Dreaming of ways to minimize your allergy symptoms?

If you have sleep issues caused by allergies, it’s a good idea to look for solutions before your minor symptoms snowball into bigger health issues. Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways you can strengthen your immune system and combat allergies symptoms such as: sneezing, coughing,  snoring, dry mouth, itchy eyes, runny nose or difficulty breathing.

Sleepy Woman

After having a bad “allergic” reaction to Tempur-Pedic memory foam mattress topper, I decided to consult with an expert on ideas for how to make our bedroom a better place to sleep. In case you or someone you care about is sleeping on a Tempur-Pedic product, be sure to check out this post:

WAKE UP and read the label on your mattress

After I got rid of the memory foam mattress topper, I called Kirsten Flynn of Sustainable Home to ask her to do a checkup on the rest of our bedroom. Before she came to our home she sent me some terrific advice about mattresses. Check out her answer to the following question:

I’m shopping for a new mattress, preferably natural/organic if it’s affordable. Any advice?

Although we had already gotten rid of the Tempur-Pedic about a month or two earlier and our symptoms had drastically improved, I had a gut-feeling that our Gateway Mattress and box springs may need to go as well. It was simply based on some of the symptoms my husband and I experienced since the time we got the bed.

So when Kirsten sent some information about organic mattresses (ones that have not been sprayed with flame retardants), I immediately started searching for a new bed and we even purchased one from The Futon Shop before she came to do the consultation on the rest of the bedroom.

When Kirsten got to our home, she asked a number of questions to understand our lifestyle and what might work best for us. After doing a walk-through, she concluded that the main thing we needed to do was to minimize the accumulation of dust in our bedroom.

We live in a city and we like to keep good air flow through the apartment. She mentioned that this allows a lot of the outdoor air to enter our sleeping space. Although I didn’t think of it as an issue previously, as soon as she mentioned it, I suddenly saw dust everywhere.

Not only is there a lot of dust from the road outside, it’s exponentially worse on the days when the landscapers come through and use their blowers to clear away leaves and other debris. Kirsten mentioned that they cause even more pollution when they use gas-powered blowers rather than electric. The gas powered blowers put out exhaust causing even more harm to the environment, and especially to the operators.

Here are a few tips that Kirsten suggested to help reduce the dust in our bedroom and to minimize some of the allergic reactions my husband and I were experiencing:

Wash bed linens and other textiles regularly

You’re probably already familiar with the benefits of washing your bed sheets regularly. It helps to minimize the risk of bed bugs as well as any allergic reaction you may have to the dust and particles that accumulate on your pillow and sheets.

Keep your window treatments simple, and easy to wash. If you prefer to sleep in a dark environment, buy washable room darkening curtains or blinds that are easy to clean.

Minimize the number of soft surfaces where dust can settle

CD1631CCommon soft surfaces in the bedroom include: clothing, curtains, bed linens, stuffed animals, cushions on chairs or benches.

One of the biggest issues Kirsten found in our bedroom was the fact that my “closet” was out in the open. She suggested that I find ways to cover the clothing. Although we have a small walk-in closet, it’s not big enough for both my husband and me to store all our clothing, luggage, shoes and so on.

InterMETRO natural cotton canvas cover

One thing I love about this sort of open rack storage system is that it makes it easy to see all my clothes at once. The shelves are easy to adjust, unlike closet shelves which are usually screwed into the wall. We’ve had this wire shelving garment rack system for years. These sturdy racks break down into flat parts making them very easy to move. But the biggest issue is that they’re completely open.

She suggested that I cover the open clothing racks since each individual clothing item becomes a place where dust can settle. There are many places for dust to enter the room and settle in between the open shelves of the clothes. She suggested that I find a way to cover the clothes better to help keep the dust from accumulating in the clothes.

With a little searching, I found this InterMETRO natural cotton canvas cover. It was just what I needed. I also incorporated Sterlite stacking drawers to keep dust off my folded clothes.

Minimize the main source(s) of dust

Some of the common things that increase dust in your bedroom include: pets, children, clothing, shoes, open windows or doors, and possibly even food. You can curtail most of these sources from the inside of your home, but you also need to consider what’s going on just outside your bedroom doors and windows.

off-the-leash-1-dogs in bed

If you’re like me and you like to open your windows, you’ll have extra dust in your home. If you have pets, you’ll have extra dust in your home. If you wear shoes indoors, you’ll have extra dust in your home.

