I'll confess: I'm a total sleep princess.
I am that guy who curls up for a good, solid 8-9 hours of sleep with my sleep mask, my lavender essential oil, my low blue lights and everything else I talk about in my article “The Last Resource You’ll Ever Need To Get Better Sleep, Eliminate Insomnia, Beat Jet Lag and Master The Nap“.
When you consider that you spend 7-9 hours per night sleeping, that's over 2,500 hours per year that you spend on a bed. Your physical, mental and emotional performance is all directly correlated to the quality of that time spent in that bed…
…and a big, big part of that quality is the surface you're sleeping on: your mattress.
Unfortunately, your mattress could not only be acting as a cancer-causing radiation antenna, but can also be chock full of chemicals that disrupt your hormones, can cause insomnia, can destroy your muscles and joints, and can leave you waking up robbed of true, quality, deep sleep. So in this article, you're going to learn how your mattress may slowly be killing you, what you can do about it, and the exact style of mattress I personally sleep on.
Coil-Spring Mattresses and EMF
OK, OK – I do indeed realize that just a moment ago, you may have snickered at my “cancer causing antenna” line. But this article from Scientific American actually explains this phenomenon of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and coil-spring mattresses quite well:
“As we sleep on our coil-spring mattresses, we are in effect sleeping on an antenna that amplifies the intensity of the broadcast FM/TV radiation. Asleep on these antennas, our bodies are exposed to the amplified electromagnetic radiation for a third of our life spans. As we slumber on a metal coil-spring mattress, a wave of electromagnetic radiation envelops our bodies so that the maximum strength of the field develops 75 centimeters above the mattress in the middle of our bodies. When sleeping on the right side, the body's left side will thereby be exposed to field strength about twice as strong as what the right side absorbs.“
In other words, metal spring mattresses and box springs may act as giant in-home EMF antennas – not an appealing thought. But just in case you need more proof, check out this video that shows how a mattress interacts with the earth's magnetic field:
Not only that, but since it's a damp, dark area, the spring system in your mattress acts as an incubator for dust mites, mold and mildew. This is why spring mattresses double their weight after 10 years – all that dead skin, dust mite, feces particles and dust has to accumulate somewhere, and the springs are the place to do it.Now I'm not suggesting that you go outside and sleep on the dirt, but if you have a choice between a metal coil-spring mattress and plain ol' dirt, the latter would be the way to go.
Fortunately, there are mattress that are not made with coil-springs, and instead use natural padding. More on that later.
Dangerous Chemicals In Your Mattress
As of July 1, 2007, all U.S. mattresses were required to be highly flame retardant, to the extent that they won’t catch on fire if exposed to a blow torch. But this meant that the manufacturers had to begin dousing all their mattresses with highly toxic flame-retardant chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ether, also known as PBDE.
PBDE, which has been banned in Canada, Europe and several states, accumulates in your body over time, and any of it that you absorb or inhale does not go away, and can instead cause issues such as brain and reproductive damage, decreased sperm quality, thyroid problems and even cancer. Not surprisingly, PBDE-based chemicals are now showing up in breast milk, blood tests and even umbilical-cord blood and livers of fetuses.
But it doesn't stop with PBDE.
Other flame-retardant chemicals currently approved for use in mattresses include:
-Boric acid, a toxic respiratory irritant often used to kill cockroaches
-Antimony, a metal that can be more toxic than mercury (a person sleeping on a chemically treated mattress will absorb .8 mg of antimony every night, an amount that is 27 times more than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says is safe!)
-Formaldehyde, a potential carcinogenic
Dr. Doris Rapp, a board-certified environmental medical specialist and pediatric allergist with an excellent website devoted to making your home a healthier place to live, sums it up this way:
“They have maybe a cup and a half or two cups of this material on the mattress. They sprinkle it over the top or they put it into some kind of a coating on the mattress. And this can make people very, very ill.”
Just think about it.
