January 1, 2013

By Maggie Wolff Peterson

Sleeping is a dynamic enterprise. As much as it is rest for the body and mind, it is also a time of activity for both. The brain refreshes. The body moves and rearranges itself, stretching muscles and engaging joints. During a normal night’s sleep, a person loses about a quart of fluid through sweat.

So bedding matters. Natural materials that are “breathable and open” conduct body heat and evaporation better than chemically made fillers for pillows and bedclothes, says Cheryl Hahn, CEO of Virginia company CozyPure. And a pillow that properly supports the head reduces neck pressure.

CozyPure makes organic bedding and pillows filled with bits of natural latex known as “noodles.” Organic pillows can also be filled with wool or cotton, or even the fluff of kapok pods or grains of buckwheat or millet hull. The choice of fill depends on whether the user wants a firmer or softer feel, more loft or a flatter profile and hypoallergenic qualities.

Soft and Soothing
Valerie Stranix, chief marketing officer of Ontario-based Natura World (naturaworld.com), says organic wool carries natural temperature-control qualities that lead to a better night’s sleep. The company’s New Zealand-raised, pesticide-free, washable wool is “temperature neutral,” she says

“It keeps you really comfortable,” she adds. “It’s just a soothing material.” According to Stranix, wool bedding naturally lowers a sleeper’s heart rate. “It will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer,” she says. “Babies actually cry less.”

But for some people, the origin of the fill carries philosophical import. Kapok fill, according to Rachel Button at the Clean Bedroom, based in Maine, is similar to wool in feel, but involves no animals. “It’s a good vegan choice,” Button says.

Customers like to know that their bedding choices are cruelty-free and come from sustainable sources. At CozyPure, much of the latex fill comes from material recycled from the production of other bedding. Noodles are made when latex mattress toppers are perforated as part of their production process. Instead of being discarded, they become pillow fill.

They’re “basically a byproduct when they punch a hole in the natural latex,” Hahn says. “The whole idea is that all the bedding is renewable, sustainable, natural and comfortable.”

Additionally, CozyPure products are U.S.-made, in a facility that maximizes green production. Named by the U.S. Department of Energy as a zero-energy building, the plant uses wind, solar and geothermal sources onsite to create the energy it needs.

Time for New Pillows
The inexpensive pillows sold at most retailers are made with non-natural fills and covers, and “dipped in undisclosed chemicals,” Hahn says. “You don’t even know, and you’re putting your head right up in it.”

Additionally, the older the pillow, the more it has accumulated dead skin cells, dust mites, mold, mildew and fungal spores. Experts say it’s best to replace your pillow every 12 to 18 months.

Consumer awareness of healthy bedding began increasing about 15 years ago, says Stranix, as people started to evaluate what they put in and around their bodies. In addition to its organic pillows, NaturaWorld offers non-organic pillows scented with ylang ylang or lavender that provide gentle herbal relaxation, as well as pillow covers treated with aloe for softness. Some consumer experts suggest having a wardrobe of pillows, so you can rotate use. A pillow with firm support might be the choice for a sleeper with a sore neck who on another day might choose a flatter pillow for side or stomach sleeping.

Among organic selections, pillows with latex fill, Stranix says, provide “the closest thing to zero gravity for your head. Your head has pressure points just like your body.”

Like many companies, the Clean Bedroom tries to match customers to their ideal pillow. Consultants in showrooms, on the telephone and online take into account the buyer’s weight and height, the width of their shoulders, and whether they are back, stomach or side sleepers. They even ask whether the customer prefers his pillow “huggable or flat,” Button says, adding: “We ask a lot of questions.”

Selecting an organic pillow is an economical first step toward going organic entirely. “It’s the first and easiest thing to replace, and it’s what you directly put your face on,” Button says. “If you can’t change everything, change your pillow.”

MAGGIE WOLFF PETERSON is a writer in Virginia whose pieces have appeared in Women’s Day and Newsweek.

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