We all have personal preferences. You may want to keep your windows open, sleep with your cat or wear shoes in your home, but consider making slow changes toward a cleaner sleeping environment.

All my clothes were open to collecting dust and I had a lot of shoe boxes and shoes stacked on top of boxes. Not only do the shoes and their boxes collect dust, but shoes can bring other toxins and bacteria from outside into your home.

Why your home should be a shoe-free zone

Can you begin by making your bedroom a shoe-free zone, for example?

Clean the floor

Kirsten recommends vacuuming frequently using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. If you have hard surface flooring, you can vacuum up the dust and then wet-clean the floor. Wet-cleaning is the best way to remove all the dust.

Vacuuming also helps to pull dust out of carpeting. Keep in mind, however, that no matter how much you vacuum, you’ll never be able to get all the dust out of the carpeting. It settles deep into the carpet and padding, and just keeps getting dirtier over the years.

housecleaning cartoon

If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, it’s best to replace it with hard surface flooring. But if you’re renting or don’t have the budget to switch out the flooring, the best solution is to vacuum frequently.

Dust regularly

Dust tends to accumulate on nightstands, headboards, and on less accessible areas such as the tops of armoires, mirrors and door frames.

You have to decide what “regularly” means to you. If you take steps to reduce the sources of dust in your bedroom, then “regularly” can be less often. If you want to spend less time dusting, try to simplify your bedroom as much as possible. Less stuff means less dusting.

When you’re dusting, be sure to use a nontoxic spray. Check EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning for ratings on common household cleaners.

Use an air filter

Kirsten suggested that we purchase an Austin Bedroom Machine air filter so that we could keep the air as clean as possible. According to Austin, clean air offers a number of benefits:

  • sounder sleep
  • reduced snoring
  • stop sneezing
  • reduce nighttime allergies and asthma attacks
  • strengthen your immune system
  • reduced coughing and wheezing
  • eliminate dry mouth and runny nose

Buying a quality HEPA air filter might seem a bit extreme at first, but think about it for a minute. Smokers and people who live in highly polluted areas increase their risk of health issues. The cleaner the air, the better. If you have allergies and you’re extra sensitive to air borne pollutants, clean air may be the one thing you need most to help get a good night’s sleep.

I’m a big believer in drinking pure water to flush the inside of my body:

Drink distilled water daily to detox and defend your body

The same logic applies to flushing out your lungs. If you sleep in a clean environment for about a third of the day, it gives your lungs and body a chance to rejuvenate every night.

But what about the cost? A good air filter is a small investment in comparison to the cost of poor health, not only as it relates to your daily productivity, but also to the cost of long term illnesses that occurs because your body doesn’t have the chance to regenerate each night.

Looking for other ways to minimize your allergy symptoms and improve your indoor air quality throughout your home? Check out more suggestions from Kirsten at:

5 Ways to Improve your Air for a More Sustainable Home

Even Rodney Dangerfield believes that everyone deserves a good night’s sleep. “I asked my wife, ‘last night, were you faking it?’ She said, ‘No, I was really sleeping.'” Just-One-Liners


AAFA logo - Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

WAKE UP and read the label on your mattress

About nine months ago, my husband and I purchased two twin Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Topper Supreme Mattress Toppers (that fit well side-by-side on a king bed) at Bed Bath & Beyond. We’ve slept in a number of comfortable hotel beds when traveling and we were hoping to get that sink-into-the-mattress super-soft feeling.

If you own, or you’re considering purchasing a Tempur-Pedic or memory foam product, I urge you to keep reading . . . especially if your children are sleeping on these products.

Over the course of the next several months, my husband developed rashes that started in his torso and progressed to his arms and legs. I was waking up with headaches that got progressively worse. I started making changes to my already healthy diet thinking that maybe I was developing food allergies. I’d often wake up with hot flashes. I brushed this off thinking that it might have something to do with my hormones.

