(855) 321-7473

M-F 9am-4pm Eastern

healthy sustainable mattress guide

Sustainable Mattresses: A Complete Guide

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Dec 22, 2020

If you get at least eight hours of sleep a day, then you are spending a full third of your lifetime on some mattress (or couch, for those nights when you get kicked out of the bedroom). Unfortunately, many beds on the market today are made from highly toxic materials that could cause long-term health problems. A comfortable night’s sleep is a high price to pay for breathing in toxic chemicals for eight hours every night.

Table of Contents

  1. What Are Mattresses Made Of?
  2. Common Mattress Types
  3. What Is a Memory Foam Mattress?
  4. What Is a Gel Memory Foam Mattress?
  5. What Is a Innerspring Mattress?
  6. What Is a Hybrid Mattress?
  7. What Is a Latex Mattress?
  8. What Is a Wool Mattress?
  9. What Is a Cotton Mattress?
  10. Can a Bad Mattress Cause Health Problems?
  11. What's the Lifespan of a Mattress?
  12. When Should You Replace Your Mattress?
  13. How Can You Tell if a Mattress Is Sustainable?
  14. The Best Sustainably Certified Mattress Brands

What Are Mattresses Made Of?

Most mattresses today are made from a variety of synthetic materials. The layers of a mattress are like layers of an onion, with each layer made with different types of materials. Open coil and pocket spring mattresses have inner coils covered by a soft cushioned layer. Memory foam mattresses have several sheets of varying density foam. Before choosing the best mattress for you, it is important to know what each type of mattress is made from.

Avocado Green Mattresses
Avocado Green Mattresses. Photo Credit: Avocado

Common Mattress Types

When shopping for a mattress online or in-store, you are immediately introduced to what seems like endless options, all of which have their own pros and cons. The countless options often drive mattress shoppers to purchase their previous mattress, if they enjoyed it, or a different brand if they were unhappy. What mattress is right for you? How often should you replace a mattress? What should you consider when buying a mattress? Is one mattress type healthier than another? Let's take a look!

What Is a Memory Foam Mattress?

These popular mattresses claim to be the most comfortable, as the foam contours to the shape of your body. Memory foam mattresses are known to relieve aches, pains, and pressure while sleeping by evenly distributing weight across the body. However, memory foam mattresses are made almost entirely from synthetic polyurethane molding.

What Is a Gel Memory Foam Mattress?

This type of mattress is similar to the Memory Foam models, but the foam is made from gel beads and polyurethane. Some manufacturers incorporate natural gel sources, such as the copolymer gels made from mineral oil used by Intellibed. Gel memory foam mattresses are breathable and reduce the head effect common in traditional mattresses.

What Is a Innerspring Mattress?

Innerspring mattresses are made with a dense layer of steel or metal coils covered by either a synthetic or a superior natural cushion. These mattresses are available in a variety of densities, levels of support, and pressure relief.

What Is a Hybrid Mattress?

Hybrid mattresses pair foam and innerspring mattresses with a coil support system sandwiched between two layers of foam. These mattresses provide a traditional mattress feel coupled with pressure relief for the sleeper.

What Is a Latex Mattress?

Latex mattresses have been around since the 1950s. These mattresses were less comfortable than the modern memory foam alternative; however, many manufacturers have incorporated layering technology to relieve pressure, aches, and pains. Latex can be sourced from natural and renewable sources, namely from rubber tree sap. Certain manufacturers such as Essentia have begun to produce Latex Foam options that offer memory foam comfort from natural, human-made ingredients.

What Is a Wool Mattress?

Wool mattresses are made from sheep wool, which is naturally fire retardant, does not contain chemical additives, and naturally wicks moisture. Wool mattresses are also known to hold their loft and crimp longer than a traditional mattress.

What Is a Cotton Mattress?

Cotton mattresses are made from 100% natural cotton stuffed inside a fabric covering. Cotton mattresses are soft, comfortable, and highly breathable, helping to regular body temperatures during sleep. While there are multiple advantages, cotton mattresses can be prone to dust mites, bed bugs and can bunch up over time leading to hip and shoulder plains.

Essentia Mattress
Essentia Mattress. Photo Credit: Essentia

Can a Bad Mattress Cause Health Problems?

