Winterizing the Bedroom--Tips for Making the Bedrooms Cozy

Looking for good ways of warming up a bed?

-Blankets: what types offer the most warmth?

Down comforters offer the best warmth to weight ratio. Down is rated by “fill power”, the higher the fill power number, the better the down. If you had a pile of down and you blew a fan across it, the lightest, whispiest feathers that would blow off first would be the ones with the highest fill power. The real benefit to getting a down comforter with a high fill power is that fewer fluffy feathers will fill the space and provide greater insulation power vs. a comforter that uses a lower fill power down. The lower fill power comforter would need to use more down in order to provide the same amount of warmth, so it would be a lot heavier.

A lot of people don’t like to have a real heavy comforter over them. The lighter comforter that uses the higher fill power down is more comfortable while providing more warmth.

-Sheets: advice on thread count? What's the most luxurious thread count? If on a budget, what's the most cost effective thread count that doesn't skimp too badly on comfort?

Thread count on sheets has been abused by the bedding industry. Once people got it into their head that the higher the thread count, the better, linen companies started creating higher and higher thread count sheets primarily for marketing reasons. In fact, sheets with 1000 thread count are typically not as comfortable as sheets with about 400 tc. It’s because the super high thread count linens become stiff and less breathable. Some companies mislead the public about the actual thread count. They might bend the truth by saying that since a particular thread has two strands, there are actually double the number of threads per inch, etc. There are exceptions to the rule, but 400 tc tends to be the optimal tc for comfort, warmth and breathability.

-Pillows: best types for comfort?

This is a tricky one as everyone has their own idea of what is comfortable to them. Materials like down and natural latex tend to be very comfortable to most people because they are not only very supple, but they are breathable and don’t get as hot as less breathable materials like poly foam or other synthetic fills. People with broader shoulders and side sleepers tend to need thicker pillows for proper support and smaller people and stomach sleepers benefit from thinner pillows. Ideally, if you are standing up with good posture, that is the same position that your neck and spine should be in when you are in bed in order for the muscles along your spine to relax and allow deep sleep. But keep in mind that “comfort is key”, so its ok to throw the text book recommendations out the window in order to go with whatever is most comfortable for you.

When it comes to allergens, what does one need to worry about? What are the best allergen-free alternatives?

Good question, because many people who think that they are allergic to common bedroom items like DOWN or LATEX are actually not. What typically causes an allergic reaction in bed are the dust mites and your skin cells that have accumulated in your old pillow and old mattress. Don’t quote me on this, but studies have shown that your pillow can actually double its own weight over the years as these dust mites, their excrement and your skin cells accumulate.

Another surprising fact is that 98% of people who think that they are allergic to down are not. They are allergic to the dust, dander and lanolin oils that are present on down, but some better quality down pillows are actually considered Hypo-Allergenic as the down is rinsed several times in spring water to cleanse it of the allergens so that most people can enjoy it allergy free.

Latex is another material that has gotten a bad rap. While it’s true that some people are sensitive to latex, that is typically only after years of direct contact. For example, doctors or nurses who wear latex gloves every day might develop a sensitivity to it. But there needs to be direct contact. The latex used in mattresses has several barriers between the latex core and the individual, so in the history of latex mattresses, no one has had a reaction to the latex. In fact, it’s not even the latex that some people are sensitive to, but the proteins that remain on the surface of latex as part of the manufacturing process. Better companies rinse the latex so that it is free of the allergy causing proteins.

Wool is another ingredient that is used in many mattresses that people tend to associate with allergies. But in order to have an allergic reaction to wool, you need to come in contact with it. That’s why when wool is used in a mattress, there are typically barriers between the wool and the surface of the mattress.

But even once you find the perfect pillow or the perfect mattress, the best way to “allergy proof” it is by sealing out the dust mites by using dust mite covers. These can come in a variety of fabrics and prices. On the lower end, there are synthetic fabrics that seal out dust mites, on the higher end, there are natural cotton covers that are so tightly woven that dust mites can’t get through. This way you can launder your sheets and mattress protector and kill the dust mites by drying everything on high heat while your mattress and pillows remain dust mite free.