We would sometimes feel stuffy in the morning. When I woke up, my eyes would be irritated and foggy. We thought we might be experiencing some seasonal allergies or sinus issues. My husband and I are quite healthy so I kept searching the web for what might be going on with us.

cartoon sick in bed

Eventually, I noticed that I’d start to feel congested as soon as I laid down in bed at night. I sometimes felt queasy in the morning, but better as the morning went on. And I knew I wasn’t pregnant! I kept Googling for answers to what might be going on until one day, I stumbled upon a number of articles and books on the dangers of polyurethane foam, the very thing we’d been sleeping on for the past six months.

The day I discovered these resources, my husband and I stripped the memory foam mattresses off our bed and within a few days all our symptoms began to fade away.

It had already been more than six months since we purchased these at Bed Bath & Beyond, but I was determined to get the $600+ back for these items that had such a negative impact on our health. I called and explained the situation to the manager. He was very kind and told me that I could return them despite the fact that they were past the return date. I’d been in this store a number of times and I always find the staff to be very friendly.

I sincerely appreciate that the manager approved our return with no hassles, but if the corporation really cared about their customers, they’d get these products out of their stores so others wouldn’t have to go through what we went through. Or worse yet, that others sleep on these for years with subtle, but mounting health effects, only later to hear from their doctor that she or he doesn’t know what caused their illness.

Bed Bath & Beyond executives need to be aware of the affects of their products not only on their customers but also on their employees who are breathing in this stuff for hours when they’re at work. Something this serious should be addressed in their Corporate Responsibility Report.

Bed Bath & Beyond offers a number of useful household products, but when I go in their stores, I try to get in and out as quickly as possible. There are a lot of strong odors being emitted from cleaners, plastics and the bedding. I don’t like the odors or the feeling I get when I’m in their stores. And because they’re packed with products from floor to ceiling, the air is especially thick with who-knows-what particulates.

After the experience with the mattress toppers, I’m even more convinced that I should avoid going in Bed Bath & Beyond stores.

Tempur-Pedic has a number of attractive phrases on their website, such as: “your best night’s sleep, what we believe, buy with confidence, and TEMPUR love stories,” but they carefully seem to avoid any promise of providing beds with safe, non-toxic materials. Buyer beware!

Peel the sheets of your mattress and pillows and read the materials on those labels that say:


mattress label

But even if you’re a label-reader, Dr. Robert Bartosh of Pro-Active Wellness & Injury Centre warns that your mattress or mattress topper may contain additional materials or chemicals that are not required by law to be listed on the label. Before you buy your next mattress, take a few minutes to hear what he has to say about the potential risks of memory foam:

CVS recently vowed to stop selling tobacco products because they’re harmful to their customers. It’s time that Bed Bath & Beyond makes the same commitment to pull hazmats out of their stores!

If you’d like to replace your bed, be sure to shop at a store committed to providing all natural mattresses that are free from toxic chemicals, such as Sleep Essentials in Roanoke, VA, or the 100% organic wool mattress from The Futon Shop.


Chemical Sensitivity Foundation logo

Choose natural fabrics over synthetics

A man in San Francisco was recently arrested for stealing thousands of pairs of polyester underwear. When asked why he was doing this to people, he said that he was trying to save their butts. His attorney later commented that due to his client’s good intentions, he was expecting a brief trial. RD

Julie Genser, Planet Thrive blogger, lives in a small Arizona community with others who have environmental intolerances. Their bodies can’t handle the load of toxins in “normal” towns, buildings and even in their underwear. Cotton is one of the few fabrics tolerated by chemically sensitive individuals like Julie. Some people are so extremely sensitive that they need to boil the cotton and air it out for weeks to sanitize it before they can wear it. And some people are so sensitive they can’t even wear cotton clothing if it’s made with synthetic thread! Allergista

But why does this matter to you? If synthetic fabrics can have such a negative impact on some people, this may be a sign that natural fabrics are better for all of us. Your skin is porous. Have you ever had poison ivy or felt your hands burning after cutting hot chili pepper? If so, you understand that what touches your skin can affect you.

Synergy cotton organic cape jacket

Many people are careful about the foods they eat and the cleaning products they use. But you can also minimize your potential exposure to toxins by paying more attention to the fabrics that touch your skin. Whether you’re choosing clothes, bed linens, blankets or towels, look for items made from natural fabrics.

