THE BLOG
06/06/2011 05:07 pm ET Updated Aug 06, 2011

Is Your Bedroom Toxic? 5 Easy Ways to Get a Restful Night's Sleep

If you had to choose just one room in your home to make environmentally friendly, it's your bedroom. We can unsuspectingly create a toxic environment by sleeping on the wrong type of mattress, or exposing ourselves to electronic devices that interfere with sleep. Getting good quality sleep allows you to stay healthy and fight off illness because sleep is the time when your body heals, repairs and rejuvenates.

Transforming your bedroom into a safe haven can have a major impact on improving your health and well being. The good news is creating a healthy bedroom is pretty simple.

Start by looking at the most important piece of furniture in the room -- your bed. Most mattresses are made with synthetic ingredients like polyurethane (PU) foam (that degrade over time), and have been treated with flame retardants known as PBDEs. Research has linked PBDE exposure to adverse health effects including thyroid hormone disruption and permanent learning and memory impairment. Some other chemicals used by mattress manufacturers include stain-resistant chemicals that are recognized carcinogens, as well as Boric Acid, Antimony Trioxide, Vinylidiene Chloride, Zinc Borate, Melamine, Formaldehyde, and Decabromodiphenyl Oxide. These chemicals off-gas, or release chemicals into the air... imagine breathing this stuff in every night! No other type of chemical exposure comes close to the intensity and duration of exposure to a mattress. It's in your face, with full body contact, every day, for years.

Read your mattress label, but know that there are no standard labels on mattresses listing flame retardant chemicals, so it's important to check with the manufacturer or store before purchasing.

The healthiest mattress is one made of natural latex foam. But watch for the words "made with" on the label. For example, if it says "made with natural latex" that might mean there's only 1 or 2 percent of it in the mattress! You want to see 100% (if you're chemically sensitive) or at least 80% of the mattress made with all natural, non-toxic ingredients.

If you can't afford to buy a new mattress, get a mattress topper made from organic cotton and wool. Or use a mattress cover made of a tightly woven barrier cloth. Look for a thread count of 300 or higher to help isolate an unhealthy mattress.

Choose organic cotton whenever possible (for the mattress topper as well as your sheets) because conventionally grown cotton requires huge amounts of water (bad for the planet) and lots of chemicals (bad for us and the planet) to grow. It is one of the most intensively sprayed field crops in the world. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that more than 53 million pounds of pesticides and 1.6 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers are applied to cotton fields annually. Organic cotton, on the other hand, is grown without chemicals.

For the bed frame choose one made from solid wood instead of particleboard or fiberboard, which can give off toxic formaldehyde fumes. The National Cancer Institute has classified formaldehyde as "carcinogenic to humans" based on nose and throat cancers in working populations.

Do you feel buzzed at night and you haven't had any coffee? A big sleep disruptor in the bedroom might be exposure to electronic devices, wireless technology, and other forms of electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Aside from feeling buzzed, Dr. Magda Havas, a leader in the movement against unrestrained wireless technology use, says they can cause headaches, nightmares, depression, fatigue, fibromyalgia, mood disorders, as well as long-term illness.

Simplify your sleep space and try not to have your office in your bedroom. In other words don't sleep with a VCR, TV, electric clock, telephone answering machine, cell phone, or computer nearby. Dr. Havas suggests turning off your WiFi at night. WiFi, an abbreviation for "wireless fidelity," means that an Internet connection can be made without the use of wires or cables, and like cell phones, WiFi uses radiofrequency (RF) signals (radiation).

Also, your cordless phone, especially DECT (Digital Electronic Cordless Telephones) might be contributing to lack of restful sleep. All DECT digital cordless phone base stations emit microwave radiation continuously 24 hours a day, even when the phone is not in use, as long as they are plugged in. Better to have a landline phone that is hardwired.

5 Easy Ways to Get a Restful Night's Sleep:

  1. Sleep on a mattress made from untreated, non-toxic natural materials containing no synthetic chemicals or fire retardants.
  2. If you can't afford a new mattress, buy a wool and organic cotton mattress topper.<.li>
  3. Buy a solid wooden bed frame instead of particleboard or fiberboard which can give off toxic fumes.
  4. Simplify your sleep space: Try not to have your office in your bedroom, especially cordless phones, and wireless technology.
  5. Be sure that all electrical equipment is as far away from the head of your bed as possible, or better yet, not in your bedroom at all.
    1. Beth Greer, Super Natural Mom®, is a syndicated radio talk show host, former president and co-owner of The Learning Annex, Certified Build It Green® healthy home makeover specialist, and holistic health educator, who eliminated a sizable tumor in her chest without drugs or surgery. She's the author of the bestseller, "Super Natural Home," endorsed by Deepak Chopra, Ralph Nader, Peter Coyote, and Dr. Joe Mercola. Beth is leading a movement of awareness and responsibility about healthy home, work, and school environments. Visit her at www.supernaturalmom.com and read her blog on Red Room.