Creating a low-tox space, be it your living area, office or bedroom is such a beautiful gift you can give yourself. Earlier this year, Roy and I moved house and we decided we wanted to make our new home into our very own ‘low-tox’ bubble. But, unless all your furniture, paint, carpet and flooring are all organic, eco-friendly and pure, chances are there is some moderate to substantial off-gassing going on. Off-gassing is when synthetic materials or chemicals naturally degrade, releasing harmful particles into the air. These types of indoor air pollutants can wreak havoc on your health, and have an especially strong effect during your sleep since the body (and the brain!) works extra hard at night to rid itself of toxins that build up throughout the day. So the very first thing we did to start creating our very own non-toxic bubble was to focus on our bedroom as that’s where we spend the majority of our time, sleeping. Your bedroom should be a healing sanctuary, not a place that robs you of the rest your body requires for optimum health. The first thing we did was load our bedroom (and home) with air purifying plants to improve the air quality and our health!
Add Greenery for Air Purification
When it comes to having air purifying plants in your home, the rule of thumb is the more the better. NASA recommends 3-4 plants per room. Indoor plants can reduce indoor air pollution, reduce stress, increase productivity and lower mental fatigue when they’re in your home or office space. They can also help to boost your mood. But let’s be honest, you don’t need me to tell you how much lighter and invigorated you feel when there is something beautiful and alive in your space. The snake plant, rubber plant and fiddle leaf are three of my favourite plants to have in our home and bedroom because of the amazing health benefits they provide.
Snake Plant (or Mother-In-Law’s Tongue)
We have a few snake plants all over the house because they don’t require much maintenance at all. They can go for weeks without water and seem to thrive in low light conditions, but I think they do appreciate some sun and fresh air every now and then. The snake plant is known as one of the top air purifying plants because it removes at least 107 known air pollutants, including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, chloroform and nitrogen monoxide. Snake plants also produce copious amounts of oxygen throughout the night. Most plants do this during the day, but the snake plant is one of only a few plants that release oxygen into the air at night, making it the perfect plant to have in your bedroom as you sleep.
Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastic)
Their large leaves eliminate bacteria and mold spores in the air. They can also absorb airborne chemicals and break them down as well as remove the following toxins rendering them harmless; xylene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. They also absorb exhaled carbon dioxide and convert it to breathable oxygen.
Fiddle Leaf (Ficus Lyrata)
Because of its broad leaves, the fiddle leaf is extremely efficient at purifying air so it’s a great option to have indoors in your bedroom and/ or office space. Another benefit of the fiddle leaf is that it helps control humidity. Just be sure to put this plant in a bright and sunny room, as it needs a lot of it. I find that the best way to care for it is to put it in the shower every 2 weeks and give it a good ‘shower’, then let it sit in there for a few hours. Once it’s dry, put it back in its original spot and you'll have a thriving, beautiful, air-purifying plant.
Declutter Your Bedroom
If I start the day waking up in a cluttered room, I feel anxious, like I’m already behind schedule and it doesn’t exactly set a good mood for the day ahead. A cluttered room leads to a cluttered mind and vice versa. Mess equals stress. It really does determine my mindset for the rest of the day. On the other hand a decluttered bedroom and the look of simplicity makes me feel calm and at ease and makes me want to be creative. Also, the less stuff there is in a room, the less stuff you have to clean, clear away and maintain. Cleaning and moving your stuff is a vicious circle. When you have less stuff in the room you won’t be spending all your time moving things around, replacing it and think about where to put it all the time. You will be able to focus better on the things that really matter. I also find that clutter leads to procrastination. However, once you step into a de-cluttered room you will be able to get things done without being distracted or overwhelmed or even overstimulated by so much mess. To walk into a room that reflects simplicity and calmness is something to be enjoyed. It makes you want to read a book, write, create or think about the things to come. I get inspired in an environment where there is enough space to let my imagination run wild so this is why our bedroom is so minimalist.
Choose a Non-Toxic Mattress
Your mattress may very well be the most toxic item in your bedroom right now. It can also be the toughest one to switch out because of the cost factor, but when you consider that you spend roughly 8 hours per night sleeping or ⅓ of your life asleep, that’s a lot of time spent snuggled up against your potentially toxic mattress.
What Happens to Your Body When You’re Sleeping?
When you sleep, your immune system does its major repair work. Your body’s cells regenerate, rejuvenate, detoxify, and your pineal gland produces melatonin. The pineal gland is a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain. It helps to regulate sleep and contributes to many vital bodily processes. Poor sleep undermines the ability of your cells and organs to perform these processes, and healthy cells can be damaged. Unhealthy cells can proliferate, leading to infections, mutations, and neural disorders. If your sleep space is not conducive to the deep sleep phase, your immune system can become overburdened and you’ll be more likely to get sick. So this is why it’s important you consider replacing your mattress.
Why Are Conventional Mattresses Toxic?
