According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute sleep is key to good health and a sense of well-being hroughout one’s life. Quality sleep benefits our minds and bodies in many ways. Several studies link insufficient sleep with weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, inflammatory diseases and life expectancy.
Given the importance of sleep it is surprising that so many people take their mattress for granted failing to realize that quality sleep depends on having a mattress that provides the right blend of support and comfort our bodies’ need. Normally we focus on price but when we fail to consider the needs of our bodies we set ourselves up for physical illnesses, mental health issues and emotional stress. Old mattresses with broken springs or a mattress full of bacteria can make us ill in several ways.
Weakens the Spine
According to an article written by Dr. Alan Hedge who runs the new Human Factors and Ergonomics Program at Cornell University, a mattress that does not offer enough support can cause muscle fatigue and poor sleep quality. A good mattress supports the spine and maintains it in the same alignment that the spine has when you stand up. If the mattress maintains your spine in its natural position muscles relax leading to restorative sleep.
A good mattress is designed to relieve and avoid pressure points. When one wakes up with chronic muscle pain it can be an indicator the mattress is too soft or too firm and that the pressure points are not being properly supported and the spine is not resting in its natural position.
Lack of REM Sleep
When the mattress fails to support the body properly it causes movement to readjust and that in turn disturbs one’s ability to reach and remain in the deepest level of sleep called REM sleep. This type of sleep is required for our brain to heal our bodies.
When a body is misaligned due to a mattress that is either too soft or too hard it can restrict or cut-off blood circulation to our skin. When this happens it causes tossing and turning interrupting quality sleep.
Allergens and Bacteria
Dust mites contain powerful allergens in their cast skins, secretions and feces. They live off of the shedding skin flakes of humans and pets. They are most commonly found in mattresses and overstuffed sofas, chairs, and carpets. Mattresses are a breeding ground for allergens and bacteria because when we sleep we sweat and shed dead skin trapping moisture and allergens in the material of the mattress. This makes it a veritable minefield of bacteria. It may surprise you to learn that the average mattress doubles in weight over a period of 10 years just from absorbing these materials and bacteria. The bed of allergens and bacteria cause snoring, allergies and other respiratory ailments that interrupt quality sleep.
There is one fabric that helps control bacterial build up in a mattress. Tencel fiber fabric is made from Eucalyptus trees. The product has a unique structure that allows it to absorb moisture inside the fiber and transport it throughout the mattress fabric to promote much faster evaporation. This property means that the fabric can inhibit bacterial growth naturally to provide a much safer mattress surface. Because the material is also smooth it encourages healthy skin, provides additional comfort, coolness, and extra pressure point relief. Tencel can be used to improve every aspect of sleep including the mattress itself, mattress pads, bed covers and even bed linens and lingerie.
Because of Federal mandates forcing mattress manufacturers to make mattresses fire retardant they are using toxic chemicals to comply with the flammability requirements. Some of the worst materials used in conventional mattresses include:
- Polyurethane foam
- Flame retardants
- Boric Acid or roach killer
With continual use of a mattress the chemical fumes that are a part of the mattress material are released as gasses. When we sleep our brain stem is resting directly on these materials so it is crucial to understand the effect such chemicals have on our overall health.
There are ways to overcome the toxic fume issue but it does require a lot of research and probing questions. Organic wool is naturally resistant to fire. Wool is used in mattresses and passes federal flammability testing.
Another inexpensive option is to wrap a mattress in a high-grade non-toxic polyethelene plastic. This material is impermeable to gasses so it prevents anyone sleeping on the mattress from inhaling any toxic fumes.
Another option for bed mattresses are those made with natural latex. This material comes from rubber trees and it is a better choice than petroleum-based polyurethane mattresses.
Do I need a New Mattress?
Most people wait too long before investing in a new mattress. If your mattress is over 10 years old the chances are good that it is time to buy a new one. But if your mattress is younger than that it may still be time for a new mattress if you notice any of the following signs:
- Waking up with aching muscles
- Waking up tired
- Your bed is uncomfortable
- Creaky box spring
- Worn or frayed mattress
All of these signs are indicators that your mattress is no longer providing the proper level of support to keep your body and spine in proper alignment. If you wake up multiple times during the night and you have no other diagnosed sleep problems then you should consider purchasing a new mattress and box spring or foundation.
How to Pick the Perfect Mattress
If you are ready to purchase a new mattress keep the following guidelines in mind when you begin your research and selection process.
There are several different types of mattresses you can choose from. There are innerspring mattresses, water or flotation mattresses, foam mattresses and air mattresses. Innerspring mattresses and air or combination air and water mattresses now offer more options in terms of firmness and support. The best mattress to choose is always the mattress that offers the best support and the greatest comfort for your body.
It is important to choose a box spring that is designed to go with your mattress. If you do not use a foundation box spring or you mix mattresses and box springs it can affect the level of support the mattress provides as well as the durability of your mattress.
Firmness and Comfort
A firmer mattress does not necessarily provide the best support. A mattress that is too firm may only support the heaviest parts of your body instead of providing even support for the spine. A mattress that is too soft and sags will prevent the spine from maintaining its proper alignment and will cause muscle strain and back pain. The best mattress is one that supports your body evenly and allows your muscle to relax completely. There is no substitute for trying out mattresses before you buy them. Make sure that the mattress you buy supports your body properly and feels comfortable so that you can sleep undisturbed without waking from pain or stiffness. If you sleep with a partner you should try it out together to ensure there is enough space to move around comfortably and that the mattress supports both spines in a natural alignment or curve.
You can look for voluntary certifications when you shop for a new mattress. These programs impose strict and rigid standards as well as testing and inspection for safety, quality and environmental properties. The major seal, standards and certification programs relevant to sleep products include:
- GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)
- Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and Oeko-Tex Standard 1000
- S. Department of Agriculture Organic Seal
- USDA Certified Bio-based Product Label
- SSA (Specialty Sleep Association)
- Because a mattress is expensive it does not mean it is good
- Choose based on comfort and support, not price
- Always “test drive” a mattress before you purchase it
- Look for mattresses with environmental certifications
- Understand mattress toxicity and what you can do to protect yourself
- Turn your mattress frequently to promote even wear and provide the best support
Sleep and good health are intrinsically connected. Study after study links lack of sleep to a host of diseases. You can help protect yourself by investing in a mattress that properly supports your spine and body and is properly protected from the escape of toxic fumes and allergens to ensure you are able to get the proper amount and the right quality of sleep to keep your body and mind healthy.
To protect yourself from the daily toxins you are exposed to, go to the next page and discover how you can boost your immune system with ‘The Elixir Of Life That You Are Missing Out!‘.
About the Author:
Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice.
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