5 Tips for Nontoxic Pillows That Can Improve Your Sleep and Health

bedroom labels sleep Jun 19, 2018

Many of us are short on time, and short on sleep (especially new moms). 

Sleeping on a nontoxic, comfy pillow can help improve the quality of those precious sleep hours. How?

Your pillow selection can influence insomnia, endocrine disruption, allergies, or asthma (1) because chemicals used to manufacture standard pillows are linked to those symptoms.


But don't fret. Below is key information to help you sleep on a healthier pillow. 


How can pillows undermine our sleep and health?

Conventional pillows are made from petroleum-based chemicals that create pillows' inner fillings (e.g. polyester or foam), fabric coverings (e.g. polyester), and sometimes chemical treatments (e.g. chemical flame retardants).

Chemicals commonly found in conventional pillows have been linked to chronic respiratory irritation (2), cellular DNA damage, cancers, and problems with the immune system, nervous system, and developmental systems. (3)


What are healthier options?

Nontoxic pillows are made of organic cotton, organic wool, natural kapok fibers, and organic natural rubber filling options.

Typically, organic-filled pillows are covered with organic cotton that is not dyed, or is whitened without using chlorine or bleach as the whitening agent. The most common nontoxic options for pillows are:

  • Organic cotton-filled pillows with organic cotton cover
  • Organic wool-filled pillows with organic cotton cover
  • Organic natural rubber-filled pillows with organic cotton cover
  • Organic kapok-filled pillows with organic cotton cover


5 tips for choosing a nontoxic pillow

It's important to understand what your pillows are made of. Below are tips to help you choose a nontoxic pillow.

  1. Be sure all of the pillow "ingredients," or components, are organic. For example, organic cotton, organic wool, etc.
  2. Read labels for TB 117. A California law from the 1970’s required foam furnishings to meet certain flammability requirements. Some flame retardants have used chemicals that have been linked to endocrine disruption, neurological damage, and cancer. In 2013, Governor Brown banned flame retardants in California, making it less likely that flame retardants are in pillows sold nationally but please confirm with the label and manufacturer or retailer! California law requires any product containing flame retardants to indicate so on the pillow’s attached label. However, the law does not ban the use of such chemicals so if you’re unsure about a pillow, check with the manufacturer. And assess pillows you already own that were manufactured prior to 2013. 
  3. Read labels for Proposition 65. Proposition 65, an initiative approved by California voters, requires the State of California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. This list, which must be updated at least once a year, has grown to include approximately 900 chemicals since it was first published in 1987.
  4. Shop at retailers that sell other organic bedroom options. Stores that sell other organic bedroom options (e.g. mattresses) are more likely to carry an all-organic pillow. However, be aware that these stores also carry non-organic items. So read the labels!
  5. Make sure you're not allergic to wool or natural rubber. If you’re unsure about your sensitivity to wool or natural rubber, ask for a sample of the materials. Several manufacturers have these sample material kits available for a low cost and give you the opportunity to test for material tolerance before buying a pillow.


Buying a nontoxic, comfortable pillow can help improve your sleep quality. The 5 tips above can help you select a safe and healthy pillow. This can reduce your exposures to chemicals linked to insomnia, allergies, asthma, and endocrine disruption.  

Other Tips You May Enjoy


(1) Sleep Foundation

(2) EPA

(3) A to Z of D-Toxing

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About Ruan Living

Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


This article is for informational purposes only. This information is provided “as is” without warranty.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. We do not offer medical advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other opinion on your conditions or treatment options. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Ruan Living.

In no event will Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living be liable for any damages or loss of any kind resulting from the use of this website. Anyone relying upon or making use of the information on this website does so at his or her own risk.

Some of the services and products recommended on this website provide compensation to Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living. All recommendations are based foremost upon an honest belief that the product, service, or site will benefit our site visitors in some way.  

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