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Are Memory Foam Pillows Safe?

It is important to not only get enough sleep but also to get quality sleep. This starts with finding a comfortable position in which to sleep. In order to remain comfortable, you need a good mattress and pillows. Many people have been switching to memory foam in recent years, but there are questions about their safety. 

Memory foam pillows may provide comfort by contorting to match the shape of your head and neck, and they might give you sounder sleep over the course of the night. But, are they safe? 

Some concerns about the materials used in memory have come up across the world, and they are perfectly valid. Many cheaper memory foam pillows are made with polyurethane foam, and there are health issues that are associated with that, especially for those with skin conditions, allergies, or respiratory problems. 

Polyurethane can cause irritation to the skin and eyes and may even trigger an asthma attack in affected individuals. This means that sleeping on a memory foam pillow can cause your face to break out or even make it more difficult to breathe, depending on your conditions. Some studies show that the chemicals in polyurethane may even be carcinogenic, which means that they could lead to cancer. 

Polyurethane isn’t the only chemical to worry about, however. There others that may be dangerous to your health as well. These include:

Vinylidene chloride – This is often used in the manufacturing process and can cause irritation to your eyes and respiratory system. It is also potentially carcinogenic. Fortunately, since this is part of manufacturing, it isn’t actually contained in the pillow when you get it. 

Methylenedianiline / MDA – This is another potential carcinogen that can irritate your eyes and skin and can cause organ damage if it is ingested. 

Methyl benzene – when inhaled, this can wreak havoc on your nervous system. 

Acetone – This is found in trace amounts in cheaper memory foam pillows, but it is toxic when ingested in large amounts. You likely won’t be harmed by it, but it is concerning that some pillows contain a toxic substance. 

Dimethylformamide – Another substance that is primarily found during manufacturing; this possible carcinogen might be responsible for organ damage. 

Should you worry about your memory foam pillow?

While there are some toxic substances, particularly in low-cost pillows, most of these are minimal and won’t affect healthy individuals. However, if you have pre-existing conditions such as asthma, eczema, or respiratory disease, you will want to do your due diligence in finding a pillow that does not contain these substances. 

By researching the pillows that you are interested in, you can find those that have little to no harmful substances and can rest assured knowing that you aren't negatively affected by the chemicals. It is important to balance comfort with safety, and you should make sure that you know what your pillow is made out of. 

If you want to experience the comfort of a memory foam pillow but are worried about the chemicals found in polyurethane, you should consider some alternatives that are safe, effective, and comfortable. 

Natural Foam Alternatives

Hevea Milk Pillow
Hevea milk, also known as rubber tree sap, has recently been used to make pillows that feel just like regular memory foam but contain none of the harmful substances. As an added advantage, these pillows are naturally breathable and will stay cool at night as you sleep on them. There are no petroleum foams used – this is made from pure tree sap and feels just like the real deal. 

The tree sap is whipped into a liquid foam that is then molded and baked to form a natural latex. It is 95% rubber with antioxidants added in. Certain additives are used, but they are all-natural and don’t contain any of the harmful chemicals of polyurethane memory foam. 

Down pillows
Down pillows don’t feel like memory foam, but they come in many high-quality varieties. There are also down alternative pillows for those who have an allergy to feathers. Either way, you might find that you enjoy the feeling of a down pillow more than a memory foam one, especially if you spring for a more expensive one that has been made by a reputable manufacturer. 

You can choose different firmness levels and sizes, so you might be able to procure a down pillow that feels just as comfortable as your last memory foam pillow. The best part is that you won’t be sneezing, sweating, or breathing in unhealthy fumes when you go this route. 

Hemp Pillows
Hemp is a substance that has long been heralded as having many healing properties, and hemp pillows can be woven to feel very similar to cotton. They have a soft feel but can provide the level of firmness that you need to fall asleep comfortably. They are generally easy to take care of and are sold at a reasonable price. Hemp pillows are all-natural and won’t interfere with your breathing or cause any sort of skin breakouts. 

Buckwheat Pillows
Buckwheat pillows were originally made by the Japanese, but they have become popular across the world throughout the years. Like memory foam, they are springy but firm, providing you with plenty of support while you sleep, whether you are a back, stomach, or side sleeper. With a filling made out of buckwheat, these are another natural alternative to the harsher polyurethane foam pillows. 

With a buckwheat pillow, you can add or remove buckwheat to increase or decrease the firmness level of the pillow. The level of support has been proven to promote proper posture and to increase spinal alignment. Having better posture when you sleep will help you to stop snoring, stay asleep longer, and eliminate aches and pains when you wake up. 

The buckwheat hulls used are not considered a food product, so you don’t have to worry about bugs or insects getting into your pillow. They are also hypoallergenic, so those with breathing issues will be pleasantly surprised when sleeping on a buckwheat pillow. If you’ve noticed irritation from sleeping on a standard memory foam pillow, buckwheat may be a great alternative to reduce inflammation. 

While they might take some time to get used to, you will likely find that you get a better night’s sleep with a buckwheat pillow than you do with a memory foam pillow. It is truly an excellent alternative and comes at a reasonable price. The substance is breathable, and the pillows are customizable, so no matter what sort of sleeper you are, you are sure to find some relief if you get yourself a buckwheat pillow!


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