Medical Research

Merino Wool Increasing Sleep Time, Even in Hot / Cold Temperatures

The study, conducted by the University of Sydney, Australia, and funded by The Woolmark Company, explored the impact of wool bedding and sleepwear on sleep quality and quantity in adults. The three-year study measured total sleep time and sleep efficiency – the portion of time spent asleep compared to the total time in bed – across 17 participants, and found that wool bedding and wool sleepwear are beneficial to a good night’s sleep.

Consistent with earlier science findings, the early results from a study undertaken by the University of Sydney, Australia, are showing that wool sleeping apparel and bedding increases total sleep time, promotes sleep onset and improves sleep efficiency.

In hot (29° Celsius) conditions, wearing wool sleepwear saw participants in the study sleep significantly longer, reflecting faster sleep onset and waking up less frequently. In both cold (17° Celsius) and neutral (22° Celsius) conditions, the combination of wool sleepwear and bedding saw participants have a more efficient sleep compared to when tested using non-wool sleepwear and bedding.

Science is also showing that merino wool assists those suffering from chronic skin conditions, and challenges misconceptions that wool is ‘prickly’ and ‘itchy’.


Merino wool Helps People Fall Asleep Faster

Wearing wool pyjamas could be more effective at tackling insomnia than counting sheep, research suggests.

The body can be kept in the “thermal comfort zone” most conducive to restful sleep by wearing wool, Australian scientists said.

In a study of students in their 20s, they nodded off four minutes faster on average when wearing pyjamas made from merino wool rather than cotton, taking 11 minutes instead of 15. They also enjoyed an extra seven minutes of sleep per night.

Adults aged 65 to 70 got to sleep even faster when wearing woollen PJs, falling asleep after 12 minutes compared with 22 and 27 minutes for people wearing polyester or cotton.

Researcher Dr Paul Swan, from the University of Sydney, said: “Not so long ago sleeping under wool bedding was the norm, and science is now rediscovering the benefits of sleeping in wool.

“Maybe it is not a coincidence because wool regulates your body temperature far better, keeping you in what is known as ‘the thermal comfort zone’. You therefore not only fall asleep quicker, sleep longer, but also have deeper, better quality sleep.”

“Enjoying good sleep has become increasingly difficult in modern times, and so anything that helps is great for your mental and physical health.”

The research in Australia was carried out over periods of nine and four night, involving 17 students and 36 older adults. Participants were put to bed in British-level night-time tempeatures of 17C (62.6F).


Deeper and More Restful Sleep - Newborns with Jaundiced

Research conducted on jaundiced newborns revealed that those sleeping on wool were more settled when sleeping compared to those on cotton – spending 8 per cent more time without minor movements, 14 per cent less time performing major movements, and crying less (about 30 per cent of babies on wool cried compared with 67 per cent on cotton).

Source: Powley, M., Nye, P., and Buckffield, P. The Lancet, May 3, 1980, p979-980

Merino Wool is Naturally Breathable

Wool fibres are naturally breathable. They can absorb large quantities of moisture vapour and allow it to evaporate, making wool garments feel less clingy and more comfortable than garments made from other fibres. In contrast to synthetics, wool is an active fibre that reacts to changes in the body’s temperature, keeping the wearer comfortable.

Accordingly, wool garments are one of the most breathable of all the common apparel types.


Merino Wool Recognized as Asthma and Allergy Friendly

Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) has officially recognized bedding products made from Merino wool as asthma & allergy friendly.

ASL states: “There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that high quality, fine Merino wool is non-irritant and of low risk to those with sensitive skin. A recent report reviewing the literature on the subject found that a coarse fiber diameter (>30-32μm) will induce a cutaneous irritation that is not observed with finer merino wool. The effects on patients with mild-to-moderate Atopic Dermatitis wearing merino clothing was also recently examined in several clinical studies carried out in Australia and the US.”

A major study conducted by an expert group of allergists, immunologists, and dermatologists from across the globe, reviewed the past 100 years of research to assess claims that wool causes allergy. This analysis, published as Debunking the Myth of Wool Allergy, found no evidence that wool is an allergen.

The study found that suitably selected superfine merino products are healthy for the skin, especially for those with the most sensitive skin. Superfine Merino wool fibers bend easily, causing minimal or no skin irritation.

Furthermore, recent studies suggest that contemporary superfine Merino wool with their reduced fiber diameters in fact benefit eczema management.


Su, J. C. et al. Determining Effects of Superfine Sheep wool in Infantile Eczema (DESSINE): a randomized paediatric crossover study. J. Dermatol. 177, 125–133 (2017).