Cotton is the most popular fabric in the world.

Cotton comes in a variety of forms: chintz, corduroy, denim, flannel, khaki, Pima. Because cotton is soft, comfortable, durable, and washable, it’s used for just about every type of clothing.

If you live in a warm climate, you can build the majority of your wardrobe around cotton. When it’s too hot or humid, avoid wearing denim or corduroy. The thicker fabric doesn’t breathe as well and if you wash them and hang them to dry, they can take a day or two to dry.

Laundry Study Shows Americans Have Few Hangups

If you’re interested in adding more cotton to your wardrobe, check out companies that specialize in eco-friendly organic cotton such as SynergyEarth CreationsFaerie’s Dance, or H&M (Hennes & Mauritz AB), or check out EcoSites.org to find more.

Linen is synonymous with wrinkles.

No matter how well you press linen (flax), it creases as soon as you wear it. But like cotton, it’s cool and breathes well. If you don’t mind the crinkling, it’s a fabulous fabric for warmer climates. Although linen is great for casual activities, it’s not necessarily a good choice for business. If you want a softer look, launder it yourself and skip the ironing and dry cleaning.

Check out this clip from Renegade Health on the benefits of organic clothing . . .

Hemp is a renewable resource.

Hemp can grow in various climates and conditions around the world. In many cases, hemp and cotton can be grown without pesticides. This helps reduce toxins that end up in our water supplies, so it’s healthier for everyone involved: the farmers, textile workers and customers.

If you’d like to learn more about the many benefits and uses of hemp, take a virtual visit of the US Hemp Museum. According to this nonprofit, “hemp is, overall, the strongest, most durable long-lasting natural soft fiber on earth.”

Look through the many beautiful styles available at GramicciEarth Creations, Hempest or Rawganique.

Wool can keep you warm even when it’s wet.

Wool (Alpaca, Angora, cashmere, Mohair, rabbit) is relatively easy to spot-clean. It’s good for activities in cool humid or wet areas because its natural antibacterial properties help it resist moisture and mold. It also has superior strength and durability over other natural fabrics.

dry cleaning wool sheepBut wool has some disadvantages. First, it requires extra care and attention. Some pieces have to be dry cleaned, and others have to be washed in cold water, or they can shrink drastically. Second, wool has a beastly odor when it’s wet. If you wash and hang-dry a wool sweater indoors, it may smell for a day or two. Third, the texture of wool can be irritating to some. Wool tends to be bulkier than other fabrics, so it takes up more closet or suitcase space.

If you find wool irritating, avoid wearing it directly on your skin. Layer other clothes under your wool pieces, or try softer cashmere or angora wools instead. You may also find that lined suits or jackets that are wool blends may also be easier to tolerate than things made with 100% wool.

One good thing about wool is that it’s a renewable product, and the animals aren’t harmed in the process. But according to the Organic Trade Association, insecticides are applied to sheep to control mites, lice, flies and other pests. In addition, antibiotics are used for growth promotion to compensate for unhealthy overcrowded conditions, which contaminates nearby water.

Silk is smooth and soft without being slippery.

Because it drapes well and helps keep warm air near the body, silk is often used for scarves, blouses, dresses, suits, lingerie and pajamas. It’s comfortable, but not as durable as other natural fibers. If you get a spot on silk it can be tricky to clean, especially when you’re traveling. Some pieces require dry cleaning. If you launder it yourself you may need to use a steamer to get the wrinkles out or carefully press it with a warm iron. Otherwise you may damage the fabric. Many silk items can be fairly high maintenance, and therefore, are not necessarily ideal everyday use or travel.

Silks (chiffons) are produced by insects such as mulberry silkworms and moth caterpillars. When it’s harvested from cocoons, it kills the larvae, so some people who avoid it because “thousands of silkworms are killed just to make a small amount of material.” NGE

If you love silk, consider buying from a company who takes these things into consideration, like The Ethical Silk Company.

Leather can grow in comfort and beauty as it ages.  

When you first buy a leather product, it may be bulky, stiff or heavy, but it usually becomes more comfortable the more you wear it. If you have a favorite jacket, purse or boots you like to travel with, consider wearing them if you’re going by plane. Otherwise, you’ll need extra space in your luggage. Unless you’re traveling by motorcycle, leave your bulky chaps, leather bags and pants at home.