Memory foam mattresses can be the biggest offender because they’re made with a variety of toxic chemicals. They also break down over time, causing major off-gassing of vaporous chemicals, into the air you breathe. Plus, they’re both derived from highly flammable petroleum-based materials. By law, all mattresses sold in Australia are required to withstand an open flame for 70 seconds. How do they do this? In order to pass the open flame test, mattress manufacturers spray their mattresses with a toxic cocktail of fire-retardant chemicals as the final step in their manufacturing process. Some of the common fire-retardant chemicals include:
Boric acid – can cause neurologic and reproductive damage
Formaldehyde – a known carcinogen which can cause respiratory-tract irritation
Antimony – a heavy metal that can cause heart and lung damage, and a possible carcinogen
Melamine resin - a known carcinogen
Vinylidene chloride - a known carcinogen, which can cause eye and respiratory irritation and organ damage
Methyl benzene - a nervous system disruptor
One of the most frustrating things about buying a mattress is the lengths that mattress companies go to in order to hide the toxic chemicals from you. Unfortunately, mattress companies are not required to disclose which flame retardants they use. And it’s especially difficult to know exactly what’s inside a mattress when the company is using a “proprietary” formulation. So unless a mattress company is explicitly eliminating the use of chemical flame retardants, and using a natural products like wool, they’re most likely using harmful chemicals.
The good news is that we have way more options these days! They each come with their pros and cons, as do most things in life, but one thing is the same with all of these options: they’re not cheap. But again, like everything in life, you get what you pay for. And really, if you’re already in the market for a new mattress, some of these non-toxic options may not be too far out of your budget, just make sure you do your own research to find an option you’re personally comfortable with.
When we moved house, we got rid of our old toxic mattress that was who knows how many years old! So I started my hunt for a new non-tox mattress or as low-tox as I could get. At first Roy was pretty hesitant to spend that kind of money on a mattress but I gave him all the facts and we ended up buying a mattress from Zentai. We’ve been sleeping on this mattress for the past year and we absolutely love it, it’s so comfortable and supportive.
I chose their mattresses because they are made from 100% pure natural rubber. I also like that no synthetic latex, fillers, or extenders are used in the manufacturing process. The latex is non toxic, non carcinogenic, hypo-allergenic, and anti microbial (all natural properties of 100% natural latex) and bacteria, mildew, and mould cannot live in latex. We also got a mattress topper from them because they apply the same care when choosing other components for their mattresses: all the quilting and wadding materials are 100% natural. They use 100% new New Zealand wool for the wadding and all covers are produced from either 100% cotton, or from bamboo. If you’re interested in reading more about their mattresses, click here for more info.
The other thing we looked into was our bed linen. Other than plants, one of the most affordable and simplest options to creating a low-tox bedroom is to replace the sheets and bed cover that your body is in contact with daily. Choose natural fabrics like organic cotton; hemp/ organic cotton blends; silk and linen. Cotton is one of the most highly sprayed crops, so organic is the only way to avoid those pesticides.
Reduce Electronics & Blue Light
Studies show that exposures to electronics that emit electromagnetic fields – or EMFs can interfere with the production of melatonin and affect the body’s circadian rhythm. EMF exposures in the bedroom can also undermine your sleep cycles and cause any of the following symptoms;
Tiredness upon awakening
Muscle pain and weakness
Weaken your immune system
The feeling of tingles in the body
Now I’m not coming from a higher than thou place. As someone who’s trying to run an online business, I’m slave to wifi like the next person, but I am mindful, and really do try to take the time to fully ‘switch off’ more and more. At the very least, i’ll walk to butchers to pick up some fresh meat or take a walk to the beach and leave my phone behind. I also like to have a phone detox day (usually every Sunday) and spend the whole day outside connecting to nature and ‘resetting’.
Simple Tips On How To Reduce Your EMF’s & Blue Light Exposure
Try to unplug all of your electronics such as your laptop, phone, alarm clock or lamp during sleeping hours, especially those near your bed. Wired electrical devices are one of the most important but overlooked elements in sleep disturbance. They emit surprisingly strong electrical fields, even when turned off.
Switch off your phone or try keeping it outside of the bedroom while you sleep. Or at a minimum turn your phone to airplane mode. Otherwise, it will generate EMFs while you sleep, which can disrupt your sleep pattern and undermine your immune system.
No screens at least one hour before bed to reduce your blue light exposure. Use an app like f.lux which gradually changes the colour of your computer or phone screen to match the time of day (bright during the day, and warmer at night). You could also get yourself a pair of blue light blocking glasses and wear those if you’re watching TV or a movie before bedtime.
Use regular, soft light bulbs, not fluorescent lighting.
Diffuse Essential Oils (Instead of Toxic Candles)
If your sleep is in need of a serious boost, why not try diffusing some essential oils. Sure, they smell amazing, but their benefits go beyond their scents. Not only do essential oils help you sleep better, relax better and even think better, but they can also diminish anxiety, lower blood pressure, and relieve stress that builds up throughout the day. You can apply them in a variety of ways: through a diffuser (my favourite), mixed into a cream or shaken up with a base oil and spritzed onto yourself or pillow before bedtime. One of the most widely reputed natural sources for inducing a peaceful slumber is Lavender oil. I like to put a drop onto the soles of my feet before bedtime or put a few drops in my diffuser. I also love using essential oil blends such as Instant Calm, Balance & Harmony and/ or Peace & Meditation. It’s easy to add just a few drops of any of these oils to a bit of water in your essential oil diffuser, set by your bedside, and you’ll be in dreamland in no time.
So there you have it. That’s exactly how I have created our very own low-tox bedroom sanctuary. Our bedroom is my favourite room in the house because it’s minimalist, clutter free, full of life giving plants, beautiful smelling essential oils and it feels like more of a healing sanctuary.