Part 3: Managing Stimulants 2.0 Allergens.
According to the National Institute of Health, "An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to what would otherwise be a relatively innocuous stimulus. Clinically, allergy is characterized by symptoms that, by in large, are secondary to an altered nervous system”. We commonly know allergies based on the reaction caused by them such as itchy and red eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, mucus secretions, flare-ups, and inflammation. In reality, these known reactions are secondary and are a direct result of changes in neuronal activity.
Now, why are we discussing allergens in the context of sleep? In our observance of the body’s activity during sleep, we have seen proof that allergens are in fact stimulants that can keep the central nervous system active, and as we explored in part 1, slowing down your central nervous system at night is the key to true restorative sleep.
In relation to allergens, some may argue that immune-driven inflammation associated with allergic reactions is trivial unless they present neurogenic symptoms of suffering such as cough, pain, rash, etc. This means that the central nervous system reacting to allergens gets less attention than it merits, and unless we have conscious signals identifying an issue there is no complaining.
In order to create a true incubator for restorative sleep, here at Essentia our approach has been to identify all stimulants that may interfere with optimized sleep and reduce the rate of recovery. Our testing has shown that allergens are one of the key stimulants to the body following toxins, pain, and temperature regulation.
WHAT ALLERGENS ARE IN A MATTRESS
Allergens can be introduced into the bedroom via a mattress from various sources. In this review on allergens, we’ll focus on the more conventional allergens from organic matter and micro-dust. In part 2 of this journey, we focused on chemical toxins which have presented an increasing concern with people developing serious, noticeable reactions to them.
Let’s deep dive into the conventional allergens in mattresses:
DUST MITES & BED BUG FECES - The most common allergens found in a mattress. The proteins found in the excrements of dust mites and bed bugs often trigger an allergic response of nasal congestion, sneezing, and coughing. While these are moderate physical reactions, they cause the central nervous system to maintain high-level activity thus not triggering the body’s recovery cycle.
House dust mites (HDM; Dermatophagoides sp.) are one of the commonest aeroallergens worldwide and up to 85% of asthmatics are typically HDM allergic. Allergenicity is associated both with the mites themselves and with ligands derived from mite-associated bacterial and fungal products.
- MATTRESS ENCASEMENT - Adding a mattress encasement to a mattress in an attempt to block dust mites and bed bug allergens presents another stimulant challenge for the central nervous system: heat, and toxins. Encasements create an air seal that removes the breathability factor critical in temperature regulating, this occurs as most encasements feature a laminated plastic backing to the encasement fabric which introduces toxins from the most likely polyurethane backing and from the adhesive used to bond the layers.
- FIBER BATTING & QUILTING - On natural and organic beds, allergens not only present themselves through dust-mites, however, but many organic beds are also creating the ideal nesting area through their natural fiber batting or quilting. The most commonly used fiber materials are cotton or wool, however many import materials to attempt to be more exotic with fibers like horsehair, alpaca hair, coconut coir, these are all ideal nesting grounds for dust mites and these padded surfaces absorb your body’s sweat and skin excrements which offer fine dining and hydration for those critters to congregate, feast, drop feces, and multiply.
- DETERGENTS ON WOOL - A hidden stimulant in wool and organic fibers are detergents that are used to clean the fibers as when they are gathered they are filled with soil, insects, and feces. Additionally, these fibers are often treated with another stimulant: flame retardants. Flame retardants are traditionally introduced blended into these fibers or as an additional backing to these fibers.
- LATEX PROTEINS - Organic mattresses are also often assembled using latex foam layers, the better brands assure to offer an organic latex in order not to introduce toxins from synthetic latex. However, organic latex on its own has proteins that can trigger very aggressive allergic reactions to those who are intolerant to them. Organic latex must be processed to eliminate the proteins.
Here at Essentia in creating the most optimal sleep environments have worked with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine specifically in understanding dust mites and latex allergens. This is why all of the organic latex used by Essentia passes an additional process to eliminate the latex proteins that may act as allergens. Moreover, Essentia mattresses do not use any wool, fiber batting, or quilting that can act as nesting grounds for dust mites to thrive.
ESSENTIA MATTRESS ALLERGEN PROTECTION
Dr. Robert G. Hamilton, Ph.D. and Director, Dermatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology (DACI) Reference Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine has tested the Essentia mattress in regards to dust mite and latex allergies.
Dr. Hamilton concluded that there are 2 types of natural rubber latex products, those that are dipped and those that are molded. Dipped rubber products are exemplified by medical latex gloves, latex dental dams, and latex toy balloons. They are known to release high levels of latex allergens, especially when they are powdered. Repetitive exposure to these dipped latex rubber products can induce IgE antibody, lead to sensitization (IgE anti-latex positivity), and possible development of latex allergy. A 100% natural rubber latex molded product does not release detectable levels of allergens except through direct contact.
The Essentia latex mattress is a molded foam product that does not have any detectable latex antigen levels as measured by Guthrie Laboratory (<0.2 microgram/gram) using a well-documented and validated ASTM procedure. Second, the Dunlop process used in Essentia’s latex processing reduces the level of protein that may be found in the final latex product by involving washing steps. Third, the Kevlar and cotton encasements preclude any direct contact between human skin and the latex foam core of the mattress and minimize the risk of airborne latex exposure. From all accounts, the Essentia natural memory foam mattress can be safely used by latex allergic and non-allergic individuals.
Dr. Hamilton also found that the molded nature of the natural latex memory foam made by Essentia is essentially impervious to house dust mite inhabitation and growth. Human skin that is deposited on the surface of the external cotton cover of the mattress is readily removed by vacuuming and washing. With routine washing of bedding and the maintenance of the bedroom environment humidity below 50%, the potential dust mite growth can be minimized and thus dust mite allergen exposure can remain negligible.
The conclusions by Dr. Hamilton show that for a person suffering from allergies the best sleep surface for them to combat allergies and get a healthy night’s sleep is an Essentia mattress.
Essentia focuses on basic nervous system activity, and by tracking allergy-induced neurological activity we get a sense of the impact that these allergens have to interrupt the slow down in the central nervous system’s activity that we’re looking for. Creating a sleep environment that minimizes or eliminates sensory activity is one of our pillars in Biohacking sleep.