Today’s post comes to you in advance of tomorrow’s podcast which is so packed with content that I wanted to divide it into two parts. So today, in association with our sponsor John Lewis & Partners, I am going to talk to you about sleep. We aren’t getting enough of it. This is down to several things including the dreaded blue light in our bedrooms from those pesky screens, but it’s also about getting the decor right and, most importantly of all – buying the right mattress. Read on for tips on all of this.
There is talk nowadays of a sleep crisis. That we’re all too wound up and working too hard to take the time for those seven hours. Which is turn is making us more wound up and more stressed and less likely to sleep. Or even to sleep well. Back in 1942, according to a survey, we regularly had 7.9 hours a night. By 2013 that had fallen by an hour and by 2016 The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention was warning that up to one third of adults were failing to get the required seven hours sleep they needed a night. And what is interesting is not the lack of sleep but the organisation that is warning about it – which just shows how important it is that we sleep enough and properly.
All this, understandably, also has an effect on our mental health, which, in turn, affects our ability to sleep and so on round it goes. And I know you all know that sleeping with the phone next to the bed is bad but did you know why? Because I do and I didn’t. Well, it’s because the blue light from the screen suppresses the production of melatonin, which is the sleep hormone. I am careful to sleep with my phone tucked under the bed (within arm’s reach) but face down and I don’t know if that makes a difference or not.
So what is to be done to encourage good sleeping habits? Well, one of the first things you need to do is establish your own sleep rituals. Now I’m as guilty as the next person of just having a quick read of the internet before bed but I am also a stickler for reading a book before I turn the light out as well.
Once I have taken all the clobber of my face, moisturised with all the different lotions for the different parts of the face (don’t forget the neck) flossed and cleaned my teeth, I’m already exhausted. Or, to look at it another way, this is all part of my winding down ritual before I go to bed. That said the older I get the longer it takes to do all these things.
Then I get into bed and read until my eyes are heavy. Sometimes this is five minutes sometimes 20. Sometimes five pages sometimes 20. And usually I start by having to re-read some of the pages from the night before. I always read and firmly believe now that if I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to sleep. That’s probably not true but it’s my ritual.
In addition to creating your own rituals, there are guidelines for bedroom decor. This is, of course, intensely personal, but guidelines suggest that the cool colours – blue, forest green, and even pale yellow will encourage better sleep.
If you love colour and pattern, as Sophie does, and feel you would like stronger colours in your bedroom then consider putting them behind your bed (or on the bedhead) so that you don’t see them when you are lying down.
It is, as always, about working out how certain colours and patterns make you feel and then using them in the right way. So if you feel calmer looking at a cobalt blue wall or emerald green then use that colour in your room. There’s no rule about dark or light, it’s about what works for you.
As well as colours, consider also the textures. A deep pile rug or carpet underfoot, crisp cotton or soft linen sheets, a velvet bedspread. It needs to feel plush and cosy in there. And, it’s perfectly possible to do that within a neutral colour palette if that is what you prefer. It can look monastic and zen but it needs to feel fabulous.
The other key factor is a tidy bedroom. Sorry but it’s true. You need to get rid of the piles of clothes, the laundry, the shoes and, if you work in your bedroom, the computer. Put it away, put it in a drawer, behind a screen. Wherever you can, so that once you are in bed your view is clear (and so, therefore, is your mind). The last thing you need is to catch site of the computer with all those unread emails silently stretching out their needy arms and begging for attention as you try to nod off.
Finally, the mattress. This is probably one of the most expensive things you will buy for your home. It’s certainly one of the most important. And a good mattress is expensive so you need to get it right. I bought mine (about five years ago) from John Lewis & Partners, so while they are indeed the sponsors of this post and podcast, I am speaking from experience.
The first thing we were advised is that a firm mattress isn’t for everyone and that there are degrees of firm. Indeed, the firmness of your mattress will depend on your weight, which is why it’s good to try before you buy. You are aiming for a straight spine when you are lying on your side. A mattress that is too hard for you will push your hip and shoulder up and out of alignment. There should be enough give in it – or you should be heavy enough – for it to dip slightly under hip and shoulder so that your spine stays straight.
If you are shopping in pairs then check each other’s backs. If you are shopping alone then ask the assistant for help and when we bought our mattress the store assistant was endlessly patient and helpful suggesting all sorts of different mattresses that might suit us.
There is also the issue of people being different weights. If you can’t find a happy medium you can buy two mattresses that zip together so that each person meets their requirements. Look also for a pocket sprung mattress. This means that all the coils are separate which means that if one person tosses and turns all night the other won’t be bouncing up and down like a jack in the box. And we’ve all been there.
And that, according to The Mad Husband, is the best thing about our mattress for I am a wriggler, a starfisher and a fidgeter (as well, apparently, as a duvet stealer but that’s not relevant to this post) while he gets in, lies down and doesn’t move until the alarm goes off the next morning.
Another tip is that when you are lying on your back you should be able to slide a hand under your lower back.
Experts are agreed that you should spend up to ten minutes lying on a mattress to check it out. In practice I can’t imagine that anyone really has time for that, but do take a few minutes in your favoured sleeping position and moving around to see if it’s right for you.
Once you have decided on the perfect mattress, you need to consider what will happen to the old one. John Lewis & Partners will take it away for £29.95 and ensure that it is disposed of responsibly. The store has also launched its own range of natural mattresses made by Harrison Spinks (see my Do Less Harm directory for more information).
The springs are made from Cortec™ which are laid like a blanket and means there is no need for glue, which is hard to breakdown and recycle. The mattresses in the Natural Collection are also made with Hemp, sourced from the manufacturer’s farm in Yorkshire (hemp is carbon negative).
“The springs are made with British Steel which is unique in its ability to create ultra-fine wire making the springs lighter and reducing emissions during transportation. Fabric for the mattress is woven in the North of England using a viscose fibre made of cellulose from trees and finished using only steam, removing the need for harsh chemicals. This means it requires no additional fire retardant chemical treatments.”
A spokesman added: “The mattresses have been designed not only for maximum comfort, but also with recycling at the end of their life in mind. It’s estimated that in the UK alone 7.5 million mattresses are sent to landfill each year. This innovative new design means that at the end of its life when the mattress is collected for recycling it can easily be broken down and the materials reused diverting them from landfill.
“In 2018, John Lewis & Partners collected over 66,000 mattresses from customers through its mattress and divan recycling scheme.”
As I mentioned at the top of the post, we will be discussing sleep and how to get it right on the podcast but I felt this was an important topic that deserved its own post. The podcast is sponsored by John Lewis & Partners and therefore this post is part of that partnership.