I’ve often read the statistic that we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping (or over 2,500 hours per year) but I have to laugh because those hours are obviously not during the time of life with new babies or potty-training toddlers.
Of course, those statistics are meant to highlight the importance of sleep environment since such a substantial part of our life is spent in our beds. I think sleep environment is even more important when we aren’t able to get enough of the best kind of sleep since we have to make the best use of the sleep time we do get. Read on to learn the biggest factors to consider when choosing a high-quality organic mattress including price, chemicals used, EMF exposure, and flame retardants.
The Problems With Regular Mattresses
I’ve written before about how to optimize your bedroom environment for the best sleep and even mentioned the importance of an organic mattress, but it took us years to finally decide on our own mattress and actually get it.
What seems like an inert and harmless thing, a soft pillowtop mattress, is often a source of exposure to flame retardants, EMFs amplified by innersprings, and millions of mites.
Flame Retardants & Other Harmful Chemicals
Mattresses can be a major source of chemical exposure. Mattress companies are not required to disclose all of the chemicals they use and have to withstand an open flame from a blowtorch for over a minute. To accomplish this, many companies (over 90% in a recent survey) douse mattresses in flame-retardant chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ether, better known as PBDE. These chemicals are highly toxic and do not have to be disclosed!
PCBEs are banned in Canada, Europe, and even parts of the US. They can accumulate in the body through skin and inhalation exposure and are associated with hormone, brain, and reproductive damage, especially in children.
Mattresses can also contain harmful compounds like:
- Formaldehyde – Commonly used in mattresses, especially as an adhesive in mattresses made from polyurethane foam (a toxic petroleum-based material).
- VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) – Can cause lung and skin irritation and are often found in the glue in many mattresses.
- Decabromodiphenyl Oxide and other Brominated Flame Retardants – These are linked to hair and memory loss and are listed as possible carcinogens.
Chemical flame retardants aren’t the only problem with conventional mattresses, however.
Coil spring mattresses have the added danger of being high in electromagnetic frequencies. Sound crazy? Maybe not.
This article from Scientific American explains how rising rates of breast cancer and melanoma in the Western world provide a possible explanation:
As we sleep on our coil-spring mattresses, we are in effect sleeping on an antenna that amplifies the intensity of the broadcast FM/TV radiation. Asleep on these antennas, our bodies are exposed to the amplified electromagnetic radiation for a third of our life spans. As we slumber on a metal coil-spring mattress, a wave of electromagnetic radiation envelops our bodies so that the maximum strength of the field develops 75 centimeters above the mattress in the middle of our bodies. When sleeping on the right side, the body’s left side will thereby be exposed to field strength about twice as strong as what the right side absorbs.
I recently had my home professionally evaluated for EMFs so that I could address any issues. He tested our mattresses and found EMF activity and magnetism related to our mattress springs (and this was not present in the coil-free organic mattress our kids use).
Millions of Mites, Oh My!
I didn’t realize how much of a problem dust mites could be until I sat down to do the research. These unsavory critters feed off human and animal dander (excess skin shed from the body). After ingesting this dead skin, mites then defecate and their feces accumulate inside the mattress. A single mite can produce up to 2000 units of fecal matter in a period of 10 weeks. A harmful allergen, mite fecal matter has been proven to impact sleep quality and other aspects of health. Female dust mites live about two months and can lay 100 eggs a month during this time.
I’ve read that mattresses doubled their weight every 10 years due to dead skin, dust mites, and mildew. I couldn’t actually find a study to back this large weight gain, but there is a lot of evidence about mildew, mold, and mite buildup over time. Sleep conditions lead to this, and the mattress and cover we choose makes a big difference.
Research did reveal, however, that a used mattress can have up to 10 million mites inside (eww!).
So while our mattresses may not be doubling in weight, the real risk is exposure to the feces of these mites.
How to Find an Organic Mattress
Just knowing the problem does not unfortunately lead to a solution. Even after I’d researched the problem with conventional mattresses, I still had trouble finding a mattress brand that was a good alternative for us.
An organic mattress often contains cotton, wool, latex, or a combination of the three. On their own, these ingredients are generally considered safe but some of them can still be problematic in mattresses. Additionally, there is a lot of green-washing and mislabeling in the mattress industry and it is important to check for undisclosed added flame retardants.
