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Sleep Safe in a Toxic World - by Walter Bader

Written by Athena Thompson, Building Biologist and Author of Homes That Heal

ONE OF THE MOST FREQUENT QUESTIONS I am asked when people consult with me about how to make their homes healthier places to live in is about bedrooms and, in particular, about beds. What is a healthy bed? Are healthy beds really that important? What's the healthiest bed? Are they worth the investment? Where do you buy one? Is organic really better? What about memory-foam beds-are they any good? That's why I am so delighted Walt Bader wrote this book. Now I can refer people to this goldmine of information that answers all these questions.

I first discovered Walt and his company, Lifekind®, several years ago on the Internet while doing research for my book, Homes That Heal. I was looking for the best organic bed and bedding and was really impressed with the full disclosure Lifekind gave on all their products. I remember thinking, "Finally! Someone is doing it right!" With so much "green-washing" going on today, where businesses try to make themselves look more environmentally friendly than they really are and deceive consumers with misleading claims about the all-natural wholesomeness of their products, it's increasingly difficult to find companies with vision and integrity providing genuine organic products and great customer service. Walt now brings the same vision and integrity that goes into Lifekind to this book.

The good news is that people are beginning to realize that the health of their home impacts the health of their family. Often the difference between a healthy and a toxic home is simply decided by the consumer choices we make. The bad news is that there are so many poor quality and toxic consumer products on the market, and the everyday person has no way of knowing what they are exposing themselves to. Labels and product ingredient lists rarely show all the dangerous chemicals that can go into making a product.

Thankfully, Walt decided to share his extensive research on beds and compile it into a book so it could be made available to the general public. Contained within these pages you will find a multitude of facts, scientifically valid studies and never-before-available laboratory test results revealing the chemical composition of several popular types of mattresses (such as "memory foam"). This book is essentially a full disclosure on the hidden truth about beds.

What is so important about bedrooms and beds? As Walt points out, on average we spend about a third of our life in bed. Children, the elderly and sick spend even more time there. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 50 to 70 million Americans (including children) suffer from intermittent sleep disorders, 40 million of which have chronic sleep problems. Sleep is not merely a "time out" from our busy routines; it is essential for good health, mental and emotional functioning, and safety. Sleep is when the body detoxes and heals itself. Anything that impairs our ability to sleep properly or our quality of sleep has significant impacts on the other two-thirds of our life. What most people don't realize is that the actual bed you sleep in can be the cause of many of these problems.

Sleep Safe points out that while your mattress label may tell you what your mattress is made of, it does not tell you what those materials are made from. Why would you want to know this? Because many commonly used mattress materials are a chemical nightmare. Polyurethane foam, for example, is made from a base of petrochemicals combined with a staggering array of additional chemical ingredients used as stabilizers, catalysts, surfactants, fire retardants, colorants, and blowing agents. Each of these chemicals is associated with a host of environmental problems as well as numerous human health hazards, such as chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function, breathlessness, nausea, vomiting and various allergic reactions. Some are even listed as potential carcinogens and reproductive toxins.

People also report experiencing restless sleep, frequent waking, insomnia, and waking feeling "foggy" in the morning after sleeping on certain mattresses. Though these latter effects may not be considered life-threatening, they can certainly ruin a person's productivity and quality of life. So if you are sleeping on a mattress or pillow containing materials such as polyurethane foam, you may be breathing in and absorbing through your skin these various chemicals all night, every night, as they offgas from the product. And what's more, offgassing may continue, to some degree, indefinitely for the product's entire lifetime. Why is the consumer not warned about any of this? I, for one, would want to know!

If you care about your health, it's important to learn about what you are sleeping on. Walt's lucid and comprehensive explanations will help you understand just how many layers of potentially hazardous chemicals you and your family are being exposed to each night. And it's not just your mattress. Add to the equation foundations which often contain the same chemicals as the mattress, sheets and blankets made of synthetic fibers or pesticide-laden natural fibers treated with additional chemicals for our "no-need-to-iron" convenience, and top it all off with fragranced and chemical laundry products. One can only conclude that many manufacturers have no real concern about what is in their products.

Toxic emissions from bedroom chemicals can be one of our most significant sources of daily exposure to pollution and the cause of countless maladies. Yet, when was the last time your doctor or health care professional asked you what you sleep on at night? I believe beds are one of the single-most overlooked culprits in people's (and especially children's) health problems. What if your child's frequent waking at night, inability to concentrate at school, or temper tantrums are because he is sleeping on a toxic bed? What if you are needlessly medicating your child when what she really needs is a few good nights' sleep on a healthy bed?

Some people may argue that they don't experience any noticeable negative reactions to their beds. Even so, you are still being exposed, and these low-level exposures over a long period of time can wreak havoc with your health. So do make sure you give your doctor or health care professional a copy of this book next time you see them, and ask them to review this valuable information.

Mixed throughout these pages you will also find plenty of great advice, such as how to shop for an organic mattress. No one had ever explained this to me before, and it makes so much sense. By the end of this book you will have learned everything you need to know about beds to become an informed consumer. You will also know where to begin to make your bedroom a much healthier environment to sleep in. There is everything to gain and nothing to lose as you discover for yourself the many benefits of a truly great night's sleep.

Finally, on a personal note, I began switching my family over to organic beds several years ago. I was not able to do it all at once, so I did it gradually. First I changed my family's pillows to organic wool and organic cotton. Then I changed everyone's bedding over to certified organic cotton: pillowcases, sheets, duvet covers. All of this felt wonderful to do and gave me more peace of mind at night. However, the most significant difference came when we got rid of our expensive, popular brand-name mattress and replaced it with a true organic one. That first night's sleep was blissful and I have not looked back since. May you and your loved ones enjoy great health, wonderful sleep, and all the benefits this book offers.

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