Is an organic mattress worth it? This is a question we get asked all the time.
The answer is that there are many reasons why you may want to buy an organic mattress, but what does this really mean?
Let's take a look at the pros and cons of buying an organic mattress and how much it can actually help you.
Mattresses are a place where many people spend about one-third of their lives. Sleep scientists say that the mattress you sleep on is as important to your health and well-being as your diet.
Organic mattresses made from sustainable materials are becoming more popular, but how do they stack up to their synthetic counterparts?
How Important is an Organic Mattress?
The quality of a mattress is traditionally measured by the cost, and the amount of comfort it provides.
However, many people do not think about how their mattress affects their health or the environment.
When deciding how important it is to switch to an organic mattress, as opposed to a synthetic one, we should consider the following facts:
- Sleep experts say that a lot of people are sleeping on potentially harmful chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that about thirty-thousand chemical compounds including pesticides, flame retardants, and flame-retardant gases are used in mattresses. The health effects of flame retardant chemicals can be seen here.
- Most synthetic mattresses in American homes today are made up of a combination of petroleum-based nylon, polyester, pressboard, and vinyl. Many also come wrapped in flame-resistant fiber, such as polyvinylidene chloride and melamine.
- A number of toxic chemicals are found in the typical synthetic latex mattress. As well as the flame retardants mentioned above, you might also find mattresses containing formaldehyde, and toxic "heavy metals" such as Lead, Antimony, and Bromide.
- When absorbed by the body, Antimony has been linked to reproductive issues. Also, autopsies discovered Antimony in the blood of some babies who died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and, while not yet proven, research is pending on whether it can be a cause of SIDS.
- Polyurethane foam is found in many memory foam mattresses. This is usually chemically treated to make it more flame retardant.
- If your mattress contains these substances, it can release VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and PCBEs into the air. Your body then absorbs them while you are sleeping.
- PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are found in many standard mattresses. These can be absorbed by the fat cells in your body. This can have various health effects, including affecting the way your thyroid functions.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen (that is a substance that can cause cancer) when high levels of exposure occur.
- Although synthetic mattresses can be recycled, the chemicals and retardants mentioned above cannot be removed during the recycling process.
- Organic mattresses are often more expensive than traditional ones, but they are better for your health and for the planet. Also, organic mattresses last longer, making them a better long-term financial investment.
So to answer the question, it depends on how important these factors are to you personally.
When you balance the additional upfront cost of buying a certified organic mattress against the health and environmental risks of not doing so, you'll reach a conclusion that best fits your circumstances and priorities.
What is an Organic Mattress Made Of?
So now we know some of the frankly quite scary substances that you'll find lurking within a synthetic mattress.
But what about the alternatives? What are organic mattresses made from, and what do (and don't) they contain?
- Organic mattresses are made of 100% natural materials. They do not contain any added chemicals and have only a minimum amount of VOCs which then break down over time into harmless compounds.
- 100% organic latex foam is used in the top layer of many organic mattresses. Organic latex foam has a natural bounce and springiness, but it also breathes naturally to keep you cool while you sleep.
- 100% natural organic cotton is used for the filling of most organic mattresses. Organic cotton is naturally breathable and helps regulate your body temperature throughout the night by allowing air to pass through it.
- Natural fiber (cotton) fillings are often combined with insulating materials such as organic wool. This combination makes for a strong, durable mattress that holds its shape well over time and provides comfort on both sides of your body.
In short, whilst there are different types of organic mattresses and different manufacturers use different materials, they have one thing in common.
Organic mattresses are made from 100% natural materials and have zero chemical ingredients.
As such, they're a great choice if you want to sleep soundly without worrying about toxic chemicals being absorbed into your body or harming your health in any way.
What Makes a Mattress Organic?
Before you rush out to buy an organic mattress though, there are a few more things you need to know. How can you tell whether the mattress you're looking at is truly organic?
Greenwashing, as ever, is a problem in this industry.