A quality mattress should offer you allow you to enjoy a restful night’s sleep without exposing you to harmful chemical, volatile organic compounds, or other carcinogens. There are numerous and severe health side effects associated with sleep deprivation, including an increased likelihood of heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and high blood pressure. For people who suffer from poor blood circulation, particular mattresses can also improve your circulation by increasing the number of pressure points where your body touches the bed.

Orthopaedic Health Risks

The wrong type of mattress can aggravate lingering aches and pains for people who suffer from back pain and other orthopedic health problems. One recent study by the Journal of Canadian Chiropractic Association found that the force of gravity can deform soft tissues when the body is resting on a mattress. Mattresses that incorporate different types of support (such as lumbar supports) help distribute this force more uniformly throughout the body and decrease the likelihood of spinal problems.

Health Risks from Air Quality

Another significant health risk associated with mattresses is the off-gassing of dangerous synthetic chemicals used in the manufacture of certain types of mattresses. United States law requires mattresses to meet specific anti-inflammability requirements. Thus, mattress manufacturers coat their beds in different kinds of flame-retardants, many of which are highly toxic. 

PBDEs or polybrominated diphenyl ethers have been banned since 2004 due to serious health concerns but might still be lurking in your older mattress. These chemicals have been proven to cause learning disabilities and impair cognitive functioning. Unfortunately, many mattress manufacturers have replaced PBDEs with organophosphate flame-retardants (OPFRs). Of these, many are suspected carcinogens or neurotoxins.

Because foam mattresses are highly flammable, they have to have some flame retardant, which will undoubtedly off-gas into your home. Unfortunately, many of the major mattress manufacturers will not divulge information related to the types of flame-retardants they use, considering them to be “trade secrets.”

Alternatives Sleeping Solutions

Fortunately, several companies offer 100% organic mattress options if you are looking for a completely natural alternative. Another option worth exploring is trading in your mattress for a Japanese futon. This “minimalist” sleeping solution has been a staple of oriental culture for thousands of years. Today, you can find 100% organic cotton futons. These futons are great for tiny homes and studio apartments. They can essentially be stored away during the day, thus allowing your sleeping area to transform into a study or living room during the day.

Brentwood Home Mattress
Brentwood Home Mattress. Photo Credit: Brentwood Home

What's the Lifespan of a Mattress?

The average expected lifespan of a mattress is 8 years. Mattresses made with high-quality materials are likely to last longer, and some manufacturers offer warranties from 10 to 25 years. It's important to note that your mattress's mileage will depend on use and you should always follow the manufacturer's direction regarding maintenance and proper support.

When Should You Replace Your Mattress?

We spend roughly one-third of our day on a mattress, yet we seldom consider when or how often it should be replaced. Your mattress should be replaced if you notice noisy springs, experience aches, pains, soreness, or numbness, there are visible sagging spots, or if new allergy or asthma symptoms emerge.

How Can You Tell if a Mattress Is Sustainable?

With the creative product marketing that we are constantly exposed to today, navigating the mattress market can be challenging. While many claim to have the safest and most comfortable sleep, some companies have gone the extra step to certify their mattresses to stand out from the rest independently. The certifications you should look for may depend on the type of mattress you choose and what materials were used during manufacturing.

GREENGUARD Gold and OEKO-TEX are some of the most stringent and known certifications that apply to most mattresses. Still, there are other independent certifications you can look for. If you're currently looking for a natural latex mattress, you should be on the lookout for eco-INSTITUT®, and Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) certified mattresses. Wool mattresses that have earned the OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 certification have taken additional measures to select and test all materials for harmful substances to ensure they pose no health risk. If you're shopping for a 100% organic cotton mattress, look for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification.

The Best Sustainably Certified Mattress Brands

With the explosion of e-commerce in recent years, numerous companies are offering sustainably certified, direct-to-consumer mattresses. These exclusively online companies offer mattresses that are much less expensive than what you will find at the furniture store. Many offer free shipping and up to 100-night sleep trials before finalizing the purchase.

Essentia Tatami Memory Foam Mattress
Essentia Tatami Memory Foam Mattress. Photo Credit: Essentia

Essentia Tatami

With a GOTS certified organic cover, the Tatami is a multi-layer latex mattress. The mattress is impervious to dust mites as it does not use wool or fiber batting and doesn't contain proteins known to trigger allergies. The Tatami is made in Essentia's GOLS, and GOTS certified factory and made with the highest quality natural and organic components. No dangerous toxins, off-gassing, or chemical flame retardants commonly found in many synthetic mattresses. The Tatami retails for $1,899 for a Twin and $2,699 for a Queen. The mattress is also available in Twin XL, Full, King, and Cal King.

