You’ve chosen a healthy lifestyle – eating whole foods and exercising. Now it’s time to make your bedroom, the room where you spend one-third of your life, as healthy as possible.
To create a healthy bedroom, the first focus should be removing airborne allergens. These include things like dust mites, pollen, mold, mildew, bacteria, viruses, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that disrupt sleep and can pose long-term health problems. The American Lung Association and the EPA recommend three strategies for reducing indoor air pollution:
- Control sources of pollution
- Make sure your home is vented adequately
- Keep indoor air clean
While this may seem easy enough in theory, putting it into practice may be a little more complicated. With this in mind, we have broken these strategies into these easy-to-implement ten steps to a healthy bedroom. With these ten steps to a healthier bedroom, you can create a safer environment for this all-important area of your home.
Getting Started: Creating a healthier sleeping environment
Step 1: Keep It Clean
Even if you go through all the other suggestions here, failing to routinely clean and sanitize your bedroom can lead to an overabundance of bacteria, dust mites, and unhealthy breathing particles. We hate to sound like Mom, but you need to maintain a clean sleeping environment. This can be simply done by getting into a schedule and following it every week.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should wash the bedding at least once a week. This should be done in hot water at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit to kill dust mites. You can do coldwater washing with detergents specifically designed to kill dust mites. The key is keeping the area clean to make it healthy and safe for sleep every night.
Step 2: Take In Fresh Air
It is important to air out bedrooms and bedding regularly. Doctors, the EPA, and the National Lung Association recommend regularly opening windows to recycle the air. A window guard stops pollen, dust, and dirt particles from entering your room for those with seasonal allergies. In Europe, they throw their comforters onto the windowsill every morning. While this may not be common in the U.S., don’t be so quick to make your bed, and let your bedding air out for a while.
Step 3: Replace Bed Linens
Replace treated bedding with items made with all-natural or organic fibers. Replace any fabrics treated with a chemical flame retardant or stain protector with all-natural or organic bedding. Choose pillows made with untreated cotton, organic cotton (better), buckwheat hulls (great neck support), silk (temperature-regulating), wool (best at moisture wicking), or natural rubber (97% natural latex).
Select sheets, blankets, and duvet covers made with untreated or organic cotton or wool. Organic cotton now comes in many brilliant colors. Select a wool comforter for warmth and superior moisture-wicking properties. It’s also very lightweight. A study conducted at the Polytechnic Institute of Wales showed using wool as a filling fiber resulted in calmer heart rates. If you prefer the feel of down, there are many ‘clean’ choices, or you can opt for a hypodown alternative that uses a ratio of 70/30 goose down and milkweed fibers. The milkweed fibers will help to reduce the effects of the allergens found in the down.
Step 4: Get an Air Purifier
An air purifier is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to make the air you breathe cleaner and safer. Be sure your unit uses HEPA filtration. HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air, and a good HEPA filter will eliminate 99.97% of all particles the size of 3 microns or larger. While these units can come in many affordable ranges to accommodate your budget, don’t overlook the yearly costs for filter replacement. Some units require ongoing filter replacement and prove very expensive in the long run, so you want to consider this factor. Have a mold or mildew problem? Remove it yourself or have professionals take on this serious task.
Step 5: Install Air Cleaning System
If your budget allows it and you are looking for air quality that is even more impressive than air filters, installing a whole-house air cleaning system is a great way to breathe easier. Another option is installing special furnace filters designed to remove 90% or more allergens and particles 2-10 microns in size.
Step 6: Get Rid of Carpet
When evaluating how to create a healthier bedroom, you might overlook the matter of flooring. However, it is essential to remove old carpeting because it is a breeding ground for dust mites. Replace this type of flooring with hypoallergenic cork, ceramic tile, wood flooring that is not treated with a toxic finish, or recycled linoleum called Marmoleum. Warm your toes with scatter rugs that you can easily wash if you require a carpet-like option.
Step 7: Remove, Minimize or Utilize Organic Fabric Drapes
This seemingly small area of the home can carry chemicals, bacteria, and dust mites, making them not worth the chance. Get rid of treated draperies or shades. Invest in untreated wood blinds, fabric shades, or window treatments constructed with organic fibers.
Step 8: Avoid Chemical-Based Paints
Do not use VOC paints, stains, or sealants. These products can contain harsh ingredients and harmful chemicals. Even worse, some of them continue to emit gasses and byproducts into the air once dry, so you are breathing them in every day. Luckily, there are several safe alternatives to choose from. Many paint stores sell low- or no-VOC paint. AFM SafeCoat products are used in hospitals and are recommended by environmental medicine physicians. The Old-fashioned Milk Paint Company in Groton, Massachusetts, sells no-odor authentic milk paint in 16 colors. American Clay offers 32 shades of natural clay plasters and a variety of finishes. Or, try hemp wall upholstery that can be stapled into place without using adhesives.
Step 9: Get Rid of Your Old Mattress
If you can, please remove your old mattress, no matter how new or costly you think it might be to replace. Flame-retardant and stain-resistant chemicals were likely sprayed on the bed at the factory. Foam cushioning could contain PBDEs(if your mattress is older than 20 years old) or petrochemicals that give off the gas (chemical off-gassing). Since you spend nearly one-third of your life on your mattress, anyone interested in long-term health should replace this essential item as quickly as possible.
If you suffer from MCS or are chemically sensitive, particularly to latex odors, choose a natural cotton mattress or organic cotton mattress. While cotton mattresses tend to be very firm, you can add a wool topper to relieve pressure points and soften the top. A topper will also reduce body indentations that occur over time.
A hybrid mattress is another option for those not sensitive to latex. A hybrid mattress will combine the support of springs with the cushioning of latex for supportiveness and comfort.
The rest of us should consider a natural or organic latex mattress because it is anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, dust-mite proof, and relieves pressure points. Be sure the latex is at least 97% natural and not blended latex which can be a 60/40 blend of natural and petrochemical-based materials. A natural latex mattress provides your neck, shoulders, hips, and knees with superior support because you sleep on the mattress rather than on top. You’ll toss and turn less frequently and sleep more peacefully, allowing your body’s immune system to rejuvenate for the next day’s activities.
Step 10: Add a Mattress Topper
Can’t afford a new organic mattress right now? Add a pure wool or natural rubber mattress topper. The topper won’t stop your old mattress materials from off-gassing, but you could rest more peacefully knowing that you have put some distance between your body and the toxins. Also, encase your mattress and pillows in organic cotton barrier cloths or zippered encasings to protect your lungs from dust mite allergens. Studies have shown mattress and pillow encasings can relieve eczema suffering.
First published June 26, 2015
Edited December 16, 2022
For more information about indoor air pollution and creating a healthy home, visit:
Allergy & Asthma Foundation of America https://www.aafa.org/
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) “Indoor Air Quality” https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/indoorairquality/
American Respiratory Care Foundation https://www.aarc.org/
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology https://www.aaaai.org/