Small Details Can Help 
Achieve Deep Restorative Sleep

The Bedroom & Environmental Illness

by Sheila Cole
UPdate December 1999

Question: I have just been diagnosed with environmental illness and my physician says the bedroom is the most important room in the house to start making changes. How can I do that?

Shiela Cole, health educator,  responds:

     The bedroom is the room where you spend the greatest number of hours in a day. While you sleep your body recovers at the cellular level. So to maximize healing potential and recoup energy you want to create as pure a space as possible. This means eliminating chemicals, moulds, viruses, bacteria, dust and dust mites.

     To address the chemical problem, all perfumes, scented candles, potpourris and other air fresheners should be eliminated. This also includes books, magazines, and newspapers, which off-gas chemicals from the various inks, dyes, perfume inserts, etc. If you read in bed, simply put your reading material outside the room before sleeping.
 Of course your bedding needs to be chemically free. One hundred percent cotton sheets (even organic cotton which is free of pesticides) are a good idea, as are wool blankets if you can tolerate them. Fabrics which are permanent pressed, shrink proof, water repellent and the like contain finishes that combine formaldehyde resin directly with the fibre, making the formaldehyde irremovable. Polyester/cotton blends and various synthetic fabrics will leave a chemical trail in the air and against your skin. Cotton curtains are recommended as they can be washed often to minimize dust and chemical levels.

      Mattresses are a challenge since they are treated with chemicals to make them flame resistant (by law). With a doctor's prescription you can have a mattress made which is chemical free. Or you can wrap your mattress in barrier cloth, although it can be difficult to find, to minimize chemicals, dust mites, etc. Some people create their own mattresses with myriad layers of older cotton and wool bedding.

     It is preferable energetically to sleep in a wooden bed rather than metal. Wooden furniture should be solid, as opposed to pressed wood, laminated or the like which off-gas formaldehyde and other chemicals. For this reason furnishings should be kept to a bare minimum. Even storage of clothes should be minimized. Other than items which are worn frequently, everything else is better kept in another room.

     Dust and dust mites are the bane of many people with sensitivities. Hardwood floors are highly recommended as they can be dusted frequently. Carpets are harbingers of dust, mites, moulds, viruses and bacteria. Dusting must be done regularly (even daily if possible). To avoid sleeping in a chemical cloud, use an unscented, non-toxic detergent and skip scented fabric softeners and dryer strips when laundering your bedding. The mattress can be vacuumed and pillows may be put in the clothes dryer to kill off mites and discourage mould. Dust covers for pillows and mattresses are very helpful. Dust mites and moulds flourish in damp places, so fold down the covers for a few hours each day to allow your bed to dry and air. Tell everyone I said not to make your bed! Just kidding.

     Sunlight has hygienic and curative effects so let it shine in your room whenever possible. If you can have a cross draft from windows on two sides of the room, this is ideal, assuming the room faces away from the street. Those bothered by pollen and airborne particulates may have to keep the window closed and rely on an air cleaning device. If you do not need, want or cannot afford a whole-house air filtration system, a small one-room unit can service the bedroom only.

     The bedroom needs to be in a dry area of the home to keep it mould free. Closets should be well aired. Shoes (which can be damp from wear) should be kept elsewhere. Some people leave a light on in the closet as a mould deterrent. Heat cuts through mould, so give your space a bit of extra heat on cool, damp days. Check around windows and other areas, for any signs of mould. Borax or 35% hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean the area and kill the mould. If the problem is deeper, see that repair is done immediately since mould releases toxins which are  injurious to the body.

     Electromagnetic fields can be reduced by keeping the television and other machines out of this space. The headboard of your bed should not be against a wall which has a television, computer or other machines on the other side of the wall since electromagnetic fields easily pass through the wall. Clock alarms are not a good idea for the night stand. A small, battery powered clock is preferable. Electric blankets and water beds are advised against since electromagnetic fields interfere with your body's own electromagnetic frequency. These fields disrupt your body at the cellular level and therefore suppress the immune system which you need to boost while you sleep.

     If you are sound or light sensitive, earplugs or a sleeping mask will come in handy.  Since this is your private healing space, the bedroom should be a place of great peace and tranquillity. Rest is a vital and irreplaceable component of any healing regime. Small details may make the difference between a fitful rest and a deep, deep restorative sleep. So snuggle in and enjoy one of nature's greatest therapies. Sweet dreams!

       These tips will give you a solid beginning on creating a more healthful home environment. If you want to learn more I suggest a book called The Non-Toxic Home and Office by Debra Lynn Dadd.