Creating a Sleep Heaven, the idea of going to bed has always been synonymous with comfort, peace and relief. Sadly, the reality is often a pale imitation of the fantasy.
Many people’s bedrooms are a muddle of furniture, entertainment systems, clothes and office or exercise equipment’ Despite the crisis of space many of us suffer from, to ensure the best night’s sleep the bedroom needs to be a retreat from all the stimulants that keep you hooked into your daytime concerns. First, try this quick quiz to determine whether your bedroom is a sanctuary or a cell’ For each yes answer score one point, for each no, zero.
- Do you take longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep?
- Do you have one light source in the bedroom?
- Do you have a TV in Your bedroom?
- Is your bedroom dual purpose (example, an office)?
- Do you lack adequate storage in your bedroom?
- Do you sleep near a busy road or experience other forms of noise Pollution?
- Do you wake feeling groggy?
- Do you ever wake up repeatedly in the night?
- Do you share a bed regularly with someone else?
- Are you reliant on tea or coffee to start the day?
Answering yes to three or more means you need to re-evaluate your sleep space. The following section will give you ideas for improvements. Creating a dedicated, balanced and harmonious sleep space will help you to relax after a hectic day.
The Right Equipment
Sound a bit scientific? The reality is that you need the right conditions to get a restful night’ Just a small investment can help you to reap the rewards with a more refreshing night’s rest.
The first step when carrying out a review of your sleep is to take a look at your mattress. If you are having painful or disrupted sleep, it should be your first port of call, as it could be your body’s way of simply saying that you need a new bed. We move around in our sleep up to 60 times in the night, so your bed needs to give enough room to maneuver. If you share your bed, you need to buy the largest you can; bear in mind that a standard double gives both partners less space than a single bed each would.
A good mattress will last you ten years at best. After ten years, a bed that is used regularly will have deteriorated by as much as 75 per cent from its new condition. Considerable back pain or restlessness can be put down to your deteriorating level of support. Mattresses come with various types of internal spring unit (open coil, pocket sprung or continuous springing), ordinary foam, visco-elastic or latex foam (which mould to the body) or can be filled with cotton or other fibers, or be designed to relieve particular orthopedic difficulties. In general, the higher the spring counts in a mattress, the better the support. As a guide, the higher the spring count, the more you will pay.
A divan bed has springs in the base as well as the mattress that are designed to work together. lf you have a more basic bed frame, without springs, make sure you buy a good mattress to compensate for the lack of support in the base. A myth that persists is that the firmer the mattress, the better it is for your back. The level of firmness should actually relate to your body weight – the heavier you are, the firmer your bed needs to be.
The mattress should allow your ‘sticking out bits’- your hips and shoulders – to press into the mattress so that your ‘sticking-in bits’ – your waist or the small of your back – is supported. If you have a specific joint or back problem, take advice from an osteopath or healthcare professional that will be able to advise you. A good mattress deserves a suitable amount of investment as it is essential for providing support and comfort for the resting body.
Make sure you test lots of mattresses as they vary massively from one manufacturer to another. lf you share your bed with someone, make sure they try it too, in order to ensure you both have enough room and don’t roll together. If you can’t compromise, then look at zip and link beds, which join two single beds together. These have welcome advantages for those who have widely differing comfort and support requirements.
When buying your bed there is still one last element to consider – to store or not to store. A lack of storage in the bedroom can be simply solved by purchasing a bed base with drawers underneath, but bear in mind that these are not as good for your back as a sprung base. In some cases, however, losing a degree of comfort more than makes up for getting rid of the piles of boxes or clothes that distract you from rest.
Good-quality pillows are vital in the fight against neck and back pain. Choose a mix of duck down for comfort and feathers for support. If you suffer from a feather allergy, there are good synthetic versions, although they won’t last as long so be aware that they will need replacing sooner. As with duvets, pillows should be cleaned regularly every four to six months. Feather pillows can be dry cleaned, hand washed or machine washed.
Make sure there are no holes in the casing, and then wash on a cool wash with a mild detergent. Afterwards, dry on a hot setting in your tumble dryer or hang out in the sun; whichever method you choose, make sure the pillows are thoroughly dry. Placed in a pillowcase, a damp pillow will get mildew and be ruined. For those with dust allergies, pillows that can be regularly laundered in the washing machine are ideal.
If you tend to wake up with a sore neck, then it could be down to the positioning of your pillows. As you enter REM sleep, your muscles are relaxed and only the ligaments are holding your head in place. Your head, therefore, needs to be held in a straight line with your body; not bent towards the bed toward your chest when you are flat on your back. Experiment with one or two pillows to see what works best for you.
The common choice for bedding these days is a duvet or comforter, so when selecting one you need to understand the ‘tog’ rating that is usually applied to them. Tog is a measurement of warmth: the higher the tog, the warmer the duvet. A child should be fine with a 4.5 tog duvet all year round n mild climates, but in winter an adult may need a duvet with a rating of between 12 and 13.5.
A good way to match the rating with the season is to buy a low-tog spring duvet, about 4 togs, and a heavier one, about 9 togs, and combine them in the winter. Women get colder in bed at night than men, so they may need a higher tog. There are now duvets with a separate tog rating on each side to allow for couples with different preferences.
Choice of sheets is a case of personal preference, but linen is kindest on the skin as it is natural and PH neutral. It can absorb up to 20 per cent of its own weight in moisture, thus absorbing some of the 280 ml (/, pint) of water we lose every night in perspiration. The higher the thread count, the finer the weave and the softer it will feel on the skin.
Although linen is more expensive than cotton, it will last for many years so will be a good investment. If cotton is your preference, apply the same thread count rule as per linen for softness; anything with fewer than 180 will feel rough on the skin. Whether you prefer linen or cotton, for good-quality sheets the general rule is the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet.
Unless you like to sleep as nature intended, wear nightwear that is made of natural fibers to help the skin to breathe and cope with fluctuating body and external temperatures. The clothing should be soft, warm and comfortable. Ensure you don’t choose items that are too tight or likely to get caught up in the bedding.
Bed socks work for those who suffer from chilly extremities, and can even comfort and aid restless sleepers with no temperature problems. By keeping the extremities warm and thus making you more comfortable, bed socks allow the core body temperature to drop further, which promotes deeper relaxation – intense relaxation through meditation has also been shown to lower the body temperature.
Some allergy sufferers can find that bedtime exacerbates their symptoms, causing them to lie awake trying to catch their breath and sneezing. To help keep dust and dust mites to a minimum, vacuum and launder bedding frequently, use hypoallergenic pillows and bedding and keep pets out of the bedroom. As well as the bed, take a good look around your room for possible triggers – padded bed heads, carpets and cushions can all harbor dust and mites.
One very common misconception is that feathers should be avoided, as people often think that feathers irritate all allergies – in fact, they only affect those with a feather allergy. Natural bedding is often a good option for allergy sufferers as it is usually enclosed in a tighter woven casing, so is pretty dust-mite-proof. If you are unsure about the cause of your problems, ask your doctor about being tested. There is more to allergy-proofing a room than avoiding feather pillows. Fabric-covered bed heads, curtains and carpets also need special treatment.