Creating a Healthier Sleep Environment: The Ultimate Guide to a Non-Toxic Bed

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In a world of wearable technology, genetically modified foods, and often-updated hygiene products, it can be easy to lose track of the toxin levels with the products we use every day. How do you know if that new face wash is natural or not? How do you know if what you’re eating is good for you? However, in the revolving door of products and conversations around toxin levels, what isn’t being talked about enough is the often-overlooked realm of our sleep sanctuary – the non-toxic bed and bedding.

If you’re anything like me, you spend at least seven hours every night in intimate contact with your pillow, sheets, and mattress. That’s a significant chunk of time to be unknowingly inhaling toxins or coming into contact with synthetic chemicals. The crucial issue of a non-toxic bed deserves far more attention than it currently receives.

Despite the glaring lack of awareness regarding toxins lurking in our beds, a growing interest is stirring on this topic. People are awakening to the profound impact toxins can have on their ability to enjoy restful slumber and the potential long-term consequences of repeated exposure to harmful substances.

Can’t wait to see the list of the best mattresses and sheets? Click here to jump to that section.

Understanding Toxicity in Beds

During my recent deep dive into the bedding industry, I uncovered an unsettling truth – toxic chemicals often find their way into our beds through two primary avenues. The first is the use of bedding materials that are inherently toxic right from the start. For instance, memory foam, a popular choice for mattresses and pillows, is derived from oil and artificial chemicals, setting the stage for potential health hazards.

The second, albeit rarer, route for toxic chemicals to infiltrate your sleep sanctuary is through the treatment of bedding with substances like flame retardants or fragrances. Imagine having what’s marketed as a “natural” mattress, crafted from natural latex, only to discover it’s treated with Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers – a definite red flag for those seeking a truly non-toxic sleep environment.

In this context, “toxic materials” refer to substances that could have both short-term and long-term repercussions on your health and, crucially, your ability to enjoy a restful night’s sleep. These materials may encompass irritants, carcinogens, or even outright poisons.

Unfortunately, conventional mattresses, pillows, sheets, and comforters are more likely to harbor toxins compared to products labeled as organic or natural. However, it’s worth noting that even these labels can sometimes be misleading. Here’s a closer look at some of the most common toxins lurking in conventional bedding to help you achieve a non-toxic bed:

1. Polyurethane Foam: While polyurethane foam isn’t typically found in sheets, it’s a common material for pillows and mattresses. Regrettably, like other materials on this list, it contains potentially harmful and toxic components.

Polyurethane foam starts its journey from crude oil, ultimately leading to the production of chemical irritants known as isocyanates. These irritants can harm our eyes and lungs, posing potential carcinogenic risks.

2. Formaldehyde:

Formaldehyde often lurks within some mattresses and bedding, concealed within adhesives and resins used in their construction. As a volatile organic compound (VOC), formaldehyde can emit harmful fumes into your sleep environment.

Exposure to formaldehyde can lead to respiratory irritation, eye discomfort, and even an elevated risk of cancer with prolonged contact. To mitigate these potential health risks, consider alternatives such as mattresses and bedding made with natural latex, organic cotton, or wool. Seek out certifications like OEKO-TEX Standard 100 or Greenguard, which ensure low VOC emissions and provide a safer option for your sleep space.

3. Memory Foam: Memory foam is essentially a type of polyurethane foam and shares many of its toxic properties. The main distinction lies in its ability to conform to your body’s shape as you lie on it.

4. Synthetic Latex: Synthetic latex is often used in pillows and mattresses as an alternative to natural latex. While it provides ample support, it’s composed of styrene and butadiene. According to, there’s a consistent association between occupational exposure to butadiene and an increased incidence of leukemia – certainly a cause for concern.

In summary, none of these materials belong in a truly non-toxic bed, and taking steps to avoid them can significantly enhance the quality of your sleep and overall health.