Leathers and suedes can stain easily and be tough, if not impossible, to clean. It can also be difficult to layer with other clothes (with the exception of belts) and, therefore, isn’t nearly as versatile as other fabrics.

Lots of shoes are made with leather because it’s a durable and warm material. If you’re expecting to use them in rain or snow, it’s best to waterproof them. Use a nontoxic product such as Bee Natural or Obenauf’s.

Leather is made from the skin of various animals: buckskin (usually deer, moose or elk), nubuck (cattle), suede (usually lamb, but sometimes goat, calf or deer) or lambskin. Because leathers are animal products, some vegans and animal-lovers avoid it.

Although leather is a “natural” fiber, the tanning process involves the use of many chemicals, some of which have a negative impact on workers and the environment. Every year, millions of cows, pigs, deer, lamb, and other animals are slaughtered for food. Their skin is be a byproduct of that industry. If you’re concerned about the welfare of animals, or the impact of the tanning process on the environment, you may choose to minimize the amount of leather (and meat) you purchase.

Natural Fabrics logo brownAll-natural fabrics are the safest option for your health. Natural fibers breathe and wick moisture better than synthetics. Even though they may be treated with pesticides and contain dyes and fixatives, they generally have fewer hazardous additives than synthetics.

If you want to be extra cautious, choose fabrics made from organic fibers which were grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or toxic herbicides and pesticides. But keep in mind that even they go through chemical processing before they become fabric.

If you’re interested in buying all-natural clothing like these, or others such as bamboo, check out Gaiam or Sweetgrass.

As you begin to transition to more natural fibers, begin with the things that are closest to your skin most of the time. For most people, this begins with underwear, basic tops and bottoms and pajamas or sheets.

If you happen to work in the medical field, check out the uniforms by Natural Fabrics. People who work in this industry are so lucky. Their work is called “practice” and they get to wear pajamas all day. Well, scrubs aren’t pajamas, but they’re just as comfortable.

Organic Consumers Association

Design a Peaceful Bedroom

Good sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining good health. Make your bedroom a peaceful sanctuary. By applying a few Feng Shui principals, you can optimize your sleeping space. Use a mix of soft blue tones, for example, to promote tranquility. Avoid bright red, or other vivid colors or patterns that stimulate energy.

blog create a peaceful bedroom

Keep TVs, computers, and other electronics out of your bedroom, or at least hide them away in closets or cabinets before sleeping. Keep your alarm clock on the far side of your nightstand and make sure it doesn’t emit too much light.

Keep mirrors out of your bedroom. They bounce light and images around the room, and therefore increase energy. If you have a mirror in your bedroom, cover it with thick fabric before getting in bed. Glass also reflects light. Glass-top nightstands, artwork framed in glass, and glass containers all reflect light and should, therefore be avoided.

Consider your partner. Objects and colors should appeal to both of you. If you share your bed, place a nightstand on each side to create balance. Choose art and objects carefully. If having a partner is important to you, avoid depictions with only one figure, which suggests solitude. And avoid things with three or more figures which  can insinuate infidelity. Be especially attentive to what you can see from your bed. What you notice first thing in the morning can help to set the mood for your first and last thoughts of the day.

Ideally, everything about the area should be peaceful. Don’t store exercise equipment near your bed, for example, or allow clutter to accumulate. If you live in an open-style loft or you can’t move things, cover them, or hide them behind a screen before you go to sleep.

Journal Your Dreams

Last night I had a dream about a former colleague, Barbara. We were sharing an office in a big old building. Someone asked for her business card when she wasn’t there, so I tried to give him one. She had a box of cards and each one was different. Some were cut out in the shape of letters, and they had lots of different job titles. Each one had a different beautiful photo of her, some in color and some black and white. I didn’t know which one to give him.

The concept might exist already, but wouldn’t it be cool if you could give everyone a unique business card? It would have more value as a one-of-a-kind card. A few times in the past I got business cards from artists who put a few brush strokes on cards they stamped with their contact info. But that’s a time-consuming and fruitless task considering that most people these days toss business cards after they digitally record the information they need.

