How To Create A Healthier Sleep Space
Baby Prep Phase 3: Our Bedroom
Better late than never, right? The goal was to get this final phase of my baby prep nesting mission BEFORE the baby arrived… not three months later. Oh, well. Luckily, most of this bedroom makeover did happen pre-baby, but I’ve been holding out to find the right sized second-hand dresser for the space. I finally found a tall, solid wood dresser at a garage sale! It was pretty hideous looking though. Hah! We refinished the dresser and I am really happy with how it turned out. You can see photos of the process and check out my quick review of chalk style paint here.
I am one of those unfortunate souls who suffers from a lot of allergies. To try to help ease my allergy discomforts, I’ve been working towards making our bedroom as clean and free of allergens as possible. We co-sleep with our babies so I am also very much concerned with creating a safe, toxin-free space that provides an optimal sleep environment for their little, sensitive bodies. Here I have listed eight steps that I’ve taken to create a healthier bedroom:
Choose Hard Surface Flooring
About a year ago we finally took a major step towards improving our bedroom environment by pulling out the existing carpet and replacing with cork flooring. Check out this past blog post to learn more about why we decided to go with cork. In that post, I also shared DIY floating plank flooring installation steps. Carpet is a major source of VOC* off-gassing (with exception to expensive natural wool carpeting) and carpet fibers and pads hold on to all kinds of dust, dirt and other yucky stuff. Selecting hard flooring made of natural materials can decrease exposure to the toxins that man-made synthetic materials give off. Hard surfaces are also significantly easier to keep clean. Rugs can be an easy-to-clean solution for those who prefer to a have a warm, soft surface to step on to when they get out of bed in the morning.
* VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds are both naturally occurring and human-made chemicals that exist in the air. Many VOCs are harmful to us and the environment. Exposure to VOCs, compounded over time, may be responsible for many negative health effects. Most products used to build and maintain our homes contain and off-gas VOCs. This is why it is so important to have good ventilation and to open your windows in your home often.
Use Zero VOC Paint
Luckily, most major interior paint manufacturers have made major steps in the recent years to clean up the toxicity of their products. I recommend looking for interior paint options that are labeled “Zero VOC”, especially if you are pregnant or have young children in the home like I was/did during all these recent painting projects. My favorite interior wall paint is Harmony by Sherwin Williams. Harmony is zero VOC, helps improves indoor air quality, reduces odors and formaledehyde, prevents growth of mold and mildew and is GreenGuard Certified.
Upgrade To A Non-Toxic Mattress
We had been putting off getting a new mattress far too long because we knew that to get the mattress we really wanted, we were going to have to make a big investment. It is unfortunate that we felt like we had to put this purchase off for so long considering how big of an impact a mattress can have on our overall health. A properly supportive mattress is necessary for achieving good, quality sleep, which is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Not only that but mattresses themselves can also be a major source of our daily exposure to toxins, allergens and creepy bugs.
I decided that the time had come that we needed to bite the bullet and make the mattress investment. I was starting to reach that point in pregnancy where I was getting uncomfortable and struggling with sleep. I knew that our old mattress was not helping with that situation. I was also very concerned with my quality of sleep after the baby’s arrival. I got hit hard with the baby blues after my first son’s birth and I believe the biggest contributor to that was sleep deprivation. Life with a newborn is challenging and I wanted to help myself survive that phase as smoothly as possible. On top of all of that, I was obviously concerned with exposing our young children to whatever nastiness was possibly lurking in our old mattress.
When shopping anything mattress related, you will find that there are a ton of products on the market that claim to be “natural”. What I’ve discovered is that almost all of these products are not actually organic or non-toxic. Most only have a top cover that might be made with organic cotton BUT the fillings, backings, adhesives, etc. are all still made using the typical man-made toxic materials. So, if you are concerned with off-gassing and the environmental implications, these products are not actually any better. I first made this realization when I was shopping for baby gear during my first pregnancy. While looking for a crib mattress, a changing pad and for a nursing pillow, I discovered there were very few options that were actually non-toxic. The few I did find were all significantly more expensive than any other options on the market. In the end, I decided it was worth the extra money to go with the healthier options. To even out the costs, I then tried to avoid wasting money on excessive or unnecessary baby items. You can check out my list of favorite essential baby products here.
After researching our options and reading lots of reviews, we decided to order a non-toxic, eco-friendly Avocado Mattress. The Avocado Mattress is made from 100% natural, organic and sustainable materials. They are free of polyurethane foams and toxic memory foams. They are also free of chemical flame retardants. The Avocado Mattress company manufactures their products in the USA and uses environmentally conscious, ethical and sustainable business practices.