A Truly Non-Toxic Bed: Off Gassing

The major concern with using a mattress, sheets, or pillow on your bed that have toxic chemicals is related to a concept called “Off Gassing.” Off gassing is the process where a material sheds chemicals, the form of gas, after it has already been manufactured. Put in more technical terms,  the off-gassing process is where an odor is released from a material in the form of a VOC (volatile organic compound).

Beyond the long term health impact that could come from off-gassing the smell alone is enough to turn off most buyers. I’ve seen reviews of people who purchased a mattress that smelled so bad that they had to return it after trying it for a number of weeks.

Ensuring a Non-Toxic Bed: Unraveling the Flame Retardant Dilemma

As mentioned earlier in this article, some bedding materials may technically be natural but are treated with flame retardants. This practice stems from a 2007 law mandated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which requires all mattresses to incorporate flame retardant properties. However, the methods employed by different brands to make their products flame retardant can vary significantly.

Here’s a glimpse into some of the toxic chemical flame retardants commonly found in memory foam and other polyurethane-based products:

  • Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)
  • Boric acid
  • Antimony trioxide
  • Decabromodiphenyl oxide
  • Melamine
  • Vinylidene Chloride
  • Chlorinated Tris
  • Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD)
  • Tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) Phosphate (TDCPP)

It’s worth noting that this list, although extensive, isn’t exhaustive. While some of the most concerning flame retardants on this list are no longer used in new production, it doesn’t necessarily mean your old mattress is devoid of these discontinued flame retardants.

In fact, according to reports by Mattress Clarity, certain flame retardants are so concerning that they’re not even legally permitted in kids’ pajamas, yet they can still be present in your bed. This is a significant cause for concern.

However, there is still hope for achieving a non-toxic and flame-retardant bed without resorting to added chemicals. Some materials possess natural flame-retardant properties and meet safety regulations without the need for chemical additives. In the next section, we’ll explore what those materials are and how they can help you create a safer sleep environment.

Benefits of a Non-Toxic Bed

Healthier Living:

 One of the most apparent advantages of a non-toxic bed is the reduction in the risk associated with consistent, long-term exposure to toxins. This includes safeguarding vital organs like the liver, kidneys, and nervous system. Additionally, switching to a non-toxic bed can offer immediate benefits for your sleep quality.

Improved Sleep:

Toxic beds can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) through a process known as off-gassing. This off-gassing effect can irritate your eyes, throat, and skin, and may lead to breathing difficulties, headaches, fatigue, and nausea. None of these symptoms are conducive to a good night’s sleep. Transitioning to a non-toxic bed can result in both short-term and long-term improvements in your health and sleep quality.

Environmental Sustainability:

Non-toxic beds are a significantly more environmentally sustainable choice. These natural beds are crafted from materials found in nature, making them a greener option. For example, the production process of conventional memory foam pillows involves synthesizing crude oil and incorporating other environmentally harmful chemicals. In contrast, the production of natural wool pillows has a substantially lower environmental impact. It requires no artificial chemicals, and wool is a biodegradable material.

Cost-Effective Options:

Contrary to the misconception that non-toxic, all-natural beds come with a hefty price tag, there are affordable alternatives available. For instance, Tempur-Pedic, renowned for its memory foam mattresses, can reach prices of nearly $6,000. In comparison, natural options like Avocado Green and Naturepedic are often priced several thousand dollars lower.

Before delving into specific non-toxic bed recommendations, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the types of natural materials available in the market.

The section on choosing the right non-toxic materials is informative and generally clear. However, to enhance readability and clarity further, consider breaking it into bullet points or shorter paragraphs for easier digestion:

Choosing the Right Non-Toxic Materials for Your Non-Toxic Bed

Natural Latex:

  • Natural latex is derived from rubber trees in tropical regions like South America and India.
  • These trees are tapped, much like maple trees, and the sap is transformed into a foam-like substance.
  • Natural latex is hypoallergenic and moisture-wicking due to its open cell structure.
  • It feels similar to memory foam, but with a bit more bounce.
  • Commonly used in pillows and mattresses.
  • Note that it may not excel in breathability compared to other materials.


