This is a paid partnership with Hästens
This week during an event I attended with Swedish bed manufacturer Hästens, one fact stood out for me – we spend approximately 25 years of our lifetime sleeping. That’s a third of our lives lying horizontal, snoozing, snoring, cat-napping and dreaming, or if you’re like some of us, tossing and turning.
So if we want to make the most of that precious time and get a good night’s kip, it makes sense to start first with the foundations. If this year is all about self care, then let’s start with the bedroom. Here I’m going to share a few tips for sleeping smarter, from monitoring your sleep pattern and developing good sleep habits, to making your bedroom a sanctuary and indulging in some simple, everyday bedtime rituals to help you snooze off sooner.
Striving to create the world’s best bed – the Rolls Royce of mattresses if you like – Hästens is on a mission to change the way people think about and prioritise sleep, so we can enjoy a better quality of life. Established in 1852, they’ve been building beds by hand for six generations and know their stuff when it comes to sleep.
With a passion for quality and craftsmanship, their beds are made of ethically sourced natural materials. Unlike mass-produced mattresses that are being pumped out at the moment, there’s no latex, plastic foam or polyurethane. Instead, beds are carefully crafted from Swedish pine, layered with washed, steamed and cleaned horsehair, pure wool and flax. They’re not cheap, but sometimes great sleep can be priceless.
During the event, held at Houzz of 2018 – a pop-up designed by Run For The Hills showcasing the latest interior trends in a five-storey Soho townhouse – we got to test out the 2000T Hästens bed for ourselves.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the 2000T is made from a springy bottom section, a thick spring mattress and a top mattress for added softness. While the blue check is their signature, it also comes in 13 other colour options.
I was initially sceptical that it would be different from any other mattress I’ve ever slept in, but lying on my back with the duvet tucked around me by the sales assistant, I can only describe it as cloud-like – a magical, cocooning cuddle that moulds to the shape of your back. I could have drifted off right then and there. And if I had a spare £25,000 (yes, you read that correctly), I’d put my money down for that dreamy boutique hotel experience everyday. Some rough workings for you – over 25 years, which is how long Hästens mattresses last, if not longer, it could cost about £2.70 per day, about the cost of a morning coffee…
But how can we take an element of that luxury home and improve our own sleep? We heard from life coach and consultant Raul Aparici from The School of Life, a global organisation dedicated to developing emotional intelligence to help us lead better lives. They apply psychology, philosophy and culture to everyday life.
Sleep is the foundation on which our waking day is set, says Aparici. Today when we’re constantly connected and on the go, it’s no surprise that one of the biggest problems we face is that we’re not switching off properly and getting enough sleep. We’re effectively wired and tired all the time, we often use how busy we are and how many coffees we’ve had as a mark of success. We scroll through our phones just before we go to bed and first thing when we wake up. But that can often mean that when we do put our head on the pillow, we can find our brain working in overdrive trying to make sense of everything that happened, or in some cases didn’t happen.
Aparici said that two thirds of British adults don’t get enough sleep – the majority of us get less than 8 hours sleep, or 8 hours of available time in which you could sleep, when we should be getting closer to nine or ten to really function well.
He explained that we can begin to attribute this to the invention of the light bulb and electricity, which have effectively messed up our circadian clock (a daily cycle of physical, mental and behavioural changes in response to daylight and darkness). We used to wake up when the sun rose and go sleep when the sun set. Now we can stay up later with artificial light, often under the harsh, glaring, blue light from our smart phones or tablets – a light that is known to inhibit the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness, and disrupt your sleep cycle. Aparici said that just five minutes of looking at your iPad can get your melatonin levels down to what they are at lunchtime.
We need to think smarter about sleep and self care. It’s about carefully thinking about our sleep patterns so we can start to build our day around our needs, strengths and weaknesses, says Aparici. It begins with the waking day, really noticing when you feel most awake, when you exercise and feel rejuvenated with energy, for instance. That way we can build rituals into our lives to allow ourselves to wake up, adds Aparici. It might mean taking a short walk outside in the afternoon to get some fresh air, shifting meetings around to make the most of our energies, allowing for high energy events and moments of downtime.
Says Aparici, ‘Rather than focus so much on when we’re tired, we can also focus on when we’re not tired. It’s good to become really aware, on a moment by moment basis, of what our bodies are doing.’
‘During the day we spend a lot of time suppressing thoughts, making sure we don’t think about what someone said to us, or about the fact that we might not like our job. We go to sleep wishing them away so we don’t have to deal with them. Then we take our foot of the accelerator and the thoughts all rush in and we’re wide awake, and we just cannot get to sleep.
‘My advice is to always live an examined life, to make sure that we have time during the day to process all these thoughts, regardless of how difficult they might be, how they might threaten our idea of ourselves. Maybe do a bit of journaling, or talk to someone about stuff that really matters to us, rather than engage in small talk. Deal with it because once we voice things, once they become a bit clearer, we can take away some of the power those thoughts will have in our minds.’
One of the interesting things he said if we still find ourselves struggling to get to sleep is to use reverse psychology. Instead of trying with all our might to fall asleep, concentrate on staying awake and keeping your eyes open. Sounds intriguing – I’m going to give it a go next time I have a bout of insomnia.
To round up, here are some of my own tips for sleeping better:
- get into a habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
- switch on the ‘Night Shift’ mode on your phone, so it gives a warmer light as the sun starts to go down
- likewise, use side lamps and dimmer switches instead of the bright overhead light in the bedroom in the evenings. We have IKEA smart lights which can change from blue light to warm light
- banish technology from the bedroom, or at least turn it off for an hour or two before bed (this is one I certainly need to get better at!)
- restrain from drinking caffeine after lunchtime, sometimes the effects can remain in your body many hours later and keep us wired
- we all know to avoid alcohol – an odd glass of wine can sometimes help us drift off, but drinking more regularly can disrupt our sleep, you might find yourself constantly waking up or getting up earlier
- use scent to relax and unwind – a favourite candle in the evenings or a lavender pillow spray on the pillow
- indulge in simple nighttime rituals to help you wind down – running a hot bath, reading a book, listening to chill-out music, having a hot drink – we all have our favourite routines
- make the bedroom somewhere you want to spend in – invest in good quality bed linen and pillows, tidy up your bedside table, light a few candles if you like
It was fascinating hearing all about the importance of a good night’s sleep with Hästens and it’s certainly something you can’t cut corners around, or scrimp and save on. I guess it’s all about being mindful and responding to our needs. I know I certainly need to get better at switching off and getting ready to sleep.
But how are your sleep patterns, do you have any tips of your own to help you drift off? Let me know in the comments below.
Images: main image, 1-2 and last image courtesy Hästens, otherwise: Cate St Hill
Houzz of 2018 is open until 31 January, at 19 Greek Street, Soho, London.