Organic Certifications in Mattresses
Terms like “natural” and “eco-friendly” are unregulated for mattresses. They also don’t mean that the mattress is made of natural materials. A mattress must be 95% organic to meet USDA organic mattress standards and be labeled as organic. Some mattresses may use organic cotton or organic wool for the top layer, but check before assuming an organic label means an entirely natural mattress.
If a mattress is certified organic, it is certified by a third party. Look for terms like:
- GOTS – Global Organic Textile Standard. Mattresses with this certification must use at least 95% certified organic fibers for all fabric used.
- GOLS – This stands for Global Organic Latex Standard and is the first third party standard for organic latex. It specifies that the latex used must be at least 95% organic latex.
- GREENGUARD – An independent certification that requires environmental chamber tests for over 360 chemicals. This certification specifies that a mattress is low in VOCs, phthalates, formaldehyde, and other harmful chemicals and that it is safe for children and the elderly.
If you’re buying a mattress that contains both cotton/wool and latex, it is good for it to have all of these certifications.
Factors to Consider When Choosing an Organic Mattress
Finding a safe and organic mattress was the first priority but comfort was also really important to us. We also didn’t want to break the bank (since there are eight of us)! When choosing mattresses, we considered and ranked mattresses based on:
Based on the criteria above, we looked for organic and non-toxic mattresses that had been third-party tested. We also looked at potential EMF risk from coils. See my recommendations and what we chose below with specific notes on safety factors below. We also use mattress covers that can be easily washed to reduce the build-up of mites over time.
My husband and I take jujutsu together several times a week. It is a very physical form of martial arts that often involves throws, rolls, and flying through the air. We admittedly often get a little sore from these workouts, so a rejuvenating sleep with as much pressure relief as possible was a priority.
Many organic mattresses I’d tried tended to be very firm and I wanted to find one that was supportive, but not overly firm.
On the other end of the spectrum, many organic memory foam mattresses can be too soft. Memory foam was developed my NASA to support astronauts as they adjusted to the force of gravity after being in space. Unfortunately, many memory foam mattresses are chemical-based and contain flame retardants. They can also be too soft for many people.
Of course, most of us don’t have an unlimited budget for a mattress. Especially in families, budget matters a lot and while safety was a top priority, budget was a big factor for us as well. (See budget notes on my top picks below.)
Organic Mattress Reviews & My Picks
With eight beds plus a crib in our home, we’ve had the chance to try out many natural and organic mattresses over the years. We tried many options for our king mattress and it has been quite the saga over the years.
To hopefully make your choice easier than ours was, I’ve ranked all the ones we’ve tried that meet my criteria below. I also included notes about chemicals, EMF exposure, price, and comfort under each listing. If a discount was available, I included that as well.
The mattress we picked may not end up being your top pick but I hope that my reviews (and fails) help you make an informed decision. I think that all of the mattresses below are great options and list my concerns with any of them as well as the things we love.
Please note that I am now an affiliate for several of these companies. We purchased our mattresses to try them and only signed up after purchasing a mattress so all reviews could be objective. This also means that if you should purchase a mattress based on my recommendation, I may make a small commission and I am grateful for your support.
Intellibed Mattress Review & Rating
We currently have an Intellibed mattress as our king bed. Intellibed uses a Gel Matrix in their mattresses that is made in America and doesn’t off-gas harmful chemicals. (If you have some time, check out the full story of how we finally settled on this and the summary of my 200+ hours of research here).
To be really clear, the mattress we chose is not certified organic but does contain safe materials according to my research. I also don’t believe that any one mattress is the right bed for every single person, but this one has worked best for us based on comfort and safety. They have a 60-day full money-back guarantee so we tried it before we had to make a final decision.
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Safety: Intellibed is not certified organic (my one complaint) but is tested to be non-off-gassing and inert. It does contain coils so EMFs can be a concern, especially for those who are very EMF sensitive. Their high-end model has three coil zones so EMFs may be of more concern with this one. We have their basic model and comfort was the main factor in our choice since my husband had back pain from other mattresses we tried.
Price: Range from about $2,700 for a basic twin up to $6,400 for a high-end king.
Comfort: Of all the mattresses we’ve tried (and we tried a LOT), Intellibed gets our highest comfort rating. Their “gel matrix” is what seems to provide the right mix of firm and soft and this same technology is used in burn units and hospitals to help avoid pressure sores.