Nature's Embrace Hevean 10 Latex Mattress
Nature's Embrace Hevean 10 Latex Mattress. Photo Credit: Nature's Embrace

Nature's Embrace - Hevean 10 Latex Mattress

Nature's Embrace mattresses are made by blending multiple layers of pure Dunlop latex sourced Kottayam region of India, providing edge-to-edge support. Nature's Embrace mattresses are GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard) certified and manufactured without any synthetic latex or fillers. Each mattress offers a variety of lofts and level of support. A pinhole pattern added during manufacturing allows for increased airflow regulates the beds' temperature for a balanced sleep. Nature' Embrace offers mattresses in various sizes, including Twin, Twin Xl, Double, Queen, and King.

Sweet Zzz Natures Novel Latex Mattress
Natures Novel Latex Mattress. Photo Credit: Sweet Zzz

Sweet Zzz Natures Novel Latex Mattress

Made with natural Talalay latex, Natures Novel Latex Mattresses are hypoallergenic, eco-friendly, and extremely durable. This mattress is made in the United States and is Class I Oeko-Tex certified, the highest possible rating. The trees are not harmed during the harvesting processes and are productive for 25 years. During production, no ozone-depleting substances, chemical fire retardants, or chemical adhesives are used in the mattresses. The mattresses ship within 15-25 days and are available in medium-soft and firm.

Holy Lamb Organics
Holy Lamb Organics. Photo Credit: Holy Lamb Organics

Holy Lamb Organics

Holy Lamb Organics makes mattresses from 100% wool that is sourced from family farmers. The lanolin in wool is a natural flame retardant meaning that wool mattresses do not require any added chemical flame retardant. Even the superior textile is made from 100% wool.

Avocado Green Mattresses
Avocado Green Mattresses. Photo Credit: Avocado

Avocado Green Mattresses

Designed in Hoboken and handmade in Los Angeles, Avocado Green Mattresses are made with 100% certified organic materials that are natural and non-toxic. Avocado is a registered B Corp, Climate Neutral Certified®, and the 2020 Pinnacle Award Winner from 1% for the Planet® for advancing environmentally conscious, ethical, and sustainable business practices. Avocado offers GOLS organic certified latex sustainably harvested from their own organic rubber farms and GOTS organic certified wool. They also offer a 25-year warranty structure as a 10-year full replacement value warranty with an additional 15 years of prorated coverage.

Birch Natural Mattress by Helix
Birch Natural Mattress by Helix. Photo Credit: Birch

Birch Natural Mattress by Helix

Birch Natural Mattresses are made with high-quality natural materials and are layered and designed with specific densities to produce the desired firmness and contour. Birch mattresses come with an all-natural cotton cover, hygroscopic wool, and breathable Talalay latex to improve airflow and regulate temperature while you sleep. Birch Natural Mattresses are GREENGUARD Gold & GOTS Certified as they are free of polyurethane-based foams and harsh chemicals.

Brentwood Home Mattress
Brentwood Home Mattress. Photo Credit: Brentwood Home

Brentwood Home

Brentwood Home mattresses have been sustainably manufactured in Los Angeles since 1987. A partner of Carbonfund to offset its footprint, the mattresses are made with 100% GOLS certified organic latex, 100% GOTS certified organic cotton, 100% GOTS certified organic wool from New Zealand. Brentwood Home prides itself in directly sourcing natural, organic, and non-toxic materials following rigorous health and environmental responsibility standards. They are available in Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, & Cal King and carry a 1-year sleep trial and a 25-year warranty

Naturelle Grand Bed
Naturelle Grand Bed. Photo Credit: Naturelle

Naturelle Organic Beds - Grand Bed

While many latex mattresses use blended latex, polyfoam base, and latex toppers, Naturelle mattresses are 100% pure natural organic latex. The 10" Grand Bed mattresses contain no gel, petro-chemicals, noxious odors, no heat-absorbing memory foams, and no springs. Naturelle uses Talalay and Dunlop latex and has earned certifications from ECO - GOLS, Carbon Certification, and Oeko Tex.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-11-23T17:28:42+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.