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Some question the smell that often accompanies memory foam in a new mattress: It is the off-gassing of toxic chemicals, which can be noticeably strong for weeks to months. Off-gassing fumes have reportedly caused headaches and other severe health reactions to people exposed to them while sleeping. More information on the health effects of memory foam and the materials used in mattresses is available at, where people have reported severe reactions to their new synthetic foam mattresses.

Millions Suffer from Sleep Related Disorders

Almost everyone nods their head when it comes to acknowledging the importance of sleep. But most people aren't sleeping well and research shows that 95% will go undiagnosed, and 70 million people in the U.S. report that they suffer from sleep-related pain (Time Magazine). Last year alone, 60 million prescriptions for sleeping medications were written. And recent studies have linked poor sleep with the growth of many disease states, specifically: diabetes, obesity, stroke, heart disease, allergies, and fibromyalgia. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one-in-five people suffer from a sleep disorder, with sleep deprivation being the most prevalent sleep disorder of them all. Sleep is vitally important to physiological and psychological health. If the sleeper is not achieving a healthy 8 hours of sleep each night, they may experience a host of disadvantageous symptoms such as: drowsiness, irritability, waking up tired, stress, anxiety, depression, memory, concentration problems, and/or appetite fluctuations. It's critical that, when seeing these symptoms in patients, doctors consider poor sleep as being a possible cause.

How Can DC's Help?

Sleep is vitally important, but is a largely overlooked part of wellness. The doctor of chiropractic can take action in becoming better equipped and more informed to assist their patients in achieving quality sleep ... safe sleep. As previously stated, sleeping disorders are epidemic, largely undiagnosed, and often thought to be normal by those suffering. Millions have sleep-related pain, and the degraded quality of sleep substantially impacts the overall health and well-being of the patient. DC's are seeing this in their practices each and every day! The need for addressing these issues cannot be overstated. Quite simply, the body needs to be structurally supported properly while sleeping and this should be accomplished using safe materials.

Adequate government regulations on monitoring mattress materials are not in place, an issue that is compounded as consumers fail to make the connection between what they're sleeping on, their sleep quality, and the connections to possible exposure to harmful toxins that can lead to other health issues down the road. There's a growing body of research, some that we've reviewed in this article, that indicates lower quality foams and fire-retardant chemicals used in the home, may be a contributor to the growing rates of disease. Simply put, patients need assistance in helping them make an educated decision about what they are sleeping on, the possible risks, and how to choose a healthy alternative. Toxicity links can be found in both the structural integrity of the mattress, as well as in the materials that are used.

The DC is in an ideal position to discuss the importance of quality sleep with patients. Patient in-take forms can be used to evaluate sleep quality and potential toxic exposures. And if total patient wellness is the doctor's goal, then sleep can no longer be overlooked. Sleep researchers agree that the mattress and pillow are likely the most important elements of sleep quality for the average person. A mattress that fails structurally will affect the skeletal integrity of that sleeper each night. One that fails to provide adequate pressure relief will cause pain and rob the patient of deep, healing level sleep. And one that is made of poor quality materials can off-gas toxic fumes that adversely affect the respiratory system and other vital functions of the body.

Mattress and pillow vendors can be sought out that are willing to reveal the total material list used in their products. Ask them to provide support, cushioning and toxicity data as well. If they can't or won't, then don't recommend them. This is an area worthy of further consideration for the DC as it has profound implications on the patient's health and well-being. It is also an area of significant opportunity for the field of chiropractic because no other healthcare professional is effectively addressing or treating patients in the area of Sleep Wellness.

Dr. Kenna S. Ducey-Clark has emerged as a national leader in sleep wellness and runs Colorado's first-ever sleep-wellness clinic. She takes an integrated, whole-body approach to healthcare that incorporates sleep wellness and chiropractic, veering away for compartmentalizing symptoms and complaints, and finding a way to "connect the dots." Leading her peers in sleep wellness education, Dr. Clark has published articles and conducted educational webinars in the greater effort to help patients across the United States achieve optimum health.

Shawn Clark (no relation) co-founded ACTI in 1998 to launch the era of sleep wellness. ACTI's preferred method of distribution is through doctors of chiropractic, as they understand how critical it is for patients to achieve proper alignment of the spine. For more information about the opportunities to improve patient care through the science of sleep, visit

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