Why Purchase A Non-Toxic Chemical Free Mattress For Your Child?

Many parents ask me, ‘why should I get an organic or chemical free mattress for my child?’  With more and more studies being done, we are now starting to see the results that years of toxic chemicals – in our home environments – have had on our children. 

There is an excellent article out there written by Saundra Young for CNN called ‘Putting the next generation of brains in danger’ which shows how these toxic chemicals are affecting our children.  According to this article, two doctors – Dr. Philip Landrigan from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and Dr. Philippe Grandjean from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston have written an article published in The Lancet Neurology Journal “calling for a worldwide overhaul of the regulatory process in order to protect children’s brains”.

These two doctors have been studying industrial chemicals for around 30 years.  The results, in a nut shell, say that the impact on our children’s neurodevelopment is causing such problems as:  Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, Dyslexia and other cognitive damage.  Are we not surprised that with this rise of chemicals in our home environment – we are seeing a rise in these disorders in American Families!

You can follow this link to read the full article:


Yes, a non-toxic chemical free mattress is much more expensive than the $99 twin you can purchase at any discount mattress store.  However, are we being penny wise and dollar foolish – by putting our children’s health at risk?  Do we really want to take that chance?


Did you know that choosing the perfect pillow is much harder to do than choosing the perfect mattress? So many of us choose our pillows by going to a big box store and picking whatever is on sale or the least expensive. Before I started working in the sleep business, I was one of those people. Because I am a stomach sleeper, I had to suffer for years before the pillow was ‘flat’ enough to actually be comfortable, and by that time the pillow was trashed and I had to start all over again.

So, how does one go about picking the right (perfect) pillow? It is a process that shouldn’t be taken lightly, or you will end up with the many, many pillows on your bed that really don’t work well. We all have them and suffer with them while continually searching for ‘the elusive perfect pillow’.

First, let’s discuss the purpose of a pillow. The most important purpose of a pillow is to put you in the correct sleeping posture for how you sleep, and this is important – not how you think you should sleep. Your pillow should allow your head to be level with your spine and not too low or too high. If you are a side sleeper, it should also take up the room between your mattress and your ear so your head is level with your spine.

You also need to know how you really spend the night; Back Sleeper, Side Sleeper or Stomach Sleeper or any combination thereof. Most of us start in one position and end up in another. How you wake up in the morning, is usually how you spent the majority of the night. Many of us start out on our backs and end up on our sides, or we may start out on our side and end up on our stomach or back. So, before you go out to search for the perfect pillow – take a few nights/mornings to discover how you really sleep.

There are a variety of pillows out there to choose from. Whether you choose a memory foam, latex, down/feather, cotton, kapok, buck-wheat or Dacron pillow, remember, this is the pillow you should love to sleep on. It is not the pretty pillow you show on the bed. Pillows should be chosen for their sleep-ability, not how they look on the bed. Just because you have a king sized bed doesn’t mean you should sleep on a king sized pillow! A king sized pillow is closer to a body pillow in size, and our sleeping pillows usually need to be smaller in size. If your perfect pillow is truly ugly and you fear the pillow police will judge you, don’t worry – just hide it behind the other pillows or if you really hate the way it looks (but love the way it feels) just throw it in the closet – no one really needs to see it.

Now, let’s discuss how to pick the pillow. Find a store where there are enough mattresses available so you can find the one that most closely matches your mattress at home. I can’t stress enough how important this is, as you can find the perfect pillow in the store and when you get home it is horrible, because your mattress is very different than the one your tried it on. For example, if you are a side sleeper and your mattress is firm and you try the pillow on a softer mattress – it will be a totally different pillow on your bed because your shoulder will ‘dig’ into the softer mattress and the pillow will be too high when you’re on your bed at home. It is critical that you can try the pillow at the store before you purchase it.

If you are at a store that doesn’t have mattresses to try the pillow on, you can make do with the wall (people will think your weird, but don’t pay attention to them – they have bad pillows!). Stand at the wall the way you sleep and put the pillow between you and the wall to test the height of the pillow. You will need to get as close to the wall as you can comfortable get.

The perfect pillow needs to be the right height, firmness and have the ‘feel’ you prefer. Rule of thumb is:

Back Sleeper – pillow should have proper neck support and the height (thickness of the pillow) should not be too high/low – so your head is level with your body. You shouldn’t feel like your head is falling back (too low) or you have a triple chin because your head is too high.