You spend multiple hours every night with your face in close proximity to your mattress, breathing in these chemicals. And if your children are anything like mine, they love to jump on your bed, and when that happens, or any other time you bounce on your mattress (heh, I can think of a time when that happens, baby), even more of these toxins can be released into your bedroom environment.
How Your Mattress Destroys Your Body And Performance
It may seem obvious, but it’s extremely important to properly support your spinal column during sleep, and just like there are proper biomechanics for working on your computer or deadlifting, there are proper biomechanics you must consider while sleeping.
The human body carries more weight in the hip and torso area, so this part of the body must be gently “pushed up” into alignment as you sleep. If your sleep surface doesn’t do this, it can become a major contributor to low back problems and poor movement patterns during the day while you're awake. So yes, this means poor alignment while you sleep can make you a crappy mover during your lunchtime run.
Unfortunately, the modern mattress has moved away from the mechanics of proper alignment support. The mattress your grandparents might have slept on was probably made of steel springs (which can push the hips up into alignment) and some cotton batting for cushioning of the hips and shoulders. These mattresses supported the body well and typically lasted a good 25 years.
But eventually, mattresses began to evolve. Beginning with the waterbed, and then moving on to the use of synthetic foams as a replacement for cotton (most of these poorly made synthetic foam mattresses lose their support in just a few short years) and in some cases elimination of a spring set altogether (good for EMF, bad for your body), there is nothing in most of these newfangled, modern mattresses to push your hips up into alignment to be level with your shoulders, so your hips “sag” and create tension on your low back as you sleep.
And that's not all – improper sleep biomechanics from most fancy foam mattresses, most water beds, and most modern spring mattresses affect pressure distribution during sleep, which is a huge issue too.
…as you sleep, your body has a built-in defense mechanism to automatically move when pressure reaches a point where it cuts off the circulation you need. This is exactly why you toss and turn. Moving as you sleep relieves the pressure that can build up fro a bad mattress or a poor sleeping position to do things like prevent injuries, dead nerves and ulcers forming.
Unfortunately, when you toss and turn, you can instantly rip yourself out of deep sleep phases such as Stage 3 or Stage 4 sleep and shift into Stage 1 or 2 sleep (read more about sleep stages here). So this movement during sleep is more than simply a biomechanics or a comfort issue – it is literally fragmenting your sleep, lowering your sleep efficiency and robbing you of your ability to achieve the amount of sleep time necessary for nervous system repair, memory consolidation and immune system regeneration.
Unfortunately, even many of today’s nicer, more expensive mattresses use synthetic foams start off very supportive, but then degrade rapidly with use. So a mattress that supports and comforts you properly for a couple of years can quickly become a major contributor to poor sleep, improper back support, poor physical performance and daily pain.
3 Things To Look For In Your Mattress
So lets summarize what we've learned so far: we now know that if you're serious about nervous system and muscle repair, regulation of appetite hormones, deep sleep, and ideal physical and mental performance, then you need to look for three things on the sleeping surface that you're going to spend up to a third of your life on:
1) No crap-storing, EMF-producing springs, but the same biomechanical support as those old, steel-spring mattresses;
2) Organic, non-toxic materials that don't build up chemicals in you and your family's body;
3) The ability to last more than just a small handful of years before you have to throw it out and buy a new one;
In other words, you need an organic, non-spring mattresses that has a a bulletproof durable foam.
What's An Organic Mattress?
Yes, I said organic. Not that you're going to eat your mattress, but you still get some pretty massive health points if you own an organic mattress. So what exactly is an organic mattress?
It gets a bit complicated, so stick with me here.
When it comes to mattresses, if you see the word “organic”, it always means certified organic, which indicates the mattress has been certified by a third party. If a mattress company is going to call their mattress organic, it must be certified by an some kind of a third party organization which certifies products to be organic. An agency called “Control Union” is the only company that actually certifies latex – the main component of foam in most modern mattresses – as organic under the Global Organic Latex Standards (or GOLS for short).
