The bed is the most important piece of furniture in the bedroom and the most intimate of furnishings.  The healthiest bed is best kept simple.  A mattress which supports the spine without creating uncomfortable pressure points and a pillow that follows the natural curves of the neck is best.  Most commercial mattress and bedding maker’s rely on synthetic materials such as plastic, foam and polyester that emit toxic gasses you inhale through out the night.  Flame retardants are used to reduce the spread of fire in an array of products including mattresses, bedding, and upholstery.  They can impact Thyroid function which can affect intelligence, increase hyperactivity in children, and have been linked to hearing loss.  Try to find a bed that is substantially made with natural materials such as wool processed with water only, organic cotton or natural Latex.


The bedding we choose touches every part of our bodies. Unfortunately most of the bedding being sold today is not healthy.  Be wary of anything labeled as permanent press, wrinkle resistant, anti-static, water repellant, or stain repellant.  They have been treated with chemicals that may prove irritating or harmful.  Permanent press sheets are treated with formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals.  Covers made of inorganic polyester blends release fumes that may interfere with breathing, disrupt sleep and lower resistance to disease.  Most commercially produced cotton is saturated in pesticides and therefore not a healthy choice for bedding.  Using 100% organically grown cotton, kapoke (a resilient lightweight fiber harvested from a silk cotton tree) or organic wool is best.    Feather and down products are animal products and their production often involves cruelty and exploitation.   Farmed birds live under horrific conditions and are injected with multitudes of growth hormones and chemicals which will be inhaled during sleep.  Aside from the inhumanity of the cultivation of these products down products lose their insulating properties when they get damp from perspiration as well as decompose with contacts from body oils, lotions, hair oils, and cosmetics.  A benefit of natural organic materials is that they do not off gas harmful chemicals (VOC’s), have been produced without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and were not treated with chemical bleaches, dyes, or surface finishes.  They do however off gas smells so for chemically sensitive clients it is recommended that all new products be allowed to air out in the sun before an open window for two to four weeks.  The softest strongest most luxurious cottons are Egyptian, grown in the Nile river basin and Pima grown in the southwestern part of the United States.  Regardless of the cotton you choose look for the highest possible thread count.  The higher the threads count the tighter the weave which creates a softer more durable fabric and always choose organic if possible.

  While a soft mattress piled with pillows and draped with luxurious fabrics and bulky covers may suggest romance and dreamy fantasy, it also tends to trap dust and provide microscopic dust mites with the moist conditions in which they thrive.  They feed off skin that sloughs naturally from our bodies and breed in sheets, blankets, pillows and carpeting.  Their feces are responsible for much of the respiratory discomfort associated with dust.  In addition to dust mites, dander, pollen mold and mildew will cling to crevices in fluffy bedding.  Allergen-impermeable covers will help thwart mite infestation in pillows and mattresses but they are generally polyester and contain other synthetic products which can cause skin irritations and other problems.  The best prevention is to wash linens often in hot water and expose them to plenty of sun light and fresh air.

The Bed

By:  Melissa W. Cooper

Interior and Architectural Design in Connecticut and New York