  • Wool is sourced from sheep or alpacas and is produced worldwide, with significant concentrations in the U.S., U.K., and New Zealand.
  • It is known for its heat-regulating properties and natural hypoallergenic qualities.
  • Wool feels soft and supportive, making it a popular choice for pillows and blankets.
  • While wool mattresses exist, they are less common due to their relatively lower support compared to latex.


  • Cotton is prevalent in sheets and serves as the primary material for the exteriors of pillows, comforters, and mattresses.
  • Look for GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified cotton to ensure it’s free from pesticides and harmful chemicals.
  • Cotton is not naturally flame-retardant, so be cautious to avoid cotton products treated with toxic flame retardants.
  • Cotton comes in various types, with over 71 different fabric varieties to choose from.

RELATED: 16 Sustainable & Organic Cotton Pajamas You Need for Every Season


  • Down is used in comforters and pillows, with 100% down mattresses being uncommon due to a lack of support compared to natural latex.
  • There are two primary types: goose down and duck down, with goose down considered of higher quality.
  • Down is toxin-free, but ethical concerns regarding how feathers are harvested should be considered.
  • Beware of fake down products while shopping.
  • Down has a signature airy feel, similar to the sensation of a down jacket.

Alternatives (Bamboo, Hemp, Oatmeal, etc.):

  • Bamboo, hemp, and oatmeal sheets are alternatives, often used in sheets.
  • Although less common, they offer eco-friendly options.

RELATED: The Best Bamboo Pajamas: Worth-the-Splurge!

Non-Toxic Mattresses: Finding Your Ideal Match

Mattress preferences can be highly individual, ranging from a preference for firm support to a desire for a softer, more contoured feel. When it comes to non-toxic mattresses, they typically combine a mix of materials like coils, wool, cotton, and latex to cater to different sleep needs.

Latex serves as the primary cushioning component, while coils provide essential support. Wool and cotton contribute to the outer padding, ensuring comfort. You’ll also come across all-natural latex options without coils, which can feel denser and tend to be heavier.

For those seeking an even airier and more breathable mattress, some brands offer wool and coil mattresses without latex. These options are excellent at moisture control, as wool absorbs moisture effectively. Keep in mind that wool mattresses may undergo an initial compression phase before reaching their long-term loftiness, a factor to consider during the trial period.

Non-Toxic Mattress Option #1: Avocado Green Mattress

  • Material: Natural Latex, up to 962 8-inch encased coils, GOLS-certified organic latex from their farms.
  • Make: Crafted by artisans in India and Guatemala.
  • Sleep: Offers a firmer feel due to the springs.
  • Green Footprint: Environmentally friendly, free from chemical flame retardants, fiberglass, polyurethane foams, and toxic glues commonly found in some “natural” mattresses.

Non-Toxic Mattress Option #2: Spindle Mattress

  • Material: GOTS-Certified Latex, Wool, and Cotton.
  • Make: Crafted with a combination of domestic and imported materials.
  • Sleep: Adjustable firmness levels with three layers of latex. Customize your sleep experience by placing the firmer layer at the top for a firmer feel or vice versa for a plush sensation.
  • Green Footprint: Eco-conscious production without the use of glue.

Non-Toxic Mattress Option #3: EcoTerra Hybrid Mattress

  • Material: Organic Latex, GOTS-Certified Wool, and Cotton with Quantum Coils.
  • Make: Designed and constructed in Los Angeles using materials sourced from Asia.
  • Sleep: Choose between medium and medium-firm support levels according to your preference.
  • Green Footprint: A budget-friendly choice in the world of natural mattresses, offering competitive pricing for those seeking an affordable entry-level option

A Non-Toxic Bed: Choosing the Right Pillows Matters

Readability-Improved Version:

While the pillow category offers a broader range of natural options compared to mattresses, individual preferences for pillow firmness and support vary. For instance, I prefer a firm mattress but opt for a medium-firm pillow as a side sleeper, finding this combination ideal. Your experience may differ based on your sleeping position and personal preferences. After considerable research, here are the best non-toxic pillows I could find:

Non-Toxic Pillow #1: The Woolshire Wool Pillow

  • Material: GOTS-certified organic cotton shell and natural virgin wool fill.
  • Make: Crafted in Idaho by a family of pillow craftsmen.
  • Sleep: Offers various fill options, ranging from flat to extra full.
  • Green Footprint: Specializes in pillow production, focusing on their classic pillow and a toddler pillow. Wool is a preferred choice for its natural hypoallergenic properties and sustainability. Note that wool pillows may compress slightly in the first six months, so consider selecting a larger fill size if needed.