Other hypo allergenic pillow fills like eucalyptus fiber exist, but in the end, using a dust might cover provides the best allergy control.

Mattresses: this is a big stressor for couples. What advice can you offer folks who have no idea what they want in a mattress.

My specialty. The mattress that will keep you warm and cozy during the winter is the same mattress that will allow you to sleep cooler in the summer. That’s because the coziest mattresses are the ones that are upholstered with natural materials like wool and cotton that provide great insulation while remaining very breathable.

Why do hikers wear wool socks? It’s because wool is a great insulator that regulates body temperature while at the same time it is fantastic at wicking away moister. The average sleeper loses about a pint of water every night from sweating and breathing. Wools pulls the moisture away from your body to keep you comfortable. This leads to more warmth in the colder months and cooler sleeping in the warmer months.

Unfortunately, natural materials tend to cost more than their synthetic counterparts, so most name brand mattress companies skimp on the natural materials. And unfortunately, there is a lot of “Green Washing” in the mattress industry. This means that many companies exaggerate the natural aspects of their mattresses for marketing reasons. There is no one regulating the industry so many companies bend the truth.

I remember the first time I took a tour of a name brand mattress factory. The sales rep who was leading me pointed out the ingredients as we walked by them. “This is our wool, this is our cashmere and this is our silk” I interrupted him point out that he was wrong as the giant rolls of fiber that he was pointing to all looked the same and they were all clearly a synthetic material. He said “Oh, obviously never been in a mattress factory before. They only need to be a small percentage of the actual ingredient in order to be called that ingredient”. I was stunned.

That’s what lead me to develop my own line of natural beds that can be found on my website and there are several other companies that provide true natural and true organic mattresses.

The focus of your article is on “warming up the bedroom”, but the coziest mattresses also happen to be the healthiest. Maybe this is material for a future article, but there has been a huge trend developing of the past few years to get healthier mattresses. This really got started in 2006 with the enactment of CFR Part 1633 which was a new fire resistant standard that was adopted by the mattress industry. Unfortunately, many companies took the path of “least expensive” fire barriers that contain carcinogenic chemicals. Wool is a natural fire barrier as it doesn’t burn, it just coals, but it is more expensive.

This has led to a split in the mattress industry between the companies that are building mattresses for the masses that use synthetic materials and the lowest cost components in an effort to beat the competition vs. the few companies that are working hard to build mattresses out of natural materials that will not only be healthier, but they also tend to be more comfortable and more supportive as the best materials are being used.

I can talk all day about this, so please feel free to email more questions or call my cell to discuss anything.


November 7 2013Permalink

College students cheating… with coffee

I love my coffee, Starbucks latte grande with the agave syrup my wife gave me. HOWEVER, I’m a one cup of coffee guy because beyond that, I start looking and acting like Bizarro Jeff :

I’m not crazy, I’m over-caffeinated.  If you need more than one cup a coffee a day, chances are you’re not sleeping well through the night. (surprised)

According to a report I heard on NPR, college students are guzzling coffee like it’s going out of style. In 2002, about 25 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds reported drinking coffee sometime within a two-week period. But by 2012, the percentage of young adults drinking coffee in that same time frame hit 39 percent.  And why do you think they are guzzling coffee? The students NPR interviewed gave lots of reasons for drinking java, including increasing demands on their time that lead to less sleep and the 24/7 culture of overstimulation.

“There are absolutely negative implications,” explains Amy Wolfson of the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, who has studied how caffeine influences sleep among adolescents.  “We know that REM sleep is needed and has positive implications for memory consolidation and learning,” says Wolfson. And if college students are getting too little sleep, or poorer quality sleep, Wolfson says, it’s likely to have negative implications for academic performance.

It’s a slippery slope. Not enough sleep, we turn to “quick fixes” like coffee and energy drinks, which in turn can keep us up at night if consumed too late in the day. So then we don’t sleep well again, and…you get the point. This is Coffee 101.

