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What if I told you that wool actually improves your newborn baby’s sleep, so you can get some rest too? What if I told that sleeping on wool helps adults with low back pain? You would probably say that it is unbelievable. I wish I knew the health benefits of wool when my baby was born – he (and all of us) would have been in a much better mood.
Wool used to be something people widely used in households and took for granted before synthetic products replaced them. After cheap synthetic mattresses dominated the mattress industry, studies started coming out, on the one hand, associating synthetic petroleum materials with health problems and, on the other hand, proving scientifically the wool health benefits. The obvious and very important health benefit of wool is that it does not have any toxins (assuming that it is eco wool or organic) that can potentially negatively impact your health or your kids’ health. By the way, if you are concerned about wool allergies, it is believed that people who suffer from wool allergies are allergic to chemicals in wool, not the wool itself. Using organic or eco wool may alleviate the problem.
In my opinion, the second most important health benefit of wool is its temperature regulating property: to keep your baby’s body warm in colder temperature and cool in hot weather. How does wool do it? Wool acts as a cooling barrier by wicking perspiration away in hot conditions, and in cold it creates an insulating barrier to retain heat.
As you can imagine, this temperature regulating property is important for any of us. First, it makes us simply comfortable. Second, it makes our sleep more restful as the body does not need to spend energy to regulate temperature. For newborns, this temperature regulating feature is crucial because infants, especially premature ones or low birth weight babies, have not yet fully developed the ability to regulate their body temperature.
Another very important property of wool that makes wool perfect to sleep on is its natural flame retardant property. As you might know, the Federal government requires mattresses – infant, crib and adult mattresses, to pass an open fire flammability test. Some mattress makers add flame retardant chemicals linked with health and environmental concerns to their products to pass the test (read more about this in my “How to Buy a Non-Toxic Mattress” post. Since wool is naturally flame-retardant, it is not necessary for manufacturers to add flame retardant chemicals to their wool mattress (you still may want to verify that they don’t use any). And if an actual fire does happen, you will have a better chance to survive.
Moreover, according to this study, premature infants who nursed and slept on lambswool gained weight more rapidly than ones who used conventional cotton sheets. This phenomenon is explained by the fact that the texture of lambswool had a soothing effect on the infants, which led to lower metabolic activities. I am not sure what type of wool was used in the study so I am not sure if this study is applicable to the infant mattresses I will be recommending in my upcoming posts.
Furthermore, this 1984 study by Richard Dickson, Ph.D. concluded that sleeping on a fleecy woolen underlay reduced postural activities during sleep, which led to a more rested sleep. In 1964, the New Zealand wool board published a report that sleeping on fleecy sheepskin was used effectively for bedridden patients to prevent bed sores. Also, this study found a health benefit of wool for people suffering from fibromyalgia and concluded that the use of woolen underwear and woolen bedding were effective in reducing the symptoms of fibromyalgia. The use of wool is recommended as a means of treatment for alleviating the pain of fibromyalgia. By the way, you do not have to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia to receive health benefits from wool (read more here). Many of us have aches and pains now and then. Low back pain is very common.
Other valuable wool health benefits include a natural antibacterial property due to a high level of lanolin. This is particularly helpful for bed-wetters, as bacteria will die quickly after the mattress is dry. And lastly, wool deters the growth of mold, dust mites, and bed bugs.
As you can see, there is a wealth of wool health benefits.