by Karen Totino
Human beings are a unique species; we have an entire room in our home for the sole purpose of not being awake. Often, this doubles as our sanctuary from a hectic world with a stressful pace. When we’re interested in making our home as comfortable, sustainable and healthy as possible, there are a few key things we can do to make sure that the bedroom is a recovery room—a place for rest, recuperation and relaxation.
Our bedrooms can be a toxic bubble of volatile organic compounds (VOC), dust mites, mold and pollen. What we chose for interior finishes can impact the quality of our sleep, exacerbate chronic illnesses such as asthma and allergies and potentially have long-term consequences on our immune and endocrine health. It is important to approach our design options mindfully with attention to health and well-being. Here are some suggestions for the four major components:
All bedding is not created equal, and the quest to make the bedroom a warm, comfortable and safe place involves choosing the correct mattress, frame and bed accessories. Wool bedding is one of the most powerful steps we can take to create a healthier sleep experience. Wool is hypoallergenic and has the ability to wick and store moisture, keeping us dry and healthy. When we manage moisture we are also managing the growth of bacteria, fungus and dust mites.
Consider the walls in the bedroom and what is covering them. It is likely that the paint covering them is full of VOCs, which off-gas just as easily as those found in bedding. While we may not be in direct contact with them, these chemicals are still a part of our environment, particularly in colder months, when closed windows mean there is nowhere for them to escape.
Once we deal with bedding and wall covering, the next logical step is to take a look at what is covering the floor. Carpeting is often subject to the same use of petrochemicals and flame retardants as non-sustainable bedding and high-VOC paints. It off-gasses in the same way every time we step on it and becomes a haven for allergens that get kicked up into the air and into our lungs, leading to a host of inflammatory problems.
Wool is the preferred material for carpeting because of the same advantages that make it an ideal material for bedding. For hard-surfaced flooring, there are varieties of other options available, including reclaimed hardwoods, bamboo or even cork. Look for those that have no added urea formaldehyde and meet strict indoor air quality standards: low VOC (less than 0.005 ppm) or no VOC (less than 0.001 ppm).
Just as we put so much effort into making our bedroom a safe and sustainable space for our bodies, we shouldn’t neglect to establish it as a fortress for our minds, as well. Consider all the ways to keep stress-inducing objects and devices out of the bedroom. Keep the electrical appliances in other rooms where they belong. When we envision our perfect Zen space, there’s very little chance that we imagine a mess of tangled computer wires. Apply that same thought to other objects that cause dread to well up within. All of these have their place, but in the bedroom, all they will do is serve to antagonize us and contribute to stress or even insomnia.
There are other ways to gear the bedroom toward automatically generating a calm frame of mind. Consider buying a small fountain; the white noise will be relaxing, and even a small, tabletop version will help remove dust and particles from the air and regulate humidity. The color scheme in the bedroom is crucial because it will subliminally affect the way we feel when in the room, and it should generate a positive vibe. If we need to chill out from life, consider using muted, earthy tones, while vibrant colors may help us feel energized when we most need it.
The bedroom is the private center of our household; by taking just a few of these steps, we can ensure that it remains a place of stability, comfort and wellness.
Karen Totino is the owner of Green Conscience Home & Garden, in Saratoga Springs, located at 33 Church St.. For more information, call 518-306-5196 or visit Green-Conscience.com.