Typically, caffeine has a half-life of 2-12 hours, depending on your metabolism and body type. Therefore, having that late afternoon cup of joe can affect how you sleep later on.  For me personally, if I have a cup of coffee past 2pm, I wake up ready to catch up on missed episodes of Breaking Bad at 2am.

Bottom line, try and make a resolution to get more sleep every night, and don’t drink coffee or caffeinated drinks after 2pm. We can make an exception for finals and midterms, been there/done that.

January 16, 2013Permalink

Mattress Buying Tips

A lot of mattresses might have similar ingredients, but every brand and every model is going to feel different.  This is not for the benefit of the mattress store, but for you.  There are several criteria that I feel should be considered when buying a mattress.

The bottom line is comfort and no one should buy a mattress without trying it first to make sure that the support is correct for your body and preferences.  Everyone loves getting advice from trusted friends, family or internet review sites, but mattresses are such a personal item that you have to try it for yourself.  Everyone has their own opinion of what “comfortable” is.  You probably wouldn’t buy a car without checking it out first and you typically don’t spend the eight hours each day in your car as you will on your new mattress.

At Sleep etc., we strongly encourage our customers to research what they are buying. But be fair to yourself when collecting information about mattresses. Keep in mind that each person has unique and individual sleep needs. One person’s negative or positive experience with a particular mattress may not reflect your own experience due to your varying mattress requirements. Also keep in mind when reading reviews that while 1000 people may have had a positive experience with a particular mattress, it is the one person who had a negative experience who is most likely to write about it.

Read manufacturers websites with a grain of salt.  Keep in mind that every one of the 800 mattress manufacturers in the US are each going to hype their own, sometimes at the expense of their competition.  Don’t believe everything you read.

We suggest that you do your research and speak to your friends and family to help in your search, but don’t buy any mattress until you have tried it yourself and you feel comfortable that it will be the correct bed for your particular needs.

Spend time on the mattress at the store before you buy it and never order a mattress online because it’s impossible to know exactly how it will feel.  If an online mattress ships to you and you don’t like it, now what? What if there is a problem with it; who will take care of the issue? These are just a few of the things to think about with an online purchase. Additionally, prices on manufacturers’ websites are typically inflated because they encourage the consumers to shop at the local store that sells their product.

To get a good sense of a company’s track record with consumers, Google their name along with key words like “—— reviews” or “—- complaints”.  You’ll be surprised to see a clear pictures of some companies that have a long history of bending over backwards for their customers and a clear picture of mattress companies who have a reputation for being wonderful when they are selling a bed, but are far from helpful should there be a problem later.  Again, research is great, but please take the time to buy a mattress the right way from a store you trust.

July 16, 2012Permalink

Organic mattress prices vs non organic

It’s unfortunate that many large manufacturers have resorted to using the lowest cost materials in their mattresses, but that is how big business works.  When one large company switches to a lower cost component so that they can sell their beds for less than their competition, the other manufacturers feel compelled to follow to remain competitive.

We have opted to use only the highest quality components in our family run mattress business.  We make every bed by hand so that we can control the quality.  In fact, some of our mattresses will provide a useful life of more than 25 years and we guarantee it.  We use only organic materials in our Terra Bed line and we don’t just take our suppliers word on it.  We have inspected the farms that produce our cotton and we have petted the sheep that provide our wool.  Although I haven’t visited the managed forest where we source our sustainable wood, it’s on my list.

Quality costs more and you will pay more for an organic mattress than for its non-organic counterpart, but I feel the difference is a small price to pay for a more comfortable, more supportive, healthier bed.  I am biased.  I feel that my mattress is my most important piece of furniture.  If I don’t get a good night’s sleep, my entire day is affected.  My life is affected if the poor sleep goes on for an extended period.  Our bodies heal only while we are asleep.  That’s what sleep is for, it is our bodies way of repairing itself.  Lack of sleep leads to lower resistance against all diseases too.  I can’t stress enough how important solid, deep sleep is.  Sleep restores us.