Obasan Mattress Review & Rating
Obasan makes high quality GOTS and GOLS certified mattresses without inner springs. EMFs can be more problematic for children, so I wanted to avoid springs for the kids. Several of our kids have an Obasan Fundy 1.0 mattress and one of our crib mattresses is a Terra Nova 2.0.
I really like the price point of the baby and child mattresses from Obasan as they are some of the most budget friendly on this list with no real downsides. We’ve never tried the king mattress, but based on how comfortable the kids mattresses are, I’d say Obasan is another top choice. They also ship to Canada.
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (5 out of 5 for baby and kids)
Safety: These top the list for safety. GOLS and GOTS certifications mean that 95% of materials used are organic and they don’t contain springs so there are no EMF concerns. Another benefit if you have bunk beds — the Fundy 1.0 is a thin mattress so it is great for top bunks. Several twin mattresses we’ve tried have been too tall and met the top of the guard rail, making it easier for kids to roll off. The Fundy is just right.
Price: Range from about $1,100 for the Fundy 1.0 basic twin (what we have on kids’ beds) up to $6,000 for a top-of-the-line king ($7,100 with frame), with many options in between. Top pick for kids for this reason.
Discount: Use this link and the code WELLNESSMAMAKID to get a free wool mattress protector with any Fundy or crib mattress.
Comfort: The kids love how comfortable their mattresses are. It is important to note that the Fundy 1.0 mattresses are recommended for up to 150 pounds for maximum comfort. That said, visiting friends have slept in our kids’ bunk beds at times and said that the mattresses were comfortable. Our crib mattress has lasted through several babies and is still going strong. As I said, we’ve never tried the queen or king mattresses.
Essentia Mattress Review & Rating
Essentia is another high quality GOTS and GOLS certified mattress with several other independent lab tests. We had an Essentia for a couple of years but it ended up being too soft for my athletic husband. (I do think it would be an awesome choice for anyone who likes a soft memory foam type mattresses.) Of course we didn’t try every mattress they have, so there may be one that we would have loved. We tried the Dormeuse Fior, so if you are athletic and looking at an Essentia, consider one of their more firm choices.
I have their Comfort pillow and absolutely love it and still use it every night (and miss it when I travel).
Overall Rating: 4.2 out of 5
Safety: These top the list for safety. GOLS and GOTS mean that 95% of materials used are organic and they don’t contain springs so there are no EMF concerns.
Price: Range from about $2,100 for a basic twin up to $7,656 for a top-of-the-line king with many options in between. They are more pricey than some other options but are very high quality.
Discount: Occasional discounts and sales are available at this link.
Comfort: I found their mattress comfortable but it was too soft for my husband and made his back hurt over time. That said, they have many options we did not try that may have been more comfortable.
My Green Mattress Review & Rating
We have one of these mattresses on one of our guest bunk beds. These are GOLS, GOTS, and GREENGUARD certified. I slept on it one night to test it and found it comfortable. My Green Mattress mattresses are some of the most budget friendly, but my one major concern (especially for kids) is the innerpsring metal coils and the EMF risk. When the mattress arrived, it also had a slight off-gassing smell for a couple of days.
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 (due to coils in all mattresses)
Safety: Latex and cotton/wool are certified organic and safe but the springs carry potential EMF concerns.
Price: Range from $649 to $1,594 so very budget friendly for an organic mattress.
Discount: Occasional discounts and sales are available at this link.
Comfort: Seemed comfortable when I slept on. it. The kids seem to think Obasan mattresses are a little more comfortable but don’t complain about either one.
Other Great Organic Mattress Options
I have admittedly not had the chance to try every natural and organic mattress available. I’ve only reviewed the ones I’ve personally tried above. I also wanted to share a few others that meet the organic mattress criteria but I haven’t personally had a chance to try.
These mattresses are also organic and have been recommended by readers or personal friends:
- Naturepedic Organic Mattress: They have many organic options, some without springs. Prices range from $1,100 to $4,800. Available in some stores. My recommendation would be to only consider options without innersprings.
- Happsy: Prices range from $900 to about $1,600. All of their mattresses do seem to have springs so EMFs could be an issue.
Organic mattresses certainly aren’t cheap, but since we spend so much time in bed, investing in a high quality and safe mattress can have a big impact on health. As with any aspect of health, I’d encourage you to do your own thorough research before making a decision. Hopefully, my experience can be a helpful part of your research!
Have you switched to an organic mattress? If not, will you?