Non-Toxic Pillow #2: Naturepedic Organic Solid Latex Pillow

  • Material: Organic Latex + Organic Cotton.
  • Make: Manufactured in the U.S. using a combination of imported and domestic materials.
  • Sleep: Offers a single fill option, although Naturepedic provides adjustable alternatives.
  • Green Footprint: The pillow tends to have a softer feel compared to other options in the market due to the type of latex and pillow construction. Consider this if you’re a side sleeper seeking ample neck support.

Non-Toxic Bed: Top 3 Non-Toxic Sheet Recommendations

When it comes to non-toxic sheets, the allure of silk sheets portrayed in movies might not be your ideal choice. Personally, I find the feel of well-washed cotton sheets to be more appealing. Additionally, consider that you may need both winter and summer sheet sets. Opting for luxurious organic cotton sheets in the winter and switching to lighter options during the summer just makes sense.

Unlike a comforter that doesn’t require frequent washing, your sheets need to be machine washable for convenience. Before making a purchase, ensure this feature is included in your chosen sheets.

Non-Toxic Sheets Option #1: L.L. Bean Flannel Sheets

  • Material: GOTS-certified organic cotton flannel.
  • Make: Crafted in Portugal.
  • Sleep: Best suited for winter as they provide warmth.
  • Green Footprint: Flannel sheets are a cozy choice, and L.L. Bean’s one-year, no-questions-asked return policy adds to their appeal.

Non-Toxic Sheets Option #2: Simply Organic Bamboo

  • Material: OEKO-TEX® certified bamboo.
  • Make: Simply Organic Bamboo is based in Columbus, Ohio, but the origin of their bamboo source is undisclosed.
  • Sleep: These bamboo sheets offer exceptional softness and are ideal for warmer seasons.
  • Green Footprint: Bamboo is a sustainable choice, as it grows faster than cotton and requires less water for cultivation.

Top Non-Toxic Comforter Alternative: Quilts

Rather than delving into the intricacies of non-toxic comforters, I’ll steer you toward another post on Simple n’ Delight that provides comprehensive insights into the best down alternative comforters. In this section, I’ll recommend a related product: quilts.

Non-Toxic Quilts Option #2: Coyuchi

  • Material:
    • 240 gsm organic cotton batting.
    • GOTS Certified Cotton.
  • Make: Artisan-crafted in India.
  • Sleep: This thick cotton quilt provides warmth and is perfect for winter and early spring.
  • Green Footprint: The appealing pattern and material choice make this quilt stand out. Cotton adds a desirable weight to it. Additionally, Coyuchi is committed to reducing plastic waste, packaging this product in a reusable, organic cloth bag.


Conclusion: Key Takeaways to Best Your Non-Toxic Bed

When building your non-toxic bed, it’s essential not to feel overwhelmed. Keep in mind that products containing polyurethane, memory foam, or synthetic flame retardants should be avoided. You don’t have to make all these changes at once. Start with the most significant item: your mattress. Then, gradually transition to non-toxic options for your pillows, sheets, and comforter.

If you decide to make a new purchase, prioritize companies that offer a sleep trial option. All the mattresses I’ve recommended come with a sleep trial period, allowing you to test them out and return them if they don’t meet your needs. Remember that investing in a non-toxic bed is an investment in your short-term and long-term health. Wishing you restful and healthy sleep ahead!

This article was thoroughly researched, fact checked, and written by Austin Klise of Klise Consulting.

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