by Christine Chamberlin, co-founder of The Clean Bedroom, updated in 2018 by TCB
Article published on Organic.org June 2006, updated 2018
If the idea of sleeping with a wool comforter in the summer makes you sweat, think again. For over 12,000 years, wool has been used to make life more comfortable, especially in the hottest climes.
Wool bedding (mattress toppers, comforters, and pillows) actually provides the perfect temperature-controlled sleeping environment. Manufacturers have all tried to make a synthetic product with the qualities of wool, but to no avail.
A recent sleep study conducted by The Woolmark Company and the University of Sydney examined a variety of bedding products in a range of temperature and humidity environments, and wool was selected as the "undoubted winner." This study proved wool breathes better than synthetics, increases periods of deep REM sleep, and also gets the body to a comfortable sleeping temperature quicker and maintains it for a longer period of time. A summary of wool's benefits can be found HERE.
Here are some of the benefits of wool and how it can help you sleep more comfortably during the summer:
Wool Is Animal-Friendly and Available Organically!
No animals are killed in the process of harvesting wool. As long as the sheep or alpaca graze in pesticide-free pastures for at least three years and are shorn using humane methods, wool batting can be considered organic, sustainable, and cruelty free.
Wool Regulates Body Temperature
Perhaps wool's most-remarkable quality is its ability to maintain comfortable body temperature, no matter what the season. Wool produces warmth in winter without overheating, and — believe it or not — keeps you cooler on summer nights because of its natural moisture-wicking properties. Wool bedding works like a personal heating-and-cooling system, which makes it perfect for people who experience "night sweats." A wool mattress topper or wool moisture pad can actually cool you off during the night by dissipating sweat through the wool's coil-like fibers.
Wool Is Hypoallergenic
Wool is resistant to bacteria, mold, and mildew, which can trigger allergic reactions in some people. People with chemical sensitivities can also sleep without suffering if the wool is untreated.
Dust-mite allergens are the leading trigger for asthma attacks, but dust mites need moisture to survive, so they don't like wool. Other types of bedding, such as synthetic materials are more of a haven for dust mites.
Wool Is Soothing
Wool mattress toppers provide soft cushioning where your shoulders, hips, and knees meet your mattress. People who suffer from fibromyalgia, arthritis, and rheumatism find that wool buffers their sore body parts from their mattresses.
Wool Is a Natural Fire Retardant
Firefighters wear wool clothing. Why? When wool touches a flame, it won't ignite because wool fibers do not support combustion. Wool is also used in natural and organic mattresses to meet fire-safety codes without using toxic chemical flame retardants.
Wool Is Soft!
Forget your association of wool with an itchy, scratchy sweater. Wool batting has a soft, down-like loft or puffiness. Pure-wool batting is sheared from living sheep or alpaca, washed without harsh soaps, and then carded (or combed) into soft, clean wool fill, which is placed inside cotton casings. There is no scratchiness at all.
How Wool Works
Wool fibers create a lining of still air, one of the best insulators found in nature. These little pockets of air create a dry layer of air next to your skin to hold in heat during colder months and cool your body as outdoor temperatures rise.
Evaporation of moisture is our body's natural way of keeping cool. Wool helps this process along by drawing moisture from the body during sleep, absorbing it into cells, and reducing skin temperature. When you're cooler, you toss and turn less often, and sleep more soundly in a deeper REM state.
Wool's moisture-wicking and cooling properties make it a logical choice for those experiencing night sweats.
In summer, outdoor heat is kept away from your skin because of wool's insulating barrier of air pockets. Sleeping with a lightweight wool comforter acts like an air conditioner.
Where does all that moisture go? The average sleeper gives off nearly a pint of water vapor in an eight-hour sleep period. Wool can absorb up to 30% of its own weight without feeling damp or clammy. The cells of wool fibers are porous, so they quickly and efficiently absorb and evaporate moisture — unlike down, which actually holds moisture and can create mildew.
Wool comforters, pillows, and mattress toppers can be found online or in specialty retail stores. When purchasing organic wool bedding, it's a good idea to ask a few questions about where the wool comes from and how it was processed to be sure it has not been treated with chemicals.
Many small organic sheep and alpaca farmers in the U.S. and Canada produce wool for organic bedding products.
The Crescent Moon Duvet and Pillow Company in British Columbia uses organic alpaca and sheep's wool from local farmers.
Whether humble sheep or adorable alpaca, the world owes these creatures a debt of gratitude for sharing their "miracle coats" so that we might enjoy a more restful night's sleep — even in summer.