In contrast, terms such as “eco-friendly”, “environmentally friendly”, and “natural” are just nice-sounding claims, but don't mean a mattress is actually organic.
Now here's something important to understand: 100% organic mattresses simply do not exist. In reality, any mattress company claiming to have organic mattresses actually contains a mix of both organic materials and other natural components in their mattresses. However, a certified organic mattress does indeed actually mean that at least 95% of the latex used in that mattress is made from certified organic components. But most latex mattresses on the market are simply not organic because they're A) not certified organic and B) they don't meet those 95% standards.
For example, natural latex foam is a component you’ll typically find in many “healthy” mattresses. But given the cost, most companies include very little of the certified organic latex. For example, just 1 inch of the total 8 inches of a most natural latex mattresses is actually GOLS certified organic latex. That's a pretty small fraction – kind of like having an organic apple orchard, with just 1/8 of the trees actually being truly organic.
In addition to organic latex, organic cotton is also found in most organic mattresses. That means the cotton has been grown without synthetic chemicals like fertilizers or pesticides and is not genetically modified in any way. Unbleached organic cotton is even better than plain old organic cotton, since this ensures no harsh bleaches have been used on the cotton.
Finally, organic wool is another component you'll find in most organic mattresses. That's not necessarily a good thing though. There are both pros and cons to organic wool use.
-Pros – Wool is great at wicking away moisture and helping to you keep cool, since it contains a natural wax called lanolin, which is the greasy yellow wax produced by sheep which keeps their hairs dry and soft through harsh weather.
-Cons – Wool is an animal fiber, and that means a high-maintenance mattress. Wool, like any animal fiber, needs to be washed at least once a year. Many people are also allergic to wool, and you may also be amazed to find out what sheep goes through to actually get enough wool for a mattress. However, finding an organic mattress that doesn't contain wool is difficult.
In most cases, the cons out weight the pros when it comes to wool on your mattress.
So ultimately, most organic mattresses are made from non-organic latex foam as a support layer, and then topped with organic wool to soften the mattress up, and finally wrapped in organic cotton. For the reasons you've just learned, all this organic mumbo-jumbo does not necessarily mean an organic mattress is a safe, non-toxic mattress to sleep on, and you still have to be a little inquisitive when shopping for an organic mattress.
-Always ask if each component is as close to 100% natural as possible (remember: 100% natural doesn't really exist);
-Always ask whoever is selling you the mattress to explain each and every layer, especially if it's an organic toddler or organic crib mattress for your kid;
-Always ask what binds these layers together – specifically with regards to what type of glue or binding agent was used. You'd be surprised at the chemicals that can wind up in that too.
If your friendly mattress sales-person stumbles when answering any of these questions or cannot back up their claims with supporting documents, then run away fast.
The Problem With Organic Mattresses
Unfortunately, even if you do find a true certified organic mattress that doesn't have wool, glue chemicals, or synthetic latex, organic mattresses are still not known for their comfort. They're generally extremely firm and hard, and can leave you feeling like you slept on a slab of concrete all night. Waking up feeling like you slept on hard ground may feel ancestral, but if you do somehow manage to fall asleep, it can also leave you with significant joint pain the rest of the day, not to mention waking up frequently during the night with numb hands or legs, or simply tossing and turning like a zombie with insomnia.
Enter memory foam.
During the 1970’s, memory foam material was developed for NASA to provide relief for astronauts undergoing gravity forces. Memory foam is a soft and heat sensitive material made from polyurethane – with some additives to increase its density. Memory foam regains (or “remember”) its normal shape when pressure is no longer applied. Today, it is the most popular segment in the mattress industry.
Memory foam mattresses are made of higher-density foams. This type of foam is more expensive, but provides excellent body support. Memory foam mattresses have the ability to form to your body, and this significantly reduces pressure points, improves blood circulation and provides an overall superior sleep.
