By Kristen Conn 1

We spend a third of our time in our bedrooms everyday. Young children spend nearly half of their day in the bedroom. Dr. Neil B. Kavey, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in NYC, explains the need, “Sleep is the time when the body does most of its repair work; muscle tissue is rebuilt and restored. We know, for example, that a growth hormone is secreted during sleep. This hormone is important for growth in children, but is also important throughout adulthood in rebuilding tissues.”

It’s important to create a healthy, non-toxic haven in order to allow your body to do the important work of boosting your immune system, restoring mental energy, increase overall performance (cognitive, athletic), improve muscle tone and skin, among many other health needs. Environmental health physicians always recommend that your bedroom be free of as many allergens, electromagnetic fields and synthetic chemicals as possible. Many chemicals found in the bedroom also act as central nervous stimulants! That, of course seems counter intuitive to restful, deep sleep.

The following are 9 ways where changes, both big and small, can help to improve the overall state of your bedroom.

Natural Mattress:

Starting with the most important piece of furniture in the bedroom: your bed. Most conventional mattesses are made with polyurethane foam and has been found to off-gas volatile organic compounds (V.O.C.’s), which have been linked to respiratory irritation and other health problems, according to the EPA. Boric Acid (reproductive and developmental toxin, used as a pesticide), Antimony, a heavy metal (causes heart and lung damage, possible carcinogen), and Decabromodiphenyl Oxide (causes hair and memory loss, possible carcinogen) are commonly used in mattresses and are readily absorbed through the skin. Some of these chemicals, such as PBDEs, have been shown to accumulate in the body for years and have been linked to liver toxicity, thyroid dysfunction, and neurodevelopmental issues among health issues.

Flame-retardants found in bedding & mattresses are SVOCs (semi-volatile organic compounds) that are odorless and ride on dust. These seemingly non-existent SVOCs continue to emanate from the mattress for the life of the bed and continue to contaminate the dust in the bedroom. The body must detoxify these chemicals during the night when the immune system should be resting and repairing.

Solution: Selecting an organic cotton mattress. Made without the use of synthetic chemicals including chemical flame retardants, heavy metals, and vinyl. If you can’t afford to buy a new mattress, using a mattress topper made from organic cotton and wool will help. Or use a mattress cover made of a tightly woven barrier cloth with a high thread count to help protect you from the chemicals in an unhealthy mattress.

Organic Cotton Sheets:

Conventional cotton is grown with the use of harmful chemicals, namely pesticides and fertilizers which contain poisonous materials. These materials are known carcinogens and are acutely toxic. Conventional cotton is also subjected to chlorine bleach, heavy metal dyes and formaldehyde resins. Also of concern are “wrinkle-free” sheets–these are only wrinkle free because the sheets are saturated in formaldehyde, also a known carcinogen.

Solution: Making the bed with healthy, toxin-free organic cotton sheets is the next step. Choosing natural fiber sheets without synthetic dyes, softeners, and de-wrinkling chemicals does make a difference.

Clean Air:

Indoor air pollution is one of the top five most pressing environmental health risks according to the EPA, tending to be 3 to 5 times worse than outdoor air. The best way to address the risk is to control or eliminate the sources of pollutants. The second most important strategy is ventilating the home with clean outdoor air. When these measures aren’t sufficient (or possible) it is advised to use an air filtration system.

Solution: Consider investing in a air purifier. Designed to eliminate airborne particles, chemicals, odors and gases. Every minute, over 250 cubic feet of air passes through 15 pounds of Activated Carbon and over 60 square feet of True Medical Grade HEPA, providing cleaner air, sure to improve your sleep habits.

Non-Toxic Cleaners:

It’s likely you wouldn’t want to breathe chemicals such as 2-butanone, acetate, alpha-Pinene and more all night?  2-butanone is a suspected kidney, reproductive (can affect your hormones and can cause fertility problems, including lowering sperm counts!), respiratory, skin, gastrointestinal, liver, cardiovascular, blood toxicant, and neurotoxicant (which can affect your central nervous system). And even more, according the the EPA, some laundry dyes may cause cancer or other adverse health effects in humans. That includes dryer sheets too.

Solution: Make your own natural cleaning supplies or look for natural solutions, free of synthetic chemicals. Stock up your cleaning bucket with basic essentials like baking soda, white vinegar, and essential oils (lavender, lemon, tea tree, orange and eucalyptus), fresh herbs and citrus peels and castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s). Even more, you’ll save some money while making your own safe supplies.


Adding plants prove to be very effective at improving indoor air quality. In a well known NASA study, popular plants were tested for their ability to create oxygen and filter common toxins likeformaldehyde (present in carpets, particle board furniture, pressed wood products, foam insulation, paper products, cleaning agents, adhesives, permanent-press clothes and fire retardants), trichloroethylene (found in varnishes, paints, and adhesives), and benzene (found in plastics, synthetic fibers, and detergents). For a full list of the best air purifying plants, learn more from our post, Best Plants to Naturally Purify Indoor Air.

Solution: Add some leafy and palm varieties to your bedroom and experience the added bonus of more oxygen as well as a plant’s magical ability to filter toxins.

Soy+Beeswax Candles:

Conventional candles are made from paraffin, a petroleum by-product. According to the EPA, candles are a leading cause of indoor air pollution and have the opportunity to aggravate asthma (especially difficult for children with asthma to breathe as easily) In addition, Benzene, Toluene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Trichloroethane and Formaldehyde are potentially emitted through your home (many of which are known carcinogens).

Solution: Opt for 100% soy and beeswax candles where bedroom air will be spared the contaminants of petroleum and you can still have the sweet smell of essential oils and beeswax.

Solid Wood Furniture:

There are a large number of wooden furniture products on the market (dressers, bed frames, armoires, night stands) that are made with particle board, pressed wood, plywood or MDF, which are much cheaper materials but require the use of toxic glue during production. This type of glue contains formaldehyde, a volatile organic chemical (VOC) which will off-gas (emit this chemical as a vapor for a long time) and is ultimately linked to several health issues including leukemia and cancer. Conventional sealants and paints are also of concern and can include lead and other heavy metals which can cause serious impairments in the developing brains of babies and children.

Solution: Look for solid wood or second hand furniture to avoid VOC’s off-gassing (for years) in your sleep chamber. Look for natural sealants like beeswax or oil instead of polyurethane. Ultimately, solid wood furniture far outlasts and outweighs the less healthy alternative.

Cellular Devices:

Why add anything else to potentially disrupt your sleep? Several studies suggest that radiation exposure causes people to take longer to reach the deeper stages of sleep and to spend less time in them, interfering with the body’s ability to repair damage suffered during the day.

Solution: Make an effort to stop using and charging cell devices in the bedroom and make your bedroom a cell-free zone.


An EPA study, reported in Environmental Science & Technology, provided the first proof that pesticides can be tracked into residences on shoes. People and pets who walk on pesticide-treated lawns can pick up pesticides like the herbicide 2,4-D, for up to a week after its application, the study showed. The study found that “track-in” exposures of pesticides may exceed those from the best-known source–pesticide residues on non-organic fresh fruits and vegetables. Another study showed that 98 percent of lead dust found in homes is tracked in from outside as well.

The EPA study also suggested, “80 percent of most people’s exposure to pesticides occurs indoors and that measurable levels of up to a dozen pesticides have been found in the air inside homes.”

Solution: Make a “no shoes” policy in your house or at least in your bedroom. Keep a basket of indoor slippers or leave your shoes by the door.

Source: Mighty Nest February 1, 2012

Image Credit: Mighty Nest