- By David Woolfson - Founder
My daughter Eve suffered with allergies from a young age. She would have restless nights and wake up with her eyes red and streaming and complexion blotchy. It used to upset us to see her like that because she is a girl who so loves to enjoy life. We resolved to do something and began by trying the anti-allergy and wellness pillows that were on the market – none of them worked; no benefit whatsoever despite all the wild and wonderful claims that they made.
Eve told me that she thought I was clever and that I would come up with a solution and whilst we so often think that a child’s motivation to succeed is to impress their parents it is surely also true in the other direction. I began to research and it quickly became evident that there was an untold health problem from bedding.
The evidence made it clear that it relates to all bedding, in fact everywhere we sleep – in the hospital, hotel and in the home.
Put simply, micro-contaminants, for example – dust mites and their allergens and various pathogens can get into and out of our pillows and mattresses through the fabric and the stitching holes. To make matters worse, we might not like to think about it but we humans shed at night – we shed dead skin, we shed sweat and all this enters our pillows and mattresses and mixes in there forming mould and bacteria. Then when we compress our pillow or mattress by lying on them, these things are pushed out into our intimate-environment and right where we are most vulnerable – the eyes, the mouth, the ears and nose. Indeed our skin is our great hygienic protector. It is actually an organ – the largest of the human organs – and when it is breached like when we get a cut or through our intimate-environment, that is when problems occur.
In the hospital, this can be very serious indeed as bedding can act as a reservoir and vector for infections including superbugs. In the hotel, your intimate environment can be made up of whatever the previous guests were suffering from or “shed”. In fact I’ll always remember the time we visited hVIVO in London – a global leader in the prevention and treatment of viruses – and the founder, Professor John Oxford, told us that they had just identified that the flu virus can live in a pillow for up to 24 hours “so if the guest in the hotel before you had the flu, the chances are you are going to get it too”.
In our homes the problems posed by contaminated bedding are different but can really affect our quality of sleep and quality of life like in Eve’s case, but also we can all suffer in terms of skincare or from inflamed sinuses from inhaling contaminants. There are many people who have no problems breathing in fresh air in the daytime but soon after they get into bed they are feeling “stuffed-up” and their breathing is impaired.
So why do the anti-allergy and “healthy” and “wellness” pillows and mattresses not work? Because they are getting breached all the time. Allergens and microbes are far smaller than fabric pores and stitching holes. Even if the seams are sealed they have to have a way for air to get in and out to function and so if a zipper is used, the bugs are way smaller than the gaps between the zipper teeth and if a vent is used well that is the worst of all worlds as the vent acts like an aerosol.
My thinking kept coming back to how clever our skin is – preventing unsavoury things getting inside but breathing all the time, keeping us comfortable. Pillows and mattresses should do the same. They should be made with materials that perform in the same way – materials that filter the air going in and coming out.
I knew that new technical/performance textiles would work for the cover because they are vapour-permeable so they allow heat and moisture to dissipate; the challenge was to design a filter medium that would act like a synthetic skin with enhanced breathability.
Enter Dr Bain – Dr Duncan Bain is the leading biomedical engineer in the field of “support surface technology” and a good friend of mine. How he became a good friend is a funny story for another day. Duncan and I worked together and eventually came up with what is known today as PneumaPure Filter technology (PPt).
PPt works because it is a 100% proven barrier to the ingress and egress of allergens, mould and even the smallest pathogens including flu virus, norovirus, SARS, and MRSA. But crucially the PPt filter means that the only thing that can get into and out of your pillow is clean pure air. It has been proven in independent laboratory testing and clinical trials around the world but more than anything it is proven because it has made an important improvement for people.
It has been adopted by leading hospitals around the world (by the way hVIVO now use PPt products in their rooms), the hotel range is about to launch and people are benefitting in their homes in over 30 countries. And that brings us nicely back to my home where we all sleep on SleepAngel bedding and where Eve always goes to bed too late and always gets up too late but she sleeps well and wakes up perfect.
- David Woolfson