Natural Latex Foam vs. Synthetic/Polyurethane Foam

When you consider that you spend 7-9 hours per night sleeping, that’s over 2,500 hours per year that you spend on a bed.

Your physical, mental and emotional performance is all directly correlated to the quality of that time spent in that bed and a big, big part of that quality is the surface you’re sleeping on: your mattress.

Unfortunately, your mattress could not only be acting as a cancer-causing radiation antenna, but can also be chock full of chemicals that disrupt your hormones, can cause insomnia, can destroy your muscles and joints, and can leave you waking up robbed of true, quality, deep sleep. So in this article, you’re going to learn how your mattress may slowly be killing you, what you can do about it.

I do indeed realize that just a moment ago, you may have snickered at my “cancer causing antenna” line. But this article from Scientific American actually explains this phenomenon of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and coil-spring mattresses quite well:

“As we sleep on our coil-spring mattresses, we are in effect sleeping on an antenna that amplifies the intensity of the broadcast FM/TV radiation. Asleep on these antennas, our bodies are exposed to the amplified electromagnetic radiation for a third of our life spans. As we slumber on a metal coil-spring mattress, a wave of electromagnetic radiation envelops our bodies so that the maximum strength of the field develops 75 centimeters above the mattress in the middle of our bodies. When sleeping on the right side, the body’s left side will thereby be exposed to field strength about twice as strong as what the right side absorbs.“

In other words, metal spring mattresses and box springs may act as giant in-home EMF antennas – not an appealing thought. But just in case you need more proof, Watch (Mattress springs and the earths magnetic field) on you tube.

Not only that, but since it’s a damp, dark area, the spring system in your mattress acts as an incubator for dust mites, mold and mildew. This is why spring mattresses double their weight after 10 years – all that dead skin, dust mite, feces particles and dust has to accumulate somewhere, and the springs are the place to do it. Now I’m not suggesting that you go outside and sleep on the dirt, but if you have a choice between a metal coil-spring mattress and plain dirt, the dirt would be the way to go.

Manufacturers had to begin dousing all their mattresses with highly toxic flame-retardant chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ether, also known as PBDE.

PBDE, which has been banned in Canada, Europe and several states, accumulates in your body over time, and any of it that you absorb or inhale does not go away, and can instead cause issues such as brain and reproductive damage, decreased sperm quality, thyroid problems and even cancer. Not surprisingly, PBDE-based chemicals are now showing up in breast milk, blood tests and even umbilical-cord blood and livers of fetuses. Ask your bed manufacturer if any flame retardant chemical are present in your chosen mattress before purchase.

Other flame-retardant chemicals currently approved for use in mattresses include:

  • Boric acid, a toxic respiratory irritant often used to kill cockroaches
  • Antimony, a metal that can be more toxic than mercury (a person sleeping on a chemically treated mattress will absorb .8 mg of antimony every night, an amount that is 27 times more than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says is safe!)
  • Formaldehyde, a potential carcinogenic

You spend multiple hours every night with your face in close proximity to your mattress, breathing in these chemicals. And if your children love to jump on their or your bed, or any other time you bounce on your mattress, even more of these toxins can be released into your bedroom environment.

It may seem obvious, but it’s extremely important to properly support your spinal column during sleep, and just like there are proper biomechanics for working on your computer or weightlifting, there are proper biomechanics you must consider while sleeping.

The human body carries more weight in the hip and torso area, so this part of the body must be gently “pushed up” into alignment as you sleep. If your sleep surface doesn’t do this, it can become a major contributor to low back problems and poor movement patterns during the day while you’re awake. So yes, this means poor alignment while you sleep can make your day painful and unbearable.

Unfortunately, the modern mattress has moved away from the mechanics of proper alignment support. The mattress your grandparents might have slept on was probably made of steel springs (which can push the hips up into alignment) and some cotton batting for cushioning of the hips and shoulders. These mattresses supported the body well and typically lasted a good 25 years.