Side Sleeper – the pillow needs to make up the difference between the mattress and your ear. Your head should be level with your spine. Too high or two low will pull you neck muscles and cause neck pain. Too high can also cause headaches. Also, it shouldn’t be too firm as this will cause ear pain or jaw pain (like TMJ pain). Shoulder ‘rounding’ is not so much a pillow issue as a mattress issue (the mattress is too firm). You can solve this problem (if you love your extra firm mattress) by using a mattress topper or my favorite, a latex bed wedge (soft for your shoulder and firm for your back).

Stomach Sleeper – flat to no pillow. Most stomach sleepers need a very flat pillow to avoid neck pain with a pillow that is too high.

Combo Sleeper – For Back and Stomach sleepers the same pillow should work well as it usually is a fairly flat pillow and when you turn on your stomach you can move to the edge of the pillow.

For Back/Side sleepers or Stomach/Side sleepers this gets tricky. Depending on how broad your shoulders are, you may have to go with two different pillows. Some pillow manufacturers make a combination back/side sleeping pillow (i.e. Tempurpedic or Glideaway) however, not everyone likes these types of pillows (contour type).

Now, let’s briefly touch on snoring. Loud or excessive snoring can be a sign of a serious condition called obstructive sleep apnea (where you actually stop breathing many times during the night). You should always check with your doctor if you feel you have a serious snoring problem (your sleep partner will more than likely alert you to this). Many pillows claim to ‘stop snoring’; I have not found this to be the case. The best way to stop snoring is to elevate your upper body with either a bed wedge or an adjustable bed. When you raise your upper body it relieves the pressure on your diaphragm and makes it easier to breathe.

What type of pillow should you choose? Pillows come in many shapes and fills:

• Contour pillows. These are also called neck pillows and have the hump that fills the space between the mattress and your neck with your head slightly tilted back. They can be made of memory foam, latex foam and wool covered in cotton.
• Regular rectangular shaped pillows. These are the most common and come in all types of heights and fills: latex (shredded or molded), memory foam, cotton, kapok, buckwheat, down/feather, and wool.
• Standard size is approximately 20” x 26” give or take an inch
• Queen size is approximately 20” x 30” give or take an inch
• King Size is approximately 20” x 36” give or take an inch

So, hopefully you now have a better understanding of how to choose the perfect pillow. Feel free to give me a call at the store 425-454-8727 if you have any questions or want to discuss the ‘perfect pillow’.


If you need another reason to go natural for your mattress, here is a big one. What chemicals are used in your mattress (that you sleep on every day) and are they harmful to your body. Well, yes it appears they are.
California is the leader in these types of things, both for the good of our health and also in developing regulations that sometimes backfire on us. It was California who established and pushed for the new flame retardant requirements. In doing so, the chemical companies jumped at the chance to bring these new chemicals to market, many times without knowing the long term affects to us and the environment.
According to The Furniture Executive, “as of October 28th the State of California decided that furniture (mattresses included) sold in their state must have a Prop 65 warning label if they have the flame retardant chemical TDCPP (tris 1, 3-dichloro-2propyl phosphate)”. They determined that this chemical was ‘known to the State to cause cancer’.
Prop 65 is a ‘right to know’ law that was passed by the state of California in 1986. According to Furniture today, TDCPP was used to help meet California’s TB 117 upholstery flammability standard. And, how California goes – so does the country – because California is such a large consumer, it would be too difficult to make items just for them, so all items are made so they can be sold into California.
It appears that many mattress manufacturers will be taking this chemical out of their mattresses, as no one wants to put a label on their mattress that says ‘WARNING: this mattress contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer.’ However, are you sleeping on an old mattress that has this chemical in it?
The 100% natural and all of the organic mattresses do not contain any chemical flame retardants. They use wool (which is a natural flame retardant) or a ‘sock’ made from rayon, silica (sand), baking soda, a corn starch and/or any combinations of these items.
When purchasing a 100% natural mattress make sure you do so from a reputable company. I have seen some mattress sales companies (especially on the internet) advertising mattresses as organic and 100% natural when I know for a fact that they are not! Soy foam is not natural! The foam only contains up to 20% soy and the balance is polyurethane. Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that this foam is bad or harmful however, it is not ‘organic’ or 100% natural.
Be informed and understand what you are buying. Also make sure you ask what the flame retardant is, in the mattress you are purchasing. If the sales person doesn’t know, that is not a good sign. Only purchase a mattress that you know does not contain a harmful chemical. For more information on this you can go to the Chicago Tribune and look at their excellent article Playing With Fire update: EPA vows investigation of flame retardants.


