It’s not news that we are suffering from a sleep crisis at the moment. Insomnia was an issue for many of us before the pandemic and Covid-somnia is now a recognised syndrome. Here in the UK, a study from the University of Southampton last August found that the number of people suffering from insomnia rose from one in six to one four, with more sleep problems found among mothers, key worker and those in Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minority groups. In Greece nearly 40 per cent of those surveyed last May claimed to be suffering and in the peak lockdown in China reported cases of insomnia rose from 14.6 per cent to 20 per cent.
And the loosening of restrictions isn’t necessarily solving the problem either as many of us are anxious about returning back into “normal” life. Routines have been shattered, work/life boundaries blurred and the uncertainty continues.
So today I thought I would bring you an extract from my latest book – the planner, with a few tips on planning your bedroom space so that it works for you and your needs and then you can implement all the standard recommendations about less screen, less caffeine, more fresh air. After all, there’s no point in starting all the good habits if the room is wrong to start with.
As well as graph paper for floor plans, spaces to make your own lists and answer key questions, each chapter also includes design tips and checklists to help you get a room right from the planning stages or – if it needs a redo – to make the most of a refurbishment.
If the last year has taught us anything it is to recognise the link between our mental health and well-being and the décor we surround ourselves with. And it may sound simplistic but if you like your bedroom, the decor makes you feel relaxed and you have somewhere to store your clothes (it’s up to you if you actually choose to use it or not!) as well as a place to hide any work stuff if this is your WFH situation, then it makes sense that you have already started to set the scene for a better night’s sleep.
Storage and clutter is key for me being able to relax. And no I don’t hang my clothes up every night (far from it) but because we are lucky enough to have a big room we have created a wardrobe behind a false wall which means I can chuck everything behind there but the bed and area around looks tidy. Now, of course not everyone will have room for that but it’s worth knowing that built-in wardrobes will give you 30 per cent more storage than freestanding so if you are staying in a property for a length of time it’s worth considering. That way you can build into awkward angles and really maximise the amount shelving you can create. Where possible build up to the ceiling and paint them to match the walls so they disappear and are as seamless as possible.
Consider your pendant light. Usually they are wired into the middle of the room but when you put the bed in this can leave them pointlessly lighting a bit of carpet at the end of it. Also many of us don’t really use the pendant light for anything more than lighting the way to the bedside lamp. Which means i) you need to choose a light that gives you joy as its job will be mainly to look good and ii) you can think about moving it to a more useful spot. This might be hanging low in a corner where it will look pretty and provide some ambient light, or perhaps adding a second flex to the ceiling rose and lengthening the flex so you can drape it from the middle and hang a bedside light by either side of the bed which will free up space. Remember you might want to add switches over here too (which is a bigger job) so you can turn the lights off without getting out of bed.
If this seems too much like hard work, and you still want to save space on the bedside table – or if you don’t have room for a bedside table, there are lots of plug-in wall lights available these days which means you can just fix one to the wall and the job is done. If you promise the landlord you will make good any damage then this can work in a rented house too.
Sticking to tight spaces, if there’s no room for tables either side then you can add a long shelf above the bedhead. Experiment with the height so you don’t bang your head every time you sit up and make it wide enough for books, lamps and anything else you might want on there.
Divan beds can be very useful as they have often have storage underneath but they don’t bring much to the décor. You can paint the wall behind to create the illusion of height and width; if you are going for grandeur paint a strip the width of the bed up to the ceiling and even across it like a giant canopy. Or do the same with wallpaper. Remember you will see this when you come into the room but not when you are trying to sleep or relax so you can go bold if it will lift your heart when you enter but won’t be energising when you need to sleep. Building a headboard that goes all the way across the room (with tables in front) can make the space feel bigger and more luxurious – it’s a sort of hotel feel. This is probably a bespoke job though so factor that into your costs.
When it comes to rugs either buy one that will comfortably sit under the whole bed with space all round for cosy feet or two smaller ones. If anyone can explain to me the point of a pretty rug at the bottom of the bed I’m all ears.
Blackout blinds are practical and these days come in a variety of colours. You can add curtains for decorative purposes or make Roman, or London (more curved) blinds from fabulous material that will add décor but cost less than full length curtains.
Colour-wise you need to really analyse how colours make you feel. An energising cobalt blue isn’t going to send you off to sleep if it sets your brain raising with ideas. Likewise a soft grey might be draining rather than relaxing. Have a rummage round Pinterest looking at rooms you like and take a few moments to ask yourself how the paint shade makes you feel. Night owls might prefer dark cocooning shades, while larks will need something brighter to get them up in the morning. If you are one and sleep with another the compromise may be either in the middle or on the wall behind the pillows.
Finally – buy the biggest bed you can fit into the room. You will only ever be glad of this. And buy the best mattress you can afford. Likewise.