Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Finale to the memory-foam/latex/wool bed search

A couple of days before I took off for Brazil again (for 2 1/2 weeks
for treatment for Lyme disease) I took possession of my
newest bed. This is the ongoing story of Goldilocks, who
has been searching for the one that is oh, just right. Well, it's sort
of a cross between Goldilocks and the Princess and the Pea.
As you may recall from previous bed entries in this blog, I decided to get
rid of my old and trusty Simmons Beautyrest mattress almost three or four years
ago because it had developed some significant valleys. That led to a series
of catastrophic purchases that were a) expensive, and b) extremely
difficult to get into and out of my hillside house. (A California King-size
bed up the 100 stairs from the street into the bedroom is no small feat.)
The ultimate insult added to injury was that each of these mattresses had
some kind of chemical smell to them which made them onerous to the
olfactory nerves, and probably not good for the body or nervous system.
This was ironic, considering that I am suffering from a neurological disease
-- neuroborrelliosis (typical of "late" Lyme disease).

But I am here to report that patience, in this case, is the better part of
valor. And also that the fourth time is the charm. True, I did have to eat
$1500 for the last mattress which was composed of natural latex foam (6
inches of it) topped with three inches of synthetic memory foam. When I
called the manufacturer of the latex portion of that mattress to complain
about the smell, the sales representative said "The retailers should
tell people that these mattresses are going to smell a bit like exactly
what they are -- rubber. He suggested that I spray it with Fabreeze, a
commercially available spray that masks smells. I said I thought that was a
bit ironic considering I was trying to deal with chemical sensitivities.
After eating the $1500 because the mattress merchant, Foam Creations on
Solano Ave in Albany, CA has a no-return policy, I next tried a mattress
from European Sleepworks. I chose this company largely because of their
catchy radio advertisements claiming that they build their mattresses from
"all natural materials" and they're very sensitive to the needs of
sleepers with chemical and physical peculiarities. So a roughly $2000
California King was delivered up the 100 stairs again. But woe and chagrin -
it too had the telltale latex smell, precisely because it has several
inches of natural latex resting atop the micro coil springs. Once
again, a very comfortable mattress which I hated to sacrifice. But
at least this time the sacrifice was minimized and as I merely paid the
return fee of $70 to the disgruntled movers who came and hauled it away, no
questions asked.

Incidentally, if you intend to try a European Sleepworks mattress, I highly
recommend you have a clearly articulated conversation with someone in a
position of authority there before making the purchase. They do have a
"comfort exchange" policy for 60 days, during which they will try to make
your sleeping experience a comfortable one. But if you want to make sure
that you can return the bed for a full refund, just make sure you have that
understanding in advance.

I was beginning to feel hopeless about ever finding anything I can sleep on
that was comfortable and that I didn't have any chemical sensitivity to. It
was beginning to look like I would be sleeping on a board. I was never one
as a child to have chemical sensitivities, but suddenly I could smell all
kinds of chemically things in sofas and pillows and mattresses. It seems as
though my ability to spell certain ingredients used in mattresses had been
amplified through these exposures. But I started reading about natural,
organic cotton and wool mattresses and began to stop into a store or two
that appeared to carry such niche items.

One such store is in San Francisco is called a Happy Planet, and another one
is in Berkeley, called Earthsake. These stores have very good salespeople who
rave about organic and natural beds. The prices were roughly
equivalent between these two stores for California-King-sized natural wool
and cotton batting with an inner-spring-style foundation. As the crowning glory, both
stores wanted to sell me three or four inches of good, fluffy wool in a
topper. However, Earthsake was having an anniversary celebration, and they
knocked something like 10% off of the price if I were to purchase on the
actual party day. So that clinched the deal for me. I bought the Cloud: ($1850)
with the 3" PureGrow Wool Filled Organic Cotton Mattress Pillowtop ($715).
I was a bit out on a limb at this point, though, because they do not take
returns, only exchanges. Also, the Earthsake delivery fee significantly
exceeded the $70 European Sleepworks charges. But I was getting
desperate. After three or four years of funky sleep, the mind does
strange things and is willing to take extreme measures. So, I was willing to
pay $270 on top of the $2000 for the mattress and topper. I crossed my fingers
and toes.

I am more than overjoyed to the report that the six-week wait I had to
endure with no mattress to speak of (other than a piece of old foam) was
well worth it. I love this Earthsake mattress. Of course, as I have
learned, nothing is without smell. So, even a natural, organic wool
mattress has a bit of a telltale odor which the manufacturer claims is the
smell of lanolin. But it is hardly objectionable, and hardly noticeable.
The wool topper is a must. Without it, the extra-firm mattress would most
certainly be uncomfortable and cause pressure points. With the topper, the
combination is cloud like. It is definitely different than a memory-foam
mattress, which I find to be probably the most comfortable mattress
available (I do not sleep hot on them, although many people do). But
considering the potential off-gassing hazard and the likelihood of smell,
and since we spend easily 1/3 our lives in our bed, I highly recommend your
checking out what I have had to learn the hard way. The take-home message
is as follows:

a) Purchase only a non-petroleum-based mattress and make sure that fire
retardants are not used. A mattress wrapped in wool does not require a fire
retardant, because wool is naturally fire retardant.

b) Buy as locally as possible, with an agreement that you can return the
mattress for at least a comfort exchange and preferably for a full refund if
you're not happy with it. The seller should give you ample time to
test-drive the mattress (European Sleepworks gives 60 days, for example,
which I think is generous). Shipping a mattress across the country is very
expensive and you don't want to have to do it twice. Make sure you know
what the delivery charges are, even from a local retailer. As my story
shows, the price can differ by as much as $200 each direction even between
two local retailers in the same city.

c) Objectionable odor should be a substantial enough reason for return of a
mattress. Some standard comfort exchanges do not cover odor. Odor is even
more subjective than firmness. For people who have chemical sensitivities,
proprietors may feel that their customer is even having a psychosomatic
reaction. However, this should be irrelevant. Keep in mind that smaller
retailers cannot afford to take mattresses back, because returns have to be
destroyed or given to a charity once they're slept on. Larger retailers can
handle the costs incurred with returns because they make up the difference
in volume.

d) Read up on the Internet regarding the brand and model you are interested
in. There is plenty of information about nontoxic bedding.

e) Go to the store that has the mattress you are interested in. Make sure it is the exact
mattress. Go more than once. Visit the mattress at least twice, possibly
three times on three different days. Expect to spend at least 30 minutes
each time lying on the bed in different positions, on your side, on your
back, and even sitting on the side of the bed to see how it feels to stand
up from lying prone. Can you turn over easily and shift your position on
the bed? Go with your gut feeling about a bed, in the end. Your head might
tell you one thing about it such as it might last longer, or you like a firm
bed and this one is really firm, or you like a soft bed and this one is
really soft, etc. But just go with your gut feeling. Does it feel good to
get into this bed, do you feel supported and happy?