What is latex and is it a ‘natural’ product, or is it manufactured out of petroleum like plastic? Well, it can be both – the all natural latex coming from the Hevea brasiliensis (rubber) tree or the synthetic latex coming from Styrene Butadiene, a petroleum product. Most synthetic latex is a mixture of both Hevea brasiliensis and Styrene Butadiene (usually in a 70%/30% or 60%/40% mixture – the higher percentage being the Styrene Butadiene). In the USA, if the latex contains any of the Hevea brasiliensis natural latex it can be called ‘natural’ therefore if you want your latex to be 100% natural, ask if it is 100% natural or blended latex. Some mattress stores are now calling 100% natural latex ‘Botanical’ Latex. Organic latex is farmed organically and if you are purchasing ‘organic’ latex, make sure that the mattress comes with the organic certifications. Not all 100% natural latex is organic however, all organic latex is (or should be) 100% natural.

What is Dunlop latex as compared to Talalay latex? And, how are they different? Dunlop latex was created by the Dunlop Rubber Company and in 1929 one of their scientists E A Murphy discovered how to make latex into the ‘rubber’ we know today. It is put into a mold and formed into its shape by heat (know as vulcanization). I like to say, Dunlop latex is like ‘pound cake’, it is a denser feeling latex.

Talalay latex was invented in the 1960’s by the Goodrich Rubber Company (a competitor to Dunlop). This process uses a vacuum mold which suspends the latex when the vacuum is pulled. It is then flash frozen, vulcanized, and then cooled. This creates a more homogeneous blend and the latex has a ‘bouncer’ feel. This latex is like ‘angel food cake’.
All latex has some level of filler used in manufacturing of the latex. The high quality latex does not use cheap material such as clay or chalk but Zinc Oxide or Ash and sodium. Anything under 5% is considered 100% pure latex. No matter the process, the latex is then washed to remove any manufacturing residue and much of the latex proteins. It is then inspected for defects and cut into the typical mattress and pillow sizes. The latex is measured for the ILD (Impression Load Deflection) or softness/hardness of the material.

The ILD for mattress feel is:
• Soft – ILD rating of around 16
• Medium – ILD rating of around 26
• Medium Firm – ILD rating of around 35
• Firm – ILD rating of around 41
• Extra firm – ILD rating of around 61.

Both natural and synthetic latex are very supportive and make excellent mattresses. Latex gives you the same ease of movement as an innerspring mattress without the pressure points. Latex breathes and allows heat to dissipate from your body. It is dust mite, mold and mildew resistant and is excellent for those with allergies. Most people are not allergic to latex mattresses because the latex proteins are washed away during manufacture and the latex is covered by wool and cotton. Latex is an excellent choice for mattresses and should last at least 10 years and some can last more than 30 years.

Platform beds with or without a foundation

A customer called me yesterday and asked an excellent question…can I put my Serta iComfort™ mattress on a platform bed with slats without a foundation; as the foundation makes the mattress too high for the bed.
He was worried that the warranty would be voided if the mattress was not on a foundation. Actually, this is a gray area where the manufacturers are concerned. They want you to put their mattresses on their foundations to make sure that the mattress has the correct support and air flow. So, they all say that their mattresses must be on their foundations in a frame with a minimum of 5 or 6 legs.

That being said, there is nothing wrong with putting the mattress on a platform bed (we do it in our store with no ill effects on the mattress) if it is placed on the correct platform bed. The bed must be strong enough to hold a heavy mattress – as foam beds, depending on the size, can weigh over 150 lbs. Then you have a couple of people, maybe a dog/cat or two and you can see the weight can get up there.

The slats must run the length and width of the bed with a strong center support. The slats should be about 2 to 3 inches apart and the center support should have 2 legs that go down to the floor located towards the center of the bed, or at a minimum 1 leg in the center of the bed.

Many of the less expensive platform beds and some of the European beds do not have legs on the center support. They just have that metal bar running from the head of the bed to the foot. This is not a good support system, as the bar will begin to sag with time. Also, it can bend with the weight of the bed and people and will not unbend so the mattress is in perpetual sag. If your bed frame has this type of center support you can add the legs to the center of the bed (in a pinch stack big books under the center support bar; I recommend two stacks off center by about 6 inches making sure that it touches the center support beam).

With TempurPedic™ we recommend purchasing their ultra low profile foundations (also called a bunky board) which is about 2 inches high. You can use this with almost all platform beds and mattresses except with some European beds that have the curved slats (these have a curve on each side of the bed and this makes the bunky board tip from side to side).
Let me know what your experiences have been, I’d love to hear from you.