Memory foam is sensitive to body temperature and molds itself to support all your body contours, it redistributes your body weight evenly and provides support to your neck, back, shoulders, knees and legs, and it improves circulation and reduces spinal pressure.
But just like all organic mattresses are not created equal, all memory foam mattresses are also not created equal.
Here are a few important things you need to know before buying a memory foam mattress:
-Many mattress companies boast a 5 pound memory foam but fail to specify that this dense foam only makes up the 1st inch of the mattress. The following layers are weak 2 or 3 pound density memory foams.
-mmHg is the unit of measurement used in determining a mattresses reaction against pressure. Blood circulation becomes an issue at roughly 30mmHg or more. According to the healthcare industry, a standard of 32mmHg or lower is considered pressure relieving. More pressure relief means less press points, which means less tossing and turning during the night. A low mmHg means better blood circulation, but this can be difficult or expensive for a mattress company to achieve.
-Many mattress companies inaccurately claim that their products are Made in Canada or Made in USA. But in reality, to cut costs, mattress components are actually imported from foreign countries and then assembled in Canada or the USA. However, tests are rarely performed on the imported mattress components, and there is absolutely no way of knowing which chemicals are used in the mattress composition. Any harsh chemical odors are masked prior to product exportation with industrial perfumes (or even green tea extracts – crazy, eh?)
-Most memory foam is a synthetic material, and traps in body heat similar to the way nylon and polyester fabrics do. Sleeping hot or heat discomfort, as well as chemical odors are the main complaints among memory foam mattress owners. This is all due to the chemical composition of synthetic memory foam. Regular memory foam, also known as visco-elastic memory foam or visco foam, is made with petroleum based chemicals.
So if you're going to go for a memory foam mattress, which I highly recommend, you want a memory foam with a good density through all layers of the mattress, a low mmHG, no imported ingredients and all-natural compounds.
Let's sum things up again. At this point, we know that you want a mattress with:
1) No springs, but the same support as those old, steel-spring mattresses;
2) Organic, non-toxic materials that don't build up chemicals in you and your family's body;
3) The ability to last more than just a small handful of years;
4) Certified organic latex, and organic cotton, but preferably not wool;
5) Natural memory foam – not synthetic memory foam.
Satisfy those five criteria, and you're guaranteed to sleep in comfort forever.
The Best Natural, Organic Mattress
OK, so now we get to the moment of truth: is there actually a durable, certified organic non-toxic mattress with no springs, no wool, organic cotton and natural memory foam?
Indeed, there is.
It's made by a company called “Essentia“, and I'm happy to say that I now own one.
And yes, in case you were wondering, it really is like sleeping on a soft, pillowy cloud of comfort. It is about as close as one can get to a nightly nirvana.
Essentia was founded by owner Jack Dell’Accio when a family member was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, his doctor made him aware of the amount of harmful toxins in household items, including mattresses. Jack, who came from no scientific background, invested nearly five years of his own time and money researching the mattress industry, and realizing the same thing you now know: mattresses are manufactured with poor quality components, filled with chemically derived foams treated with harsh chemicals and layered together with glue.
Over those years, Jack discovered a way to create a mattress that was toxin-free and healthy so that others wouldn’t have to suffer from health issues like his relative did. His determination finally led him to create, patent and invent a mattress that is handmade in Canada with the world’s only all-natural memory foam, composed of natural latex, plant extracts, essential oils and water.
In other words, Jack figured out how to manufacture the greenest, healthiest and most comfortable night's sleep you'll ever have.
