Could Your Bed Be Contributing to Your Allergy Symptoms?

Photo: Getty Images/Luis Alvarez
As comfortable as your bed might be for you, it could also be an ideal resting spot for allergens. Dust mites, chemicals, microbes—all of these things can cozy up in mattresses and cause symptoms of allergies, making it harder for you to get a good night’s rest. If you find yourself waking up with a bad case of the sniffles—or unable to fall asleep as a result of a dry, itchy throat or watering eyes—you may want to take a closer look at what you're sleeping on.

The coils and springs of mattresses can be a perfect hiding spot for dust mites and their waste, which is what actually triggers an allergic reaction (not the mites themselves). In fact, a Kingston University study noted that the average bed could be home to more than 1.5 million dust mites. The older your mattress, the more dust mites are likely hanging out under its surface.

Moreover, if you have a foam or cotton mattress that hasn’t been replaced in some time, you may be unintentionally playing host to mold and mildew in your own bed.  “As you sleep, your bedding and mattress soak up sweat, contributing to the growth of mold and mildew," says Ron Rudzin, CEO of mattress brand Saatva. "Both of these can cause respiratory issues or other allergic reactions in some people. And sweat isn't just an issue for people who sleep hot—it's estimated that the average human loses 10 ounces of fluid per night.”

Certain mattress materials can also trigger allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to them. For some folks, mattresses made with synthetic latex or other potential irritants may lead to rashes or asthmatic flare-ups. Others may react to invisible gasses called volatile organic compounds (or VOCs), which are emitted from many mattresses. "The EPA estimates that thousands of products release VOCs, some of which are linked to nasty ailments,” says Jessica Hann, Avocado Green Mattress’ vice president of brand marketing. These include eye, nose, and throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and even nervous-system damage. All in all, the exact opposite of what you want from your horizontal haven.

What are the best mattresses for allergies?

For starters, you’ll want to keep in mind that mattresses—even the best ones—have a limited life cycle. Replacing your mattress every six to eight years will help prevent potential allergens from taking over what should be your safe space.

When it is time to replace your mattress, Rudzin says allergy sufferers should look for low-VOC and low-chemical options. "One of the easiest things people can do for their health—and the environment in the process—is to choose a mattress that is made with eco-friendly and organic materials like organic cotton, natural latex, and memory foam that uses plant-based ingredients in place of some of the standard petroleum-based derivatives," he says.

Finally, while most modern mattresses prevent the growth of allergy triggers like fungus, bacteria, and mold, mattresses with less space for these allergens to inhabit—like pure foam or latex mattresses —may be better for folks who are particularly sensitive.

Here are 5 of the best mattresses for allergies, all of which fit the criteria above:

1. Bear Hybrid (From $822)

If you want a hybrid mattress—that is, one that uses both springs and foam—check out this option, which uses a cooling gel foam to help hot sleepers get a good night’s rest.

2. Nectar (From $898)

This fabulously comfortable mattress has three different layers of foam and no springs to speak of, which may help to eliminate hiding places for dust mites and other allergens.

3. Zenhaven (From $1,399)

This naturally hypoallergenic latex mattress is frequently lauded, especially among allergy sufferers. The best part? One side is plush and the other side is more firm, so you can switch up your sleep experience with the flip of your mattress.

4. Avocado Vegan Latex Mattress (From $1,499)

Avocado mattresses are GreenGold Certified, which means they meet strict standards for low chemical emissions, including VOCs. Plus, they're one of the only formaldehyde-free mattresses in the world, and they're made with natural latex that's resistant to mold, mildew, and other microbes.

5. Intellibed (From $3,299)

If you’re willing to splurge a bit on your mattress, Intellibed’s gel matrix technology is non-off-gassing, non-toxic, and hypoallergenic.

You might also consider protecting your mattress with a mattress cover, like the straightforward Protect-A-Bed option. It’s easy to wash, water repellant, and helps keep away dust mites for a sniffle-free snooze.

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