The North American sleep industry is being turned on its head. Traditional brick-and-mortar coil mattress bed stores now compete with a growing online mattress trend driven by sleepers who research their buying decisions and make purchases based on social media and online reviews, and not by awkward 15-second lie-downs on bare mattresses in public. New mattress companies offer mattresses made of safer and more comfortable materials that provide improved sleep, offer multi-week trial periods, a more efficient method of delivery, and hassle-free returns.
Sleeping with Bacteria
When we crawl into bed at night, we think about our warmth and comfort in our smooth sheets and cozy blankets, and not about the microscopic organisms that live in our bedding and our mattresses. In a Daily Mail article, Dr. Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University's Langone Medical Centre, says that "bed sheets can accumulate a horrifying array of dead skin, bacteria, fungus, mites, and even feces", plus any dirt and sweat on your body that is transferred to your bed, even after one night.
To prevent an unnecessary amount of dirt and bacteria building up in your sheets, Dr. Tierno suggests washing your sheets at least once a week, and advises that people invest in protective and impermeable mattress and pillow covers to prevent any additional dirt from building up.
In a fascinating but queasy study on bedding and mattresses by Amerisleep, a U.S. mattress company, data showed that after a week of use, pillow cases had 17,442 times more bacteria than a toilet seat and sheets had 24,631 times more bacteria than a bathroom door knob. The study showed that after a week of use, bedding contained between three and five million colony-forming units (CFUs) of bacteria per square inch - and that's just washable bedding. Think about how many CFUs are in the mattress you've slept on for years.
Mattresses can be spot cleaned and vacuumed, as anyone who has had bedbugs knows, but mattress maintenance is limited. A local CBS station in the U.S. produced a segment about their tests for bacteria on mattresses of different ages, from new to 80 years old. The results were surprising: the 80-year-old mattress was the cleanest of all, with just a minimal amount of bacteria. The reason? Likely due to the use of a protective mattress pad that covered the decades-old mattress.
Many people don't realize that our mattresses are loaded with bacteria that we bring to bed with us: bacilli and gram-positive cocci - the latter can be the source of staph infections like strep throat and pneumonia. This is not to say that people will develop illnesses from dirty linens and mattresses, but for most of us, we want to avoid bacteria where we can.
Besides bacteria, the Asthma Society of Canada warns against dust mites which live off the two pounds of dead skin we lose each year - much of it while we sleep. Some people are allergic to these mites that live in our mattresses and pillows, so it is essential to cover your mattress with a breathable quality cover to keep the dust mites, dead skin cells, bacteria, and other microscopic nasties out.
As great as they sound however, mattress covers carry limitations: they can be expensive, they can limit or eliminate mattress breathability (which can affect cooling properties of a mattress), and mattress covers can limit comfort if crunchy, plasticky waterproof materials are used, even if it's covered with soft fabric.
Are specific textiles superior against bacterial growth? It turns out that silver is the material of choice to keep your mattress clean.
Ancient Phoenicians kept water, wine, and vinegar in silver jugs to keep these liquids fresh, and since that time, modern scientists have discovered why.
"Quite simply, silver interrupts the bacteria cell's ability to form the chemical bonds essential to its survival," says the Silver Institute. "These bonds protect the cell's physical structure so when bacteria meets silver, it literally falls apart."
A Canadian non-profit organization, the Infection Prevention Strategy, published a study of silver-embedded textiles and its success of reducing pathogens and bacterial growth. Their findings show that silver-embedded fabric "decreased the microbial load by over 99.9 percent following a 24-hour exposure. The use of silver embedded fabrics provides a distinct advantage over untreated textiles."
Of the new generation of foam mattresses, Silk and Snow, is an innovative, game-changing Canadian mattress company that has got mattress cleanliness at the top of mind. Their mattresses are constructed with an easy off, zippered covering made with, you guessed it, a silver-embedded antimicrobial textile to prevent bacterial growth. Though the whole mattress cannot be washed, their coverings can and this should appeal to even the most hypochondriacal of us.
New mattress companies offer mattresses constructed from new and updated materials that offer new options for a better sleep and a cleaner sleeping experience. Part of that improved sleep is about the cooling properties of foam mattresses. Instead of sweating through the night and creating an environment for bacteria to multiply further, foam mattresses allow a consistent temperature. Current leaders in the online mattress industry offer their own unique cooling solutions.
U.S. company, Leesa.com offers mattresses with 2" of cooling Avena® foam, covered with soft, cool polyester-lycra fabric. Casper's mattresses are topped with a breathable "open-cell" foam layer to keep the body cool. The first layer of Silk and Snow's foam mattress provides a cooler sleep surface, thirteen times better than conventional memory foam and sixteen times better than latex.
Our skin is porous and absorbent, and spending each night soaking up whatever we're laying on should be a concern to all of us. For those of us mindful of our health as well as our ecological footprint, modern foam mattresses are made of materials that carry environmental certifications and other safeguards.
For instance, U.S. Casper mattresses are covered with fire-resistant silica thread "socks" instead of chemical fire retardants. According to Treehugger.com, the knit sock is made from silica-based yarns wrapped in synthetic fibers that will char when burned, but "the silica core holds everything together so that a char barrier is formed, subduing flames". Silk and Snow mattresses are non-toxic with environmental certifications. Their CertiPUR-US® foams are made without ozone depletors, chemical flame retardants, heavy metals, and formaldehyde.
It's been a long time since the mattress industry has been shaken up. A new generation of health and sleep comfort is upon us, and the online mattress concept is in line to become the new norm. Sweet dreams are made of safer materials and an improved and more comfortable sleep. How could anyone disagree?
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