Make Your Bedroom Healthy
10 Tips for a Snoozing Sanctuary That Treats You Right
At a long day’s end, there’s nothing like slipping between cool sheets in your own room to restore yourself, mind, body and spirit. But there are potential hazards to your health lurking in the space that claims one-third of your life, experts tell us. They offer these ways to make sure your bedroom is good for you:
1 BUY SMART. “Green lifestyle” authority Danny Seo, who has written numerous books on eco-friendly design, suggests bedding with natural fibers such as Tencel (made from waste wood pulp) or Modal (made from beech wood trees); both are free from harmful chemicals and have a silky feel. (You can find the Danny Seo Home line of bedding at stores like Marshalls and HomeGoods.) Seo also nixes petroleumbased synthetic “memory foam” pillows and mattresses, which can emit volatile organic compounds (VOC s) that can cause headaches; irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; nausea and other problems. Better bets: 100 percent natural latex or 100 percent organic cotton mattresses and pillows, and, if you’re not allergic, down pillows. (Find organic mattresses, pillows and bedding at White Lotus in Highland Park and down pillows at Down to Basics in Red Bank.)
2 FIGHT MITES. “Dust mites live in our pillows, bedding and mattresses,” says Gary Zuckerman, M.D., of Central New Jersey Allergy and Asthma Associates in Kendall Park, who notes that it is not the bugs we’re allergic to, but rather their airborne excrement. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix: Placing tightly woven encasement covers on your pillow, mattress and box spring will prevent the excrement from becoming airborne. Seo recommends purchasing dust mite covers that are 100 percent cotton, not PVCor polyurethane-based. “You don’t want the kind that sounds crinkly,” he says. Most doctors also recommend pulling up carpets. If that’s not possible, use a vacuum cleaner with a highefficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to clean your carpets, but leave the room for an hour afterward because vacuuming will stir up the dust-mite excrement. Because humidity promotes dust-mite replication and mold growth, keep your room at a 35 percent to 45 percent humidity level with an air conditioner or dehumidifier, such as the Bucketless 55-Pint Dehumidifier at Brookstone.
3 KEEP THINGS FRESH. Seo recommends changing pillowcases every couple of days and replacing pillows every two years. If you’re not ready to toss yours, place them in the freezer overnight to kill the allergens.
4 GO GREEN. Research shows that many plants can combat the “offgassing” of potentially harmful elements in the atmosphere that can’t be removed in other ways. Try one of these top 10 air scrubbers: areca, lady, dwarf date and bamboo palm; rubber; dracaena; English ivy; ficus alii; Boston fern; or peace lily.
5 ZAP THE GADGETS. The jury is still out as to whether the electromagnetic fields that emanate from our cell phones and computers cause cancer, but with the National Institute of Environmental Health Science calling for more studies, why take the risk? If you must have electronics in your room, move the charging station as far away from your bed as possible. And consider banning from the bedroom all blue-lightemitting devices (yes, that includes your TV). Studies show that the blue LED s can inhibit the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, disturbing your sleep cycle. 10 tips for a
6 FENG SHUI YOUR SPACE. “When you apply feng shui principles to your bedroom, you create a personal paradise with a qi, or energy, that is warm and welcoming,” says Laurie Bornstein, a New Jersey designer who is the CEO of the National Feng Shui Guild. “Put your bed in a ‘command’ position so the space in front of you is in full view and you have solid support—either a wall or a firm headboard— behind you. Make sure, though, that you are not in direct alignment with your doorway so that the energy coming in the door will not disrupt your sleep pattern. Stagger it a little.” Next, she says, create balance by placing a nightstand with a lamp on each side of your bed. And when it comes to mirrors in the bedroom, the rule is “one or less,” she says, to “bring the energy down,” which relaxes you. Her suggested placement: opposite a window to draw nature in.
7 CHOOSE THE RIGHT HUES. The optimal hues for restful relaxation are ranges of blue (including purple and lavender) and midtone earthy colors (sage, beige or creams). “Avoid pastels because pastel ranges are expansive and not intimate,” advises Bornstein. “Likewise, stay away from highenergy colors such as bright yellows, reds and cobalt blue, which bring the room’s energy up—that’s what you don’t want.” Be mindful, too, of the type of paint you use. “The only way you can truly get a healthy paint is to look for ‘zeroVOC,’” advises Seo. His pick: Valspar+, found at Lowe’s, which is the only paint that’s zeroVOC and certified by the Allergy and Asthma Foundation due to its resistance to mold growth.
8 NEUTRALIZE NOISE. If you live on a busy street, sounds from outdoors can make it difficult to fall asleep—and stay that way— for the restorative hours of shuteye your body needs. A sound machine can block the noise and transport you to a more serene space, piping in soothing sounds like rain or rushing air.
9 LIGHT A CANDLE. This is a subtle one, but you can create instant serenity and do your mental health a favor by filling the room with a candle’s cozy glow—when you’re awake, of course. “A flickering flame gives the room a soft energy,” says Bornstein. Candles made from 100 percent soy create a glow without the toxins, carcinogens or soot given off by paraffin.
10 SLEEP IN THE DARK. But when it’s time to catch your zzzs, the darker your room is, the better. Just as LEDs can affect melatonin production, light sneaking in from outside can likewise disturb your sleep patterns. Lightblocking window treatments—roller shades, honeycomb shades and plantation shutters are best—can eliminate up to 99 percent of that pesky outdoor light so that a restful sleep is a reality, not just a dream.