuals you may not notice the health issues up front, but it may diminish your health over time. It’s especially important that children and immune-compromised individuals to sleep on toxin-free mattresses. Think about it, you’re sleeping 50% of your life so shouldn’t your mattress be of utmost importance?
For more on these chemicals: http://www.peopleforcleanbeds.org/material_safety_data_sheets.htm
An interesting side note. You can get a doctor to prescribe a fire retardant free mattresses for patients if they believe that the health risks posed by toxic fire retardants will interfere with the patients' well-being. Enough said.
Johnny and I really wanted to make a sand mattress, which is basically filling a mattress cover with sand. It’s suppose to be grounding and super helpful for bones and joints. Unfortunately our tiny house loft won’t carry the weight of 500 pounds of sand, maybe we’ll try it out in the future. For now we have purchased a coconut husk mat that will not mold and contains zero chemicals. We are laying wool blankets on top for more cushion. If you have the money you can buy a mattress from companies like these:
If you’re like Johnny and I you may want to go cheap or DIY here is what I recommend trying:
Coconut Husk Mat:
This would be a base and then we'll sew a softer topper for it with.
You can buy an Organic Wool Mattress topper if sewing isn't your thing:
Wool Mattress Topper
You could make your own.
When we’re trying out mattresses what are we usually looking for?
Most people will say, “something cozy, soft and plush.” Some people want to sink into their mattress believing this has the most support for our body.
“A mattress in any true sense of the word causes the hips to sink in and the lower back to collapse, which interrupts natural alignment. Ironically, this is the same effect that chair sitting has on the body. When the back collapses in on itself, whether sitting or lying down, the lungs cannot hold as much oxygen and breathing is immediately hampered. When the body does not get its optimal amount of oxygen, the parasympathetic nervous system which induces relaxation is impeded. When breathing is shallow, the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol are overproduced--which keeps the body from fully relaxing. Cush is not really cush. Paradoxical yes, but according to this paradigm, resistance is cush.”
For more a more indepth description visit: http://www.zafu.net/sleepergonomics.html
So apparently our little coconut husk mat is going to be the best mattress for our bodies. I’ll check back in and let you know how it feels!
Bailey Patrice & Jonathan David