How to Sleep Better

How did you sleep last night?

If you’re not feeling rested, perhaps you were just being too British about it? According to the 2017 Great British Bedtime Report, we’re getting less sleep than ever, with 74 per cent of us clocking less than seven hours a night. The report, which surveyed over 5,000 people on behalf of the Sleep Council, found a third of us experience poor sleep most nights. And when asked how that poor sleep affected them, over half said their energy levels and mood dropped, while a third claimed health, work and relationships suffered. If you’ve tried lavender oil, chamomile tea and meditation apps to no avail, here’s one more approach that just might help you get a good night’s sleep: a Euro mindset. ‘Many Europeans have a better all-round sleep experience,’ says independent sleep consultant Dr Neil Stanley (thesleepconsultancy.com). In fact, people from the Netherlands, France and Belgium regularly average over eight hours. ‘Their bedrooms are more sacred, more hygienic. They invest more and value sleep more than we seem to in the UK,’ explains Stanley. Let’s find out more…

How to Sleep Better Photo Gallery



Rethink your bed

If you’re going to spend eight hours every night on it, you want your bed to be as comfortable as possible. Too firm and you could wake up with squashed, aching shoulders; too soft and your back will start to complain. A survey for the British Chiropratic Association found one in three people experience back and neck pain after a night’s sleep, while 83 per cent feel stiff and achy on waking. But if your mattress is supporting you properly, your back and overall wellbeing shouldn’t suffer. Dr Stanley says he’s amazed at how little people in the UK are prepared to spend on beds. ‘You wouldn’t buy the cheapest smartphone or TV you could find, yet a cheap, one-size-fits-all foam bed, promoted via social media, suddenly seems like a good idea,’ he says.

‘Think carefully before you buy – if the main design criteria is that it shrinks and rolls up into a box, is that going to give you a good night’s sleep?’ We also tend to focus on the mattress and just buy the bed base or frame that most suits our storage or interior-design needs. ‘Northern Europeans don’t just prioritise sleep and invest more, they think of the whole “sleep system”, the bed and mattress working together,’ explains Toby Walzer, co-founder of Rested (rested.com), a revolutionary new bed showroom in London that specialises in ‘sleep engineering’, using the world’s best brands and products to help customers prioritise bedtime. Its expertly curated range includes ergonomic, adjustable beds and mattresses from Auping and Hollandia, as well as pillows, sheets, bedding and room scents, all selected to promote a healthy night’s rest.

If you share a bed, it’s also vital to spend time finding a combination that suits you both – or a sleep system that lets you each have the comfort that suits your size, weight and preferred sleeping position. ‘People don’t like the idea of sleeping in two singles, or a “zip and link” bed,’ says Walzer. ‘But in Europe two mattresses, or a seamless double (where each side is made to a different spec), is the norm. You can still have sex, snuggle, be intimate. But, when the time comes to sleep, you can move into your own space and sleep right for you.’ How do you find what’s right for you? You simply have to try it. ‘You can’t buy a bed without lying on it,’ he says. ‘Put in some time and effort. Ask someone to check your spine is straight when you lie on your side.’ (or try the photo feature on the Better Days app from Auping, one of Rested’s key bed brands). It’s also worth checking out the Auping website (auping.com) for all the amazing engineered wire-framed beds that put you into a state of zero gravity – the ultimate relaxation!

Go large

The standard British double bed is just 135cm wide. ‘No other country has beds that small for two people,’ says Walzer. ‘The European equivalent is 140cm and most people would treat that as a single. They’re 10cm longer, too.’ In the Great British Bedtime Report, partner disturbance was cited as the reason for a poor night’s sleep by 25 per cent of respondents. ‘If you’re sharing a bed, you each need your own space when you come to sleep, for better temperature regulation and so as not to disturb each other,’ says Dr Stanley. ‘So go for the largest size you can fit into your room.’

Ventilation is king

Think of the last time you changed your sheets. Did you notice that plastic disc on the side of your mattress, about 2in in diameter? ‘That’s the British concession to mattress ventilation – a tiny vent,’ says Walzer. Buy a bed in northern Europe, however, and ventilation is the USP. ‘It’s a matter of hygiene,’ he explains. ‘We lose at least 300ml of water in sweat every night and, without adequate ventilation, all that moisture ends up in your mattress.’ So look for a bed frame on legs, rather than a solid divan bed, and slats or a mesh base, to allow a free flow of air all round your mattress. You’ll sleep in a healthier, cleaner environment and wake up more refreshed. ‘European consumers also like a mattress that has a washable top layer,’ adds Walzer. Consider a mattress topper or protector so you can do the same. • Washable wool mattress toppers, from £139.99, thewoolroom.com.

