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 www.OrganicSleep.com 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.