One thought on “Organic mattress prices vs non organic

  1. That is so sad but true. When most giant mattress corporations make a change to their beds it is only because they found a way to make it for less money or to make it faster. A typical mas produced mattress like a Sealy Posturepedic has nothing natural in it and it takes only four minutes to build. In fact, when large companies like Sealy, Simmons and Serta list ingredients like wool or silk, it is not really true. They use layers of foam and Dacron type synthetic fiber. Some of the Dacron layers are sprinkled with silk or wool and as long as it is at least 5%, they are legally allowed to call it that.

    It’s disgusting what is allowed. Large agricultural food companies do the same thing, take “pink Slime” for example.

    My advice is to buy local products from companies that you trust.

1 Comment

Shared stories

Many of my customers have shared their own stories of what led them to seek out a healthy mattress.  I was originally brought to specialize in organic mattresses because of the obvious health benefits, but everyone has their own priorities and the following is a list of the most compelling reasons that have been shared with me.

Healthy materials – When given a choice to surround yourself and your family with known carcinogens or not.  Most people lean towards “not”.

Better for environment – Organic farmers don’t use chemical pesticides and they practice sustainable methods.

Fair Trade- Organic farming promotes better working conditions

Supporting local businesses – Many Organic mattresses are handmade locally adding to the local economy and reducing the need to transport mattresses great distances. (I don’t know of any organic mattresses that are being imported from China)

We have assembled the largest selection of organic and natural mattresses in New England and we invite people to visit our two Connecticut showrooms to bed test. We understand that our beds aren’t for everyone, but we are happy to provide an education about how to find the mattress that is the correct match for “you” even if you don’t plan to purchase from us. If visiting a showroom isn’t practical, we suggest you call, email or post a question or comment to this blog. We are truly happy to help.


March 22, 2012Permalink

Fire Retardant Controversy

In 2007, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) established a new mattress fire retardant standard (CFR Part 1633). The intentions were great, but many companies have taken the traditional path of keeping costs down at the expense of the consumer’s health. Our health and that of our children. The chemical industry jumped at the chance to provide low cost flame retardants to the mattress industry. While natural flame retardants like wool are readily available, most larger bed companies have opted to use lower cost fire retardants that contain known carcinogens such as modacrylic fiber, a material that contains antimony oxide and melamine resin (which contains formaldehyde).

A quote from an article in Mother Jones sums it up well. [Heather Stapleton, an environmental chemist at Duke University, says there's simply not enough data to determine whether low levels of these chemicals will eventually make people sick. "It's the dose that makes the poison," she says. "If they're not getting out, maybe it's not a problem—but we don't know. There are plenty of lab studies that show that these compounds are harmful. It's just a question of what levels people are exposed to."]

A recent Swedish study has now determined that these compounds are absolutely being absorbed into the body. Traces of the chemical fire retardants have been detected in the breast milk of new mothers.

While there is no absolute proof that mattresses can harm our health due to the impossible tracking of “long term effects”, I feel it’s silly to take a chance when healthier alternatives are readily available.

March 9, 2012Permalink

Why Consider an Organic Mattress – Our First Blog Post. By Jeff Klein

My family has been making and selling mattresses since 1947. We have always featured a large selection of beds with natural materials because they are more breathable and durable, but it wasn’t until the birth of my own daughter in 2007 that I really thought about how a person breathes in and absorbs everything that they are exposed to.  This has a cumulative effect throughout one’s entire life. We spend about 8 hours each night on our mattress, a third of our life. So it goes without saying that our mattress is the most important piece of furniture in our home.

A comfortable and supportive mattress will lead to a more restorative sleep so that you wake up feeling more rested.  A natural or organic mattress will ensure that you will not be breathing in harmful substances.  Even if the horrifying claims about the chemicals found in traditional mattresses are exaggerated, the choice of mattress was clear for my own family and my goal is to make affordable, comfortable and healthy mattresses available to everyone.

Jeff Klein, President


January 9, 2012Permalink