Everything you need to know before investing in organic bedding

Long read


More and more of us are switching to ethical bedding made with organic or Fairtrade cotton. Experts Sleep Organic talk us through why organic bedding is better for us and the planet, and what to look for when buying better bed linen.

Georgina Wilson-Powell 3 May 2019


Nisa Shah and Chris Murphy launched luxury ethical bedding brand, Sleep Organic, in 2018. As a biologist and sleep expert and a strong textile heritage they've brought their passions together to help people sleep better in soft, natural bedding that gives back to the planet.

I caught up with them to ask their advice on ethical bedding. It's not all about the thread count. Thinking of investing in your bed linen? Read on.

Scroll down to the end for an exclusive discount on your first order too!

How did you get involved in organic cotton and natural textiles?

Nisa Shah: Growing up in Pakistan, my late mother used to knit our sweaters, stitch our clothes and bedding and made our toys for us. Our sewing machine was the centre of our household. I have very fond memories of this as a child. Mum was a very creative woman who taught lots of local women how to sew and earn money from sewing. I learnt how to sew and used to make family cloths and bed linen with my mother. I had a real interest in recycling fabric as well. We used to make some of our bed sheets by reworking white cotton flour sacks into duvet covers and sheets with beautiful blue, magenta and green block printing on them.   the time we weren’t particularly aware of ‘organic’ as such, as that was simply how things were done – the natural way without the use of harmful synthetic chemicals.

Why a bedding brand rather than clothing or homewares?

NS: For me the final push was when my mum passed away 2016 - somehow I lost my fear and felt it was time to really make a difference in the world. Mum had always encouraged my sisters and I to express ourselves and be strong, and I felt I could no longer delay what seemed like my destiny – Sleep Organic is the result - a company steeped in and dedicated to organic and fair trade principles.

Click here for more info on what organic, fair trade and other accreditations mean.

Sleep Organic GOTS certified organic cotton bedding
“Thread count is important, but it’s far from the whole story. Beyond 300-400, the fabric becomes heavy and less breathable”

You're an ethical bedding company, so what makes your supply chain different? 

Chris Murphy: This is very important to us and at the core of our values. We are both organic and Fairtrade certified right through the supply chain, from farmer to finished product, even our packaging! 

Our organic (Global Organic Textile Standard - GOTS) certification is via the Soil Association. We believe it’s important for the consumer to have that peace of mind. We source our (finest long staple) cotton from an amazing organic and fairtade certified co-operative in India made up of smallholder farmers who retain ownership rights. 

Our manufacturer is also organic and fairtrade certified and all of our staff are stakeholders in the business. We also collaborate locally by donating 5% of our income to forest schools in our area (London Borough of Richmond).   

Ethical bedding brand Sleep Organic

Nisa Shah and Chris Murphy set up their brand to help give back to the ethical textile industry

What do you think people don’t realise about bedding before they buy it?

CM: It’s choc-a-block full of toxic chemicals (if it’s not organic). It’s also important to consider how people were treated in the making of your bedding. With a Fairtade certification you can be sure that farmers and manufacturers have been paid a fair and sustainable wage, have safe working conditions and have been treated with the respect they so richly deserve. For peace of mind we recommend checking for the GOTS (organic) and Fairtade logos when purchasing your bedding.

Is thread count important or is it the wrong measurement of quality?

CM: Thread count is important, but it’s far from the whole story. Beyond 300-400, the fabric becomes heavy and less breathable. There’s also a physical limit to how many fibres comfortably fit per unit area – trying to pack more in can actually make the bedding more prone to the dreaded pilling. Furthermore, thread count doesn’t inform you of the quality of the fibres themselves. At Sleep Organic we exclusively use finest quality long staple organic cotton at 300 thread count. (For more on thread count read our blog article.)

What is sateen and why is it used for bedding?

CM: Sateen refers to how the fibres are woven together. It’s has a softer, satin-like feel achieved by floating the fibres over each other rather than pulling them under tension. The sateen fabric also comes with a lovely unique sheen as a result of the fibre arrangement. In percale, the other major weave, the fibres running north-south are held under tension during the weaving process resulting in the characteristic crisper feel. At Sleep Organic, we provide both types of weave. For more on sateen and percale weaves see our video.

"Good quality bedding, at least 200 thread count with quality fibres and high quality stitching, should last years"

Why is Sleep Organic different to other organic or ethical bedding brands?

CM: We pride ourselves on our original designs. We take our inspiration from nature, with beautiful yet simple themes such as our lavender flower embroidery and red robin perched, atop our pillowcases. We’ve also got cats and dogs for the pet lovers and adorable sleeping bunnies for the young (and young at heart). We work with a team of talented local (Richmond-based) artists who put flesh on the bones of our ideas. In addition, we provide the standard classics - embroidered chord line and piping finished sets. 

Do you think there’s an impression that organic means expensive?

CM: Personally we have not found this to be the case. Many of our customers have said how competitively priced our bedding is for its high quality. I would, in fact, say the opinion out there is that organic means high quality and if you stick to certified (GOTS) organic that’s a safe bet due to the stringent conditions that must be met to achieve that standard.  

Organic cotton bedding ethically made by Sleep Organic

Decent organic bedding will last for more than 10 years when looked after correctly

How long should your bedding last?

NS: Good quality bedding, at least 200 thread count with quality fibres and high quality stitching, should last years, and I mean years – 10 to 20 with good care (avoid regular high temperature washes). However, lesser quality bedding may pill and fray within months. By and large you get what you pay for. Obviously, choosing organic has the added health benefits – both to you and to the environment.   

What’s your advice for the best night’s sleep?

CM: As a sleep therapist, this is an area of particular interest for me. If I had to give just one piece of advice for a good night’s sleep it would be – keep the bedroom for sleep (and sex!). Sounds obvious, I know, but these days we surf the internet, watch movies, check emails, skype/facetime, even ‘work from home’ - all from our bed. For a regular good night’s sleep we need to build up an association in our minds between our bed and sleep, so I advise to keep the bed for just that. (For further tips, see our blog article).

Will you be launching new lines this year?

NS: We certainly will. Earlier this year we added Manor Grey and Earth Red colours to our piping duvet sets and Regal Gold and Emerald Green to our chord line embroidered sets. We also introduced our red robin embroidered nursery sets and pillowcases. Later this year we will add GOTS-certified organic pillows and duvets filled with finest quality British wool. We've found our bunny designs for kids and adults and the lavender embroidered designs do well all year round.

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