On World Sleep Day, we look at the latest in bedroom design and get expert advice on better slumber
Today’s the day when World Sleep Day and Saint Patrick’s Day collide. They’re not natural bedfellows, given the Paddy’s Day association with pageantry and booze. Not the best recipe for peaceful sleeping, which is something many people have a problem with.
The Sleep Foundation reports that between 10pc and 30pc of adults struggle with chronic insomnia and most (up to two-thirds) have experienced insomnia to some degree. Interior design is part of the solution because the bedroom is the place where sleep happens. Or doesn’t happen.
“The bedroom is so important,” says sleep expert Anne Marie Boyhan of the Sleep Care Company. “We need to have a sanctuary to retreat to after a busy day.” The ideal conditions for sleeping are simple and logical. The bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet. The décor should be calming, although what people find calming is very individual. The optimal colour scheme might be muted pink for one person and deep green for another.
Clutter is rarely conducive to sleep. Nobody drops off easily amid tasks they have left undone. “I often recommend journaling at bedtime,” Boyhan says. “Keep a notebook by the bed and get everything out of your head and onto the page before lying down to sleep.” Her Sleep Journal (€30) includes affirmations and science-backed information about sleep.
Purveyors of beds and mattresses are very keen on World Sleep Day. Among them DFS, a company best known for sofas, has produced a ‘Feel Good Guide to Dream Sleep’. The booklet showcases 11 different bedrooms with beds ranging from the conscience-salving Grand Designs Tenby double bedframe in green velvet (€1,949), which is made from responsibly sourced timber and recycled plastic bottles, to the cheery patterns of the Cath Kidston x DFS collection (€1,559 for a king-size frame in Summer Birds fabric).
“The secret to a good night’s sleep is to create a positive bedtime ritual,” says Boyhan, who advised on the project. “It programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine. We can no longer just jump into bed and expect to sleep. We have to wind down. But what works is very individual. I can’t stand baths for example — they make me feel hot and bothered — but some people find them very helpful.”
Most of the conversations around sleep focus on falling and remaining asleep but, as Boyhan explains, the other end of the cycle is important too. “A sunrise alarm can help to wake you up gently, without a fright. It mimics the sunrise in your room.” The Wake Up light (€50 from The Sleep Shop) gradually increases in brightness in the half hour before wake-up time, with nature-based alarm sounds including ocean waves, wind chimes and birdsong. It also has sunset options for bedtime.
World Sleep Day also affords marketing opportunities for those who make and sell window treatments. The curtains and blinds company Hillarys has recently conducted a survey on sleep, concluding that 68pc of respondents place their bed next to the window and 17.5pc struggle to sleep due to noise from outside. Their recommendation is a thermal or blackout lining which helps to reduce noise as well as light. If street noise is a problem, moving the bed away from the window can also help a lot. The survey also included some research into bedtime stories, with almost a third of participants claiming that an Irish accent is the most soothing for reading aloud.
For advocates of the bedtime story, the key ingredients are an app with a sleep timer and a Bluetooth sleep headband (widely available for about €20). There’s also research that pink noise can help you sleep. The Sleep Foundation describes pink noise as: “a sound that contains a random assortment of all the audible frequencies, with more power in the lower frequencies.” It’s often compared to the sound of rain, running water, or even the distant rumble of traffic. Pink noise has a lower pitch and is less annoying than white noise, although the latter is said to help babies get to sleep.
Another Sleep Foundation survey claims that 56pc of respondents sleep with a pet on the bed. The obvious disadvantages to this are germs, allergies, and differing sleep cycles. On the plus side, the presence of an animal can impart a sense of comfort and security.
For people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a service dog can be trained to wake them up when they are having a nightmare with 57pc reporting that their dog helped ease their nightmare problems.
You can’t buy a good night’s sleep. But you can buy a bed that can monitor air quality, temperature and humidity along with noise and light. This marvellous machine — the Hi-Can bed from Hi-Interiors — also offers sleep monitoring and an analysis report. “Good morning,” says the bed. “I see you passed a restless night and were woken by the bin lorry at 6am. Sorry about that. How about a squirt of lavender and some whale song?” I’m fictionalising here, but the real-life bed offers music therapy, ambient coloured lighting, and fragrancing. It can even give you a shoulder or leg massage. No strings attached, apart from the price (from €90,000). Pause to lie down.
The Hi-Can bed is also an entertainment station with a home theatre audio system, a 4K HD projector, and a 70-inch motorised screen incorporated into its canopy. That’s an interesting one, as screen time is considered a leading cause of insomnia. According to Boyhan, the single biggest thing you can do to promote a peaceful sleep is to put away all screen-based devices an hour before bedtime. She calls this a digital curfew.
Presumably the bed can be programmed to modify its activities after hours, like a smartphone on night-time mode. At the moment, the Hi-Can bed (the name is an abbreviation of High-Fidelity Canopy) is a gimmick for the uber-rich. But the technology has potential for a much wider application.
A smart bed that’s controllable from a single app would be extremely useful for people with disabilities or chronic illness that requires them to spend a lot of time in bed. Only the price would have to come down first.
The Sleep Foundation is a repository of medically-reviewed information about sleep, see sleepfoundation.org. See also thesleepcarecompany.com, hillarys.ie, dfs.ie, hi-interiors.com.