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.1
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.
Buying wool products rather than oil based synthetics is beneficial to sheep farmers. Shepherdess Pippa Smith from Council Farm in Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire is one of 60,000 farmers in the UK who supply wool to the British Wool Marketing Board, where it is then auctioned off to merchants and end users. Pippa comments on the importance of buying British wool: "We've had sheep for about five years now and started with four and now we have 150 breeding ewes. Our ewes are a bit of a mixed bunch. We have mules, texels, suffolks, beltex and rouge and we farm at Maltby-le-Marsh but our sheep are all over where ever we can find some grassland! It's important that British retailers support British farmers and the British wool industry, by buying British wool.”
Wool is also biodegradable making it a very sustainable product.
In 2010 the Campaign For Wool was launched with Prince Charles as the patron. The campaign is to raise consumers' awareness about the unique, natural and sustainable benefits offered by wool. The campaign was launched at an event in London's historic tailoring street, Saville Row, where it was transformed into a pasture with over 50 grazing sheep. This incorporated Wool Week (October), where over 100 companies participated and thousands of consumers were engaged in activities.
So far the campaign has collaborated with an international community of wool growers, retailers, manufacturers, artisans, interior designers and major fashion designers. To find out more about the Campaign for Wool visit www.campaignforwool.org
For the first time in the wool industry, wool products can be traced back right to the field they originated. The Wool Room, a wool bedding manufacturer, have set up a transparent system using modern techniques so that the DNA of the wool inside a duvet, pillow or mattress, can be logged once the wool leaves the farm for market and later onto manufacturing.
Chris Tattersall, Managing Director of The Wool Room said: "We believe British wool is the best wool in the world for bedding items such as pillows, duvets and mattress protectors/toppers and best of all, it's traceable back to the very farm that it was reared on. Sourcing British Wool from UK Farms and transforming it into bedding that will help consumers achieve a 25% better night sleep is what we do here at The Wool Room. Wool has the most amazing ability to absorb and wick moisture and this helps regulate temperature for the sleeper whilst also being the only natural hypoallergenic bedding solution around."
The Wool Room is also the only bedding supplier to receive an Allergy UK Seal of Approval.
This natural, renewable and healthy material is making a comeback, benefiting consumers health and farmers businesses.
For more information on the Campaign for Wool visit www.campaignforwool.org
For more information on The Wool Room visit www.thewoolroom.com
3 Wellness attributes of wool textiles: a review by Paul Swan and Pier-Giorgio Minazio, for the 6th International textile, clothing and design conference
4 Merino medical, pg20 www.woolmark.com/content/publicationPDFs/BTB-SEPT2012.pdf
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