Spelman L.J., Supranowicz M.J., Davidson K.A., Johnston J.J., Yau B., and Holland T.L. An Investigator Blinded, Clinical Trial Assessing the Efficacy of Superfine Merino Wool Base Layer Garments (SMWBG) in Children with Atopic Dermatitis (AD) Measuring SCORAD1, EASI2, POEM3 and DSA4 Scores. Biomedical Journal of Scientific & Technical Research. 7(1) (2019)

Fowler, J. F, Fowler, L. M. & Lorenz, D. The Effects of Merino Wool on Atopic Dermatitis Using Clinical, Quality of Life, and Physiological Outcome Measures. American Contact Dermatitis Society, 30 (3), 198–206 (2019)

Merino Wool Good for Baby’s Sensitive Skin, Including Eczema

Eczema, also known as Atopic Dermatitis, is approaching epidemic levels in Western nations, with more than 25% of all children born in Australia having a degree of eczema. Sufferers of the condition have dysfunctional skin that dries out, which leads to the skin cracking, bacterial infection, redness, scratching and itching.

However, in positive news for the wool industry, two recent dermatology trials – funded by The Woolmark Company – have shown that infant and adult sufferers of eczema have reduced symptoms when wearing superfine Merino wool garments next to the skin.

Study 1: clinical trial of infants with eczema (MCRI, Melbourne)

A study of approximately 40 babies and young children under 3 years old, at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne, showed significant advantages of superfine Merino wool base-layers over cotton in improving the symptoms of eczema. In the study half the children wore 100% superfine Merino wool for six weeks before changing over to cotton, with the remaining children starting in cotton before switching over to Merino wool after six weeks.

“We found that wearing superfine Merino wool led to an overall greater improvement in eczema, when compared with wearing outfits made of cotton,” said Associate Professor John Su.

“This finding challenges prevalent beliefs in the lay and medical communities, as well as findings from older, less rigorously performed studies from the mid-1950s, when coarser diameter and heavier wool garments were used.

“Skin irritation from any fibre type partly relates to the diameter of fibres. While wool can have many fibre diameters, only low diameter (superfine) Merino wool garments were used in the MCRI study.

“When comparing Merino with cotton, there are also other inherent differences in fibre properties: Merino’s greater ability to transfer moisture vapour and heat than the other major apparel fibres enable it to maintain a more stable microclimate between the skin and the garment.”

[…] Featured in the news report were Rheannan Williams and her 2-year-old daughter who suffers from eczema.

“The eczema was red, painful and blistery,” Rheannan said. “But within two to three weeks of wearing wool it was unbelievable… her skin is clear… I would 100% recommend it, it’s amazing.”

The trials have been conducted using lightweight, 150 gram per square metre superfine Merino wool garments with a micron range finer than 18.6 microns.

Program Manager of Fibre Advocacy and Eco Credentials with The Woolmark Company, Angus Ireland, says the studies demonstrate a strong role for superfine Merino in fostering healthy skin and managing eczema.

“The traditional advice to indiscriminately avoid wool against the skin, based on early commentaries that failed to distinguish between wool fibre types, can now be modified to include superfine Merino as a recommended next-to-skin clothing choice.

“It’s interesting to note that, prior to the QIDerm study, most patients say they couldn’t tolerate wool and many believed they were allergic to wool. However, we didn’t have a single patient withdraw from the study due to any types of intolerance of these superfine wools.

“The results from the dermatological research are extremely encouraging and provide a significant opportunity for Merino wool. The findings are potentially not only profound for sufferers of this debilitating and potentially life-long condition, but also for the wool industry.”

The fact that the Brisbane-based study was undertaken throughout the city’s hot and humid summer conditions, also shows that low-micron lightweight wool garments are suitable for all seasons.

Study 2

Despite limited evidence, woollen clothing has traditionally been considered to be an irritant that should be avoided by individuals with atopic dermatitis (AD). Wool fibres come in a range of diameters, and have beneficial thermodynamic and moisture transport properties.

Objectives: This study examines the effects of superfine merino wool on symptoms in participants with mild-to-moderate atopic dermatitis.

Methods:The trial was a 12-week, randomized, assessor-blinded, crossover, prospective, cohort study of 39 patients with mild-to-moderate atopic dermatitis, aged between 4 weeks and 3 years, comparing superfine merino wool ensembles with standard cotton clothing chosen by parents. Participants were assigned to wool or cotton clothing and assessed every 3 weeks for 6 weeks, before crossing over to wear the other clothing material for a further 6-week period, with similar 3-weekly reviews. The primary end point was the SCORing Atopic Dermatitis (SCORAD) index after each 6-week period, with Atopic Dermatitis Severity Index (ADSI), Infants’ Dermatitis Quality Of Life Index (IDQOL) and topical steroid use as secondary end points to measure atopic dermatitis severity and quality of life.

Results: Overall, compared with baseline, superfine wool ensembles were associated with a reduction in mean SCORAD of 2·5 [95% confidence interval (CI) -4·7 to -0·4] at 3 weeks and 7·6 (95% CI -10·4 to -4·8) at 6 weeks when compared with the cotton ensembles. A similar change was observed in ADSI and IDQOL scores for the same period. Body steroid use was also reduced. Conversely, changing ensembles from wool to cotton resulted in an increase in scores.