But eventually, mattresses began to evolve. Beginning with the waterbed, and then moving on to the use of synthetic foams as a replacement for cotton (most of these poorly made synthetic foam mattresses lose their support in just a few short years) and in some cases elimination of a spring set altogether (good for EMF, bad for your body), there is nothing in most of these newfangled, modern mattresses to push your hips up into alignment to be level with your shoulders, so your hips “sag” and create tension on your lower back as you sleep. And that’s not all – improper sleep biomechanics from most fancy foam mattresses, most water beds, and most modern spring mattresses affect pressure distribution during sleep, which is a huge issue too.

Here’s why... as you sleep, your body has a built-in defense mechanism to automatically move when pressure reaches a point where it cuts off the circulation you need. This is exactly why you toss and turn. Moving as you sleep relieves the pressure that can build up from a bad mattress or a poor sleeping position to do things like prevent injuries, dead nerves and ulcers forming.

Unfortunately, when you toss and turn, you can instantly rip yourself out of deep sleep phases such as Stage 3 or Stage 4 sleep and shift into Stage 1 or 2 sleep So this movement during sleep is more than simply a biomechanics or a comfort issue – it is literally fragmenting your sleep, lowering your sleep efficiency and robbing you of your ability to achieve the amount of sleep time necessary for nervous system repair, memory consolidation and immune system regeneration.

Unfortunately, even many of today’s nicer, more expensive mattresses use synthetic foams start off very supportive, but then degrade rapidly with use.

So a mattress that supports and comforts you properly for a couple of years can quickly become a major contributor to poor sleep, improper back support, poor physical performance and daily pain.

So let’s summarize what we’ve learned so far: we now know that if you’re serious about nervous system and muscle repair, regulation of appetite hormones, deep sleep, and ideal physical and mental performance, then you need to look for three things on the sleeping surface that you’re going to spend up to a third of your life on:

  1. No crap-storing, EMF-producing springs, but the same biomechanical support as those old, steel-spring mattresses;
  2. Non-toxic materials that don’t build up chemicals in you and your family’s body;
  3. The ability to last more than just a small handful of years before you have to throw it out and buy a new one;

In other words, you need natural, non-spring mattresses that has a bulletproof durable nontoxic foam.

Now here’s something important to understand: 100% natural mattresses simply do not exist. In reality, any mattress company claiming to have 100% natural mattresses actually contains a mix of both organic materials and other natural components in their mattresses. However, a certified mattress does indeed actually mean that at least 95% of the latex used in that mattress is made from certified components. But most latex mattresses on the market are simply not natural because they’re A) not certified natural and B) they don’t meet those 95% standards.

For example, natural latex foam is a component you’ll typically find in many “healthy” mattresses. But given the cost, most companies include very little of the certified natural latex. For example, just 2.5 cm of the total 20 cm of most natural latex mattresses is actually certified natural latex. That’s a pretty small fraction –The majority of natural latex products in South Africa is a blend between synthetic latex and natural latex.

Ask to see the certification and read it thoroughly. The first paragraph should explain the composition of the latex.

If it is a blend of synthetic and natural latex, how can it be natural?

In addition to organic latex, organic cotton is also found in most organic mattresses. That means the cotton has been grown without synthetic chemicals like fertilizers or pesticides and is not genetically modified in any way. Unbleached organic cotton is even better than plain old organic cotton, since this ensures no harsh bleaches have been used on the cotton.

For example:

  • Always ask if each component is as close to 100% natural as possible (remember: 100% natural doesn’t really exist);
  • Always ask whoever is selling you the mattress to explain each and every layer, especially if it’s a crib mattress for your kid;
  • Always ask what binds these layers together – specifically with regards to what type of glue or binding agent was used. You’d be surprised at the chemicals that can wind up in that too.

If your friendly mattress sales-person stumbles when answering any of these questions or cannot back up their claims with supporting documents, then run away fast.