And the ingredients used in this no-spring, no-wool mattress are unlike any you've ever seen, including:
Hevea Milk – the milky white “sap” of the rubber tree, collected much like maple tree sap. This milk is processed to make the Essentia natural memory foam, which is known for its durability, support qualities and purity…
Organic Essential Oils – a natural and healthy alternative to man-made oils or petroleum commonly used in other mattresses. Grapefruit seed, cone flower essence and jasmine essence all help achieve proper consistency in the Essentia natural memory foam while providing soothing and rejuvenating properties to your body…
Natural Plant Extracts – as a substitution to harsh toxic chemicals used in conventional memory foam, plant extracts such as hydrolyzed corn help Essentia achieve the proper consistency for their natural memory foam…
Certified Organic Cotton –
Every Essentia mattress is wrapped in 100% GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified unbleached organic cotton, grown without any chemicals, synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Rather than using toxic glue, they use a non-toxic adhesive made from liquid latex and acrylic resin to hold their natural memory foam layers together.
Of course, Essentia also has 5 pound density memory foam throughout, an extremely low mmHG (scroll up and read again if you need a reminder about why that's so important for your body and your recovery) and a 20-year warranty on the most durable memory foam on the face of the planet. So basically, you not just get the best sleep ever on an Essentia mattress, but you could probably even eat an Essentia mattress.
These mattresses are also held to the strictest of strict standards. As a matter of fact, here's an extensive list of all the rigorous tests and certifications the Essentia mattresses go through.
The end result is a completely guilt-free, hypo-allergenic, non-toxic sleeping experience unlike any you'll ever experience. You'll roll out of bed feeling ready to conquer the world, with zero pressure points or tossing and turning during the night.
How To Get An Essentia Mattress Shipped To You
Shipping mattresses around the world is no small feat.
But with a little help from UPS, FedEx and Essentia's special “Roll Pack Machine”, it all becomes possible.
See, it takes special machinery to compress, roll and pack some of the heaviest mattresses in the world.
The mattress industry had never compressed a product as dense as the Essentia mattress. However, upgrading compressors, motors and and a gentle re-tool of a custom Italian-made Roll-Pack Machine by Essentia made it possible. What does this kind of roll packing mean for the environment? It means the mattress takes 75% less space in a truck, and uses 75% less packaging. The Essentia boxes are made from 80% post consumer recycled paper as well.
So thanks to this, almost all Essentia products are delivered via UPS or FedEx.
You just visit the Essentia website, choose your mattress size and your mattress is made and shipped right to your door, along with a 20-year warranty, and a 60-Day money back guarantee.
Just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/myessentia. That's it. Enjoy – and in case you want the same mattress I'm now using, I personally got a King Sized Dormeuse Mattress.
I hope this has really helped you learn why our mattress may be killing you, and what you can do about. It's certainly something to think about as you hit the sack tonight, and decide what kind of sleep you want to get for the rest of your life, and whether you want to experience what a truly powerful night of sleep really feels like.
From Dr. Oz (who recently named Essentia as his #1 product) to Rachael Ray to Anderson Live to Huffiington Post and professional athletes around the world (check out the shocking amount of press Essentia has gotten lately), these mattresses are a clear winner in the natural, organic mattress company. So if you're tired of sleeping on a mattress plagued with toxic glues, chemicals, dust-mites, allergens, bed bugs and a horribly unsupportive sleep surface, then visit the Essentia website, invest in your sleep, your nervous system, your recovery and your performance, and leave any of your questions or comments below!
P.S. After writing this, I learned that Delos – a company pioneering Wellness Real Estate -recently introduced the Stay Well standard and Stay Well hotel rooms at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. They were on the hunt for a mattress to introduce with the program and did their own testing of many different mattress brands, Essentia included. Most of the testing was done by The Cleveland Clinic as well as The Mayo Clinic and Columbia University Medical Center. Essentia is the only mattress that qualified for the Well Standard and is already being featured in the Stay Well certified rooms at the MGM. But I'd rather have one in my bedroom than go all the way to the MGM.
P.P.S. If you really want performance luxury, Essentia also has an option called “ProCor”, in which they customize your mattress to your individual spinal deviations, muscular tensions and weight distribution. It's literally next level, customized sleep experience with personalized posture support designed to get you into slow-wave sleep (deep sleep) faster and keep you there longer. Not cheap. But very cool. You have to e-mail them for this option.