Conclusion: Superfine merino wool may assist in the management of childhood atopic dermatitis.

Study 3

A study of child and adult sufferers of eczema, commissioned by AWI and undertaken by the Division of Dermatology, University of Louisville, Kentucky, has demonstrated the beneficial effects of wearing superfine Merino wool next to the skin. The study, published in the medical journal Dermatitis and led by Professor Joe Fowler, confirmed that wearing Merino wool clothing compared to standard clothing provided improvements in severity of atopic dermatitis (eczema) as well as quality of life in atopic dermatitis patients.

Sources: atopic-dermatitis-using.4.pdf

British Journal of Dermatology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Association of Dermatologists

Merino wool Helps Underweight Newborns to Gain Weight

A study showed the weight gain rate in underweight newborns in incubators was 61 per cent higher when sleeping on a wool underlay compared to a cotton sheet.


Benefits of Merino Wool for Baby's Sleep

Weight gain in underweight newborns was 61% higher when they slept on a wool underlay instead of a cotton sheet, researchers have found.

Jaundiced newborns sleeping on wool were more settled and cried less than those sleeping on cotton, other research revealed.

In a study of Australian pre-school children on bedding fabrics and underlays, children who slept in any synthetic bedding in summer or winter were more likely to be reported as having a sleep problem, than those who slept in cotton or wool.


Merino Wool is Not An Allergen

A highly esteemed group of medical professionals from across the world have reviewed research papers published during the past 100 years to critically assess scientific studies claiming wool causes allergy. A new analysis found no evidence that wool is an allergen, and if a fabric does cause any sensations of itch and prickle on the skin then it is because of the large diameter of the fibres and not due to the fibre type being wool.

More details can be read on the link below.


Sleepbag usage

The use of baby sleep bags has increased dramatically within the British population over the last decade. Parents report that sleep bags are a convenient alternative to traditional bedding, and help their babies sleep better by preventing them from kicking off blankets and becoming cold during the night. Such use is also supported by a study that suggested that their use is a preventative factor against SIDS (L’Hoir et al 1998) (possibly due to reduced potential for excess bedding and head covering, as might occur when traditional blankets, sheets or duvets are used), and by some advisory bodies including the Lullaby Trust. Very little epidemiological support exists for this, as few SIDS risk studies have examined sleep bag use. A recent UK case control study, found no association between sleep bag use and SIDS risk (Blair et al., 2009).

The relationship between bedding, temperature and SIDS

Since the 1980s there has been considerable scientific interest in the relationship between infant thermal environments and the risk of SIDS. A number of case-control studies conducted prior to the Back to Sleep campaign demonstrated that infants whose deaths were designated as SIDS tended to be exposed to greater insulation from more bedding (thicker or more layers), clothing, and higher ambient temperature than control infants. They also suggested the rate of SIDS was significantly higher during the winter months due to changes in thermal care practices during these months (e.g. Fleming et al 1990; Ponsonby et al 1992). Excessive bedding or high ambient room temperature and head covering may affect various aspects of infant physiology, with potentially negative consequences.


Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

The endocrine system is a network of glands and organs that produce, store, and secrete hormones. When functioning normally, the endocrine system works with other systems to regulate your body’s healthy development and function throughout life. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are substances in the environment (air, soil, or water supply), food sources, personal care products, and manufactured products that interfere with the normal function of your body’s endocrine system.

EDCs can disrupt many different hormones, which is why they have been linked to numerous adverse human health outcomes including alterations in sperm quality and fertility, abnormalities in sex organs, endometriosis, early puberty, altered nervous system function, immune function, certain cancers, respiratory problems, metabolic issues, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, growth, neurological and learning disabilities, and more.

Common EDCs used for children’s products are Lead, Phthalates, Cadmium and Certain Plastic.

What can be done? Become familiar with EDCs to which you and your family may be exposed. Try to avoid unnecessary, preventable exposure to EDC-containing consumer products.


American Academy of Pediatrics - Guidelines

Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics

  • Babies shouldn’t share a bed with parents. Sleeping in the same room, but not in the same bed, may reduce babies’ risk of SIDS by up to 50 percent;

  • The safest spot for infant sleep is on a firm surface such as a crib or bassinet without any soft bedding, bumpers or pillows;

  • Parents need to make sure that everyone taking care of their baby follows the A-B-Cs of safe sleep. Their infant should always be placed to sleep ‘A’ Alone, with no bed sharing or objects in the sleep area, ‘B’ on their back, and ‘C’ in a crib or bassinet only;

  • Head covering is identified as a risk factor of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of baby sleep sacks as a safer alternative to loose bedding.