How Wool Bedding Could Improve Your Sleep
Wool today is commonly used in clothing, but with research showing that wool bedding improves sleep by 25%, it is making a comeback in the bedroom. Plus it is a sustainable and renewable material!
We all need a good night’s sleep, it helps give us a healthy mind and body. But for many of us, due to various reasons, this isn’t always possible. But scientists in Australia are asking, could it be down to your bedding?
Featured in The Telegraph, researchers at the University of Sydney have found that sleeping on wool gives a 25% better sleep. They put eight healthy volunteers through ‘polysomnography’ tests, testing how each person slept with wool, cotton and synthetic sleepwear and bedding and at different temperatures. The results showed that wool gives a longer and deeper sleep, with the most difference at higher temperatures.
The main reason for this improved sleep is due to wool being a good absorbent. The average person perspires one litre of water each night, but synthetic or down fibres are unable to absorb this. Wool absorbs up to 30% it’s own weight in moisture.2 These increased moisture levels sit on the skin, raising the body’s temperature above the recommended 30-50%, causing a heat build-up which is enough discomfort to wake a person from sleep, especially during stage four.
Sleep is divided into four stages, the fourth being between 2-4am, (this obviously differs for people who sleep through the day) which is the most important in terms of body regeneration. So an over-heated body means disturbing this stage, which has been linked to serious health problems including heart, lung and kidney function, cancer and mood disorders, there have even been studies that prove it can shorten life expectancy.
Reported in the Medical Journal of Australia, PR Dickson found that a sheepskin wool underlay gave significant improvements to sleep compared to cotton. Dickson found people woke feeling better and woke and moved less during the night. Dickson attributed this to: “(a) a diffusion of pressure points, (b) better insulation of the sleeper, (c) better absorption of perspiration, or (d) more ‘reassuring’ handle.”3
Wool has unique properties that regulate a controlled climate around the body and the moisture content of the skin. During the night, wool fibres absorb your perspiration, and then during the day, when the bed is empty, moisture is naturally released back into the atmosphere. Not only does this mean a dry bed in the evening, but the evaporation of moisture also means no breeding ground for allergy-causing moulds, bacteria and mites.
Recent studies into the health benefits of wool have found merino wool can help dermatitis sufferers. According to an Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) study, “the hypothesis has been that suitably specified fine Merino products would not irritate the delicate skin surface, and infact create a beneficial microclimate which reduces the rate of epidermal moisture loss, skin drying, andtherefore bacterial infection risks and thedesire to scratch the itch (“pruritus”).”4
The Queensland Institute of Dermatology (QID) trialled 30 chronic, long-term sufferers of dermatitis (male and female) wearing superfine merino wool knitwear over a period of six weeks. Each person wore long sleeved tops, gloves, socks and underpants of merino wool, as well as custom made bras. Four examinations were made before the trial and three after. Dr Spelman, working on the trial was amazed by the results. “We have seen substantial reductions in skin dryness, redness and itchiness, and in the measured area of inflammation – and for a number of the patients, this is the first time a real solution to their condition has been presented.
“Wool appears to be keeping the relative humidity of the wearer’s skin at the levels it should be, preventing it from becoming too dry, or too wet.”
Although this is a pilot study, those taking part in the trial have wanted to continue wearing the merino wool. “One woman told me she had notbeen able to wear a bra in 25 years,” QID research co-ordinator Dr Eshini Perera said. “The look on her face when she told me of her joy when she not only wore one but wore one with comfort was priceless. “Another patient told me the level of skin disease on her feet was so chronic she used to have to bind them. But after taking part in our six-week pilot study and wearing the provided Superfine Merino wool socks, her feet looked just like everyone else’s. She called it‘a success story’.”4
Wool’s other benefits
Sleeping with wool is also more cost effective. Excessive moisture levels in synthetic and down duvets cause them to start to become less effective after about 10 years, whereas wool has a life span of 20 years plus.
As well as health benefits, wool is also a sustainable product and one that provides a living for many farmers.
Wool is also biodegradable making it a very sustainable product.This natural, renewable and healthy material is making a comeback, benefiting consumers health and farmers businesses.
Textiles from camel hair are some of the finest, humanely harvested animal fibers in the world.
Camels, those two-humped, desert animals that have played a hardy form of transportation in many historical adventures, also provide us with some of the most amazing fiber for fabrics. Today’s luxury apparel market vies for camel hair yarns and textiles, as the slow and humane process of obtaining the fiber makes it one of the scarcest in the world.
Harvesting camel hair is done by hand, and the best quality is said to come from the nomadic households of Mongolia and China’s Inner Mongolia. The fiber is also collected from camels in Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, New Zealand and Tibet but is considered inferior in quality and softness. Camel hair is also often blended with extravagant cashmere, obtained from the fine-haired cashmere goats, for a highly luxurious material sought after by high-end apparel manufactures and designers.
The inner down is the hair used for textiles, and is combed or shorn away during the 6-8 week long molting season every Spring. The hair readily falls off the camel and was typically harvested by “trailers” that were assigned to follow camels during molting season and collect the fallen hair along the trails. With humane values in mind, the humps on the camel backs are not shorn as they protect the animal through temperature regulation during the summer months. Adult camels produce only 10 to 20 lbs of fine inner fleece annually, varying in color from light brown to red, while the finest and softest white camel hair is obtained from baby camels.
Camel hair is graded according to the color and fineness of the fiber, with about 30% making up the finest, apparel grade raw fiber. Usually light tan in color, (explaining the term for shade we call “camel”) it is typically only blended with other fine quality fibers for an extremely supple material with excellent drape. The material also takes well to dyeing, with common colors in navy blue, black or red showing up in the collections of designers.
The slightly coarser and longer second grade hair is typically blended with sheep’s wool and used for upholstery or apparel applications such as coats and slippers.
Because of its natural temperature regulating properties, camel hair (sometimes also called camel wool) is the ideal material for any type of apparel application. There is a hollow space in the center of the fiber that acts as a vacuum, insulating cold or hot air depending on the temperature. The coarse fiber is also extremely waterproof, which is why the Mongolian herdsmen use it for coats and the outer layers of their yurts.
Although camel hair is costly, well-made camel hair apparel is definitely an intelligent investment. It is said to last a life-time, with no pillage or loss of shape because of the length of the fibers, double the warmth of other wool textiles, moisture managing properties, and even becomes softer with use.
A multi-purpose fiber? Doesn’t get much better.