Considering eight hours of sleep a night is recommended for most adults, you will spend a lot of time snuggled up against your mattress. Choosing the right mattress could do more than give you a good night's sleep, it could also reduce your exposure to chemicals that could cause health problems for you and your family members. A foam mattress that does not off-gas chemicals could be the mattress you are looking for.
Foam mattresses can be made from polyurethane, viscoelastic or memory foam, or from natural latex foam. Mattresses that are made from a mix of polyurethane and natural latex are newly available. Of all the foam mattresses on the market, the only type that does not off-gas is natural latex foam. Natural latex foam mattresses are made from the milk of rubber trees. These trees can be grown organically and sustainably, so you can have an organic mattress that does not release any chemical compounds.
Mattresses that off-gas can expose you to harmful chemicals while you sleep. Polyurethane foam mattresses release a compound called toluene. In small concentrations, this neurotoxin can cause respiratory difficulties and headaches. Nonlatex mattresses are often treated with PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers. These chemicals act as fire retardants. In high enough concentrations, they can disrupt the function of hormones in the body and can have negative effects on fertility.
Natural latex foam mattresses offer advantages beyond the fact they do not off-gas chemicals. Natural latex is hypoallergenic, mildew resistant and does not harbor dust mites. These qualities can help reduce exposure to irritating allergens and give allergy sufferers a break while they sleep. Natural latex mattresses are much lighter than traditional mattresses, making them easier to move. They do not require a box spring to provide even support. They can last for 25 years or longer, and when the foam finally begins to harden, the mattress is biodegradeable.
Not all natural latex foam mattresses are organic, so if that matters to you, be sure to look for a certified organic tag on the mattress. Organic and natural mattresses are more expensive than traditional mattresses. If you cannot afford a natural foam latex mattress and wish to reduce your exposure to off-gassed chemicals, leave your new mattress on a porch or in a well-ventilated room for a couple of weeks after you purchase it. This will reduce your exposure to chemicals, as will a tightly woven mattress pad or cover.