Try jersey sheets

‘At Rested we only sell fitted, jersey sheets,’ says Walzer. ‘In the UK, we obsess over thread count and Egyptian cotton, but it always looks creased and feels uncomfortable. Northern Europeans favour stretchy jersey that’s completely smooth on the mattress and never needs ironing. Try it and you’ll be convinced. Cotton sheets are woven and the higher the thread count, the thicker and less permeable the fabric. Jersey fabric on the other hand is knitted, which means far superior ventilation. This allows heat and moisture dissipation, keeping you cool and comfortable, as well as quicker drying – no more waking up in sweat-soaked sheets.’ • Try Bella Donna by Formesse fitted cotton jersey sheet, from £50 for a single; rested.com. Or Scenario cotton jersey fitted sheets, from £20 for a single; laredoute.co.uk.

You only need one pillow

By all means, keep the cushions you pile on for decorative purposes, or an extra pillow for when you’re sitting up reading in bed. But when it’s time to lie down and sleep, a pillow just needs to support your head to keep your spine in line. ‘If you need two or you spend all night puffing and punching and turning your pillow, it’s not supportive enough,’ says Walzer. ‘Feather pillows aren’t great – go for memory foam, latex, hollow fibre, or a combination. And pick a shape based on your sleep position.’ Again, it’s an individual choice – don’t have the same pillow as your partner just because they were on a two-for-one offer. • Try the Moon latex pillow for side sleepers, £60; rested.com.

Double up on duvets

Sharing a bed shouldn’t have to mean sharing a duvet. Scandi style means one per person – and you’ll sleep a whole lot better for it. No more tug of war with the covers as you snuggle down and you won’t notice each other moving around as much, even if you share a mattress. ‘Having two single duvets means you can choose your own weight and material, so you can regulate your own temperature during the night,’ says Dr Stanley. ‘My wife likes two thick duvets while I’ll have a thin autumn one all year round. Separate duvets is a habit I picked up in Holland about 15 years ago (where the duvets are also longer, so no more cold feet) and I’ve never gone back. Most hotels you stay in throughout Europe offer the same.’ Even Ikea is calling time on our British double-duvet habit and is offering a ‘Tog-ether’ (see what they did there?) couples’ bedding set. Choose from two, 7 or 12.5 tog single duvets, or one of each. For some Brits though, separate duvets are a step too far. ‘If you prefer the look of just one, go up a size from your bed,’ Walzer advises. ‘So for a king-size bed, buy a super-king duvet and you won’t be pulling it around so much.’ And if you’re always arguing about temperature, look for a ‘dynamic duvet’ with temperatureregulating materials such as merino, alpaca or cashmere.

Upgrade your PJs

You wouldn’t go for a run, hit the gym or go to work in clothes that aren’t designed for the job. Yet most of us sleep in an old T-shirt. ‘Considering the proportion of our lives we spend sleeping, we do it in the least innovative or purpose-driven garments we own,’ says Catarina Dahlin, one half of new Swedish-designed sleepwear brand Dagsmejan (see box, opposite). ‘When you sleep, your temperature equalises all over your body, so your core temperature drops and skin temperature rises,’ she explains. ‘There’s a microclimate under your duvet with no air circulating and lots of sweat. Plus, because there’s increased blood flow to the skin during sleep, it’s more sensitive to rubbing and pressure points. Think of nightwear as the first layer of bedding – choose wisely.’ Think comfort – no itchy features or seams, natural but technical fabrics that help keep you as warm or cool as you want to be.

Keep it minimal

Here in the UK we like to keep our bedrooms cosy – lots of cushions, blankets, trinkets, furniture. And you’re probably maximising storage space, too, with a divan bed with built-in drawers, or boxes of clothing under your bed. Scandinavian style, of course, is more sparse, chic and minimal. But it’s not just for aesthetics. ‘It’s yet another sign they value their sleep more,’ says Walzer. ‘Beds are on frames, not divan bases, to allow air to circulate (and the floor to be vacuumed). There’s no place for clutter or technology – the bedroom is a place for calm, sleep and no work, blue light or distractions.’ Go for full blackout ‘Scandanavians are used to going to bed when it’s still light, during their long summer nights,’ says Dr Stanley, ‘so their bedrooms have blackout shutters or blinds, or they wear eye-masks. They know darkness stimulates production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.’ We love Spacemasks – relaxing singleuse eye masks that heat up while releasing a subtle jasmine scent. Warm masks are recommended by opthalmologists to nix eye strain and dry eye. • Spacemasks, £15 for 5; spacemasks.com

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