When our new mattress arrived, and we opened the box, I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t give off any sort of odor like most new home furnishing items do. We have had our new mattress for about five months now and have been really happy with it. I would definitely recommend Avocado Mattress (and no, this blog post is not sponsored in any way). If you are interested in trying out an Avocado Mattress, you are welcome to use my reference link to get a discount on your order.
Disclaimer: If you follow along with me on social media, you are probably aware that my family and I prefer to eat a plant-based diet. We also prefer to choose ethical and cruelty-free (or vegan) products. Some of you have chosen to follow me simply for this reason. I want to make sure that those of you who strive to live a vegan lifestyle are fully aware that the Avocado Mattress is NOT vegan. Wool, which obviously is an animal product, is one of the natural ingredients used in this mattress.
UPDATE: Avocado Mattress now offers a Vegan Mattress using organic cotton as an alternative to their standard wool option. They also now carry sustainably sourced, non-toxic wood bed frames.
Buy Organic, Natural Fiber Bedding
Did you know that the cotton industry is one of the worst when it comes to the use of dangerous pesticides? If getting a new mattress is not an option for you right now, I would recommend at least switching to organic, natural fiber (cotton, hemp, linen, etc.) bedding. A large chunk of each day is spent wrapped up in your bedding. Our skin is our largest organ and is constantly absorbing into our bodies whatever we exposed ourselves to. Some of us even sleep face down, breathing in whatever is in and on our pillows. My favorite affordable option is the Organic Cotton Sheet Sets sold at Target. Every season they change up the colors and patterns available.
Since we co-sleep and often have young children (and dogs…) in our bed, I also wanted to make sure that we got a high-quality mattress cover to protect our mattress investment. I wanted a natural, organic, non-toxic (and waterproof!) mattress cover because it seemed silly to cover our natural, organic, non-toxic mattress with something synthetic and toxic. Well, after doing quite a bit of research, I found that one of the few good options available is the Naturepedic Organic Water-Proof Mattress Cover. Naturepedic also makes the only high quality organic baby changing pad I could find. I talk more about this in my baby product post here.
Side note regarding baby bedding, cribs and mattresses: After sharing about our kid’s playroom in this post, I received (understandably) a lot of “But, where do your kids sleep?!” questions. As I mentioned earlier, we co-sleep so as of right now, both boys sleep in our master bedroom. We have a crib in our room that is currently in it’s “toddler bed” mode. We also have the mini pack n’ play by Nuna and a Snuggle Me Organic co-sleeping pillow in our bedroom. It is actually a lot easier to find organic mattresses and bedding for babies than it is to find for adults. We even found organic cotton fitted sheets for our pack n’ play. When shopping for a crib, look for manufactures that specify that they use safe, non-toxic finishes and sustainable, natural materials. Keep in mind that most babies end up chewing on their cribs, so you don’t want them sucking on or ingesting toxic yuck off their cribs.
Adopt Some Plants
House plants are awesome little air purifiers! Here is a list of the indoor plants that a NASA study found to be the best for improving indoor air quality, but really any kind of plants will do the job. From a design stand point, plants also add “life” to a space and can be great decorative accessories.
Create A Screen-Free Zone
We have all heard it before many times, so I’ll skip the lecture on why screens should be banned from the bedroom. I can attest that I now have way better sleep habits since removing the television from our bedroom. I used to be one of those that felt like I needed to fall asleep with the television on. I end up staying awake way later if watching a show rather than if I’m reading in bed. The noise and flashing lights would also wake me up repeatedly before I would finally come to enough to turn it off. Admittedly, I am still working to try to break my bad habit of checking my phone in bed. I especially don’t want my boys being exposed to the screen light or being influenced by my unhealthy screen behavior.
Get A Himalayan Salt Lamp
Himalayan Salt Lamps are believed to purify the air in a room and promote good sleep. Himalayan Salt Lamps give off a calming soft glow. I love being able to have enough light to see what I’m doing when I get up to feed the baby in the middle of the night without disturbing anyone else in the room. It also makes for great reading light before bed because the glow does not disrupt with your sleep rhythms the way harsh blue light does (like television and cell phone screens). When purchasing one of these lamps, be sure to verify that it is made of authentic Himalayan salt.
Use An Air Purifier
I can’t guarantee that these home air purifying machines actually do what they claim. But, I figure it doesn’t hurt to give it a try since I am so sensitive to dust and allergens. I have noticed that ours does do a good job with eliminating odors. Our bedroom would sometimes smell kind of “doggy” if our pups had been sleeping in our room. I haven’t noticed that dog smell at all since we got the air purifier. Here is the one that we got.
If you have any additional recommendations for a healthy bedroom environment, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.