Sleep is a required need to sustain life., and quality sleep is critical to vital and abundant health. One of the most overlooked relationships in acquiring quality sleep is the role that the mattress plays. Most people, including health care professionals, have little understanding of what qualifies as a good sleeping surface; and more concerning, knowledge of the materials that are used in making those surfaces. The evolution of the modern mattress has moved in the direction that is both less supportive of our physical structural needs and toward the use of more synthetic materials that on a physiological level can unknowingly expose the sleeper to potentially harmful toxicities.
The cotton batting for cushioning that was widely used up until the 1950s, has been replaced with polyurethane, which is less expensive than cotton. Polyurethane foam is made from petroleum-based products which are known to emit volatile organic compounds, and exposure to such has been linked to respiratory irritation and other health problems. Over the past 30 years, the cotton used in mattress production, as well as some of the springs, has been completely replaced by the synthetic foams.
Most mattresses sold today contain some polyurethane foam and many contain specialty foams such as latex or memory foam, which consistently break down and release chemicals. The most common toxic materials used in making a mattress include: petrochemicals, polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), formaldehyde, antimony trioxide, phthalates and boric acid. These chemicals are used for the foam fillers, material adhesives, as well as for water resistance. Most are used to make the mattress flame retardant, per federal law, causing mattress toxicity to increase. All these chemicals give off fumes called off-gassing and will continue to give off fumes even after the off-gassing smell is no longer detectable.