- Certified organic mattresses are, by their nature, certified that they do not contain potentially harmful chemicals. However, many mattresses labeled as “Natural” do contain them.
- There are no regulations restricting the use of the word “Natural” in bedding and as a result, some manufacturers use this term to try to trick consumers into believing their product is organic. The truth is, some so-called “natural” mattresses may still contain some or all of the toxic substances described above.
So how do you know which mattresses are truly organic, and which are just pretending to be?
There are two certifications to look out for.
Sleeping on a mattress that has been certified for GOTS or GOLS materials is great because it means that no chemicals have been put into the mattress.
You can be assured that:
- It is made without synthetic materials.
- It contains s no toxic chemicals.
- The mattress must be made from natural materials (cotton, wool, leather).
That's why we recommend you only buy an eco-friendly mattress that has one or both of these labels.
Is an Organic Mattress Worth It?
So now that you know some of the facts, let's recap some of the pros and cons of organic mattresses vs synthetic mattresses.
We can then return to the main question: are organic mattresses worth it?
- Organic mattresses are more expensive than regular ones, but they last longer and are healthier for your skin.
- Because organic mattresses do not contain added chemicals, they are significantly better for your health. They are far less likely to give you an allergic reaction. They also provide a cooler sleep.
- Organic mattress manufacturers that have GOLS or GOTS certifications do not make any attempt to hide the materials used to make their mattresses. In fact, they're often very proud of how their products are made, and the natural and organic materials that go into them. You can expect full transparency and no nasty surprises.
- Most organic mattresses will typically come with a cotton cover, an GOTS certified natural latex layer covered by wool, cotton or thistle, and is fire-proof.
- They are recommended if you are concerned about the impact of inhaling toxic chemicals at night and want to reduce your risk of developing allergies or health conditions.
- A genuine organic mattress is usually more expensive.
- Although many other product brands have sprung up in the mattress industry, only a few are 100% organic.
- Shoppers may be unfamiliar with the different types of mattresses, making it hard to choose the best one.
Clearly, the pros outweigh the cons in terms of quantity, but you should weigh up how much each one matters to you before deciding which type of mattress you need.
Do I Need an Organic Mattress?
Yes, you need an organic mattress if you:
- Might be allergic to chemicals.
- Are concerned about the health risks of sleeping with chemicals.
- Are worried about the impact of chemicals on your baby or child.
- Need a cooler sleeping environment.
- Can afford to invest a little more in a mattress that will last longer.
- Want to reduce the environmental impact of recycling non-organic mattresses.
Buying an organic mattress involves paying more upfront, and not everyone has the money to spare.
However, if you can afford it, then the benefits are clear, and buying a cheap synthetic mattress is a false economy that can damage your health and the environment.
If you can't afford an organic mattress for yourself, consider one for your child. Organic crib mattresses and toddler mattresses are cheaper than full size, and most children spend more hours in bed each day than adults.
They're also potentially more vulnerable to the effects of chemicals.
If your budget won't stretch to an organic mattress at all, you can still improve the overall health of your sleeping environment by making the switch to organic mattress toppers, and sustainable organic bedding.
The Final Word
Organic mattresses are great for people who sleep on their sides and want to avoid chemicals.
They tend to last longer, keep your skin healthy, and provide a healthier environment for everyone in the family. They also do less harm to the environment when recycled.
If you're going to spend money on something that will be used every night of your life, it might as well be something better for you than cheap plastic or chemical-laden foam.
Organic mattresses have been shown time and time again to:
- Improve the health of both children and adults by reducing allergens.
- Improve sleep quality.
- Reduce bacteria growth (which can lead to more expensive medical issues down the road).
- Improve respiratory function.
- Decrease the presence of dust mites (the source of asthma).
- Promote a better mood through improved breathing patterns when sleeping on organic mattresses vs conventional beds during allergy seasons.
Our roundup of the best organic mattresses will guide you through the top products on the market in terms of quality, value, and sustainability.