Why did Barbara play the leading role in my dream-movie last night?

Perhaps because she made a big impression on me the first time I met her years ago in Puerto Rico. She went out of her way to show me her beautiful historic home town, Old San Juan. She’s a strong and self-confident woman who would make a great mentor to other women. I admire her ability to make life-changing decisions and continue to smile no matter what’s going on in her personal or work life. She exudes positive energy and presence when she enters a space.

Where on earth do these dreams come from?

Well I’m not sure of the answer to that question, but as a writer, I am sure about what to do when you wake up from one of these dreams. Write it down right away so you don’t lose the thought. There’s a good chance that you can capture some aspect of the dream to write about in the future.

What might have triggered this dream?

Possessions. I’m in the process of liquidating most of our stuff for an upcoming move to China. I’ve been cleaning out my office, including business cards. I have a big collection of them because I like saving ones with cool graphics, photos, or other interesting design elements. So I’ve acquired quite a few over the years. And I’ve been cleaning out furniture and cabinets, including my nightstand drawers where I recently saw my dream journal. I’ve also been thinking about designing a new business card, not only because I have a book coming out soon, but also because I’ll be moving to China. The old business card definitely needs to be updated.

Do you have a dream journal?

Say yes. I keep a journal in the nightstand next to my bed. I got out of the habit of writing down my dreams, but was reminded this morning of how powerful these ideas can be for future stories. Your brain already created some strange scene. Now you own the right to publishing it. Write it down or you’ll probably forget it by the time you have your morning coffee. You’ll be sipping  your coffee mentioning to someone, “I had an interesting dream last night about . . . well . . . I can’t seem to remember now.”

Caterpillar Plows By Cayman Beach Resort

If a man drives a Caterpillar on a beach in front of a Caribbean resort and no one is around, does anyone hear it? The answer is quite likely a “yes.” Even if no one is on the beach, people in their rooms notice the sound and sight of a big machine not typically captured in Caribbean vacation advertisements.


On our second day at Morritt’s in the Grand Cayman, my husband and I witnessed a Caterpillar dodge through tourists on the beach on a beautiful Sunday. The driver clearly had some business to do on the property, but seemed more concerned about his construction assignment than the people on the beach. And when he finished his work, much to the surprise of the tourists, he rumbled out down the beach instead of the parking lot.


The Caterpillar scattered sand a few feet away from people soaking up the sun, interrupting their peaceful afternoon, and causing some of them to flee their chaise lounges for safer ground.


If Morritt’s Resort were ISO 9001 certified, something like this shouldn’t have happened. Managers committed to customer satisfaction have provisions in place to monitor customer experiences taking place on their property. They also have established processes to help ensure customers concerns are taken care of promptly and appropriately.

Not only did the hotel have a disconnect between management and the maintenance crew, they also had a disconnect between the front desk and housekeeping staff. My husband and I discovered this through our pillow request. The first few days of our stay at Morritt’s, we made numerous calls to the front desk requesting more pillows, but never received them.

Finally we decided that we’d try talking directly with someone in housekeeping and we got some extra pillows within the hour. Most travelers expect to call the front desk if they need some toothpaste or extra blankets. It’s an unwritten “standard” in the hotel industry. After we made repeated calls and nothing happened, we began to wonder if they cared about their customers.

When a customer expectation is not met, this is, in ISO language, a “nonconformity.” I don’t believe Morritt’s has a record of the pillow or Caterpillar nonconformities we experienced here. Although there are numerous wonderful things about this resort, I wouldn’t come back a second time, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to refer anyone. From the evidence I witnessed during my stay, they’re not fully committed to continuous improvement or customer satisfaction and this is a deal-breaker in my book.

Ibis, an ISO 9001 certified hotel, is serious about customer satisfaction. Check out their 15 minute problem resolution policy. This type of policy fosters employee commitment to excellence which is key to building customer loyalty. It also provides a means for sharing common issues and documented best practices among their hotels throughout the world.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of ISO 9001 certification for your hotel, contact Dr Lorraine. Once you establish a culture of continuous improvement, your hotel will flourish in unexpected ways.

If you’d like to share a hotel story, I encourage you to post your rating and review on Expedia or Hotels.com.