To sleep, perchance to dream.

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In the modern age, one problem we all have is that so many of us tend to be short of sleep. There are lots of reasons put forward for this, such as the manic pace of life, invention of electric light leading to later evenings, the baffling inability of young children to sleep when they are supposed to, and perhaps the most frustrating, spouses snoring and muttering in their sleep. In terms of dealing with this, there’s a lot written about what’s known as sleep hygiene, but let’s explore some of the most important aspects, along with possible solutions. Some of the information will be familiar, but like all the advice in this blog, it is probably best to see each section as a kind of check-list from which some items will stand out or have particular meaning.  See these as ‘Aha’ moments to be built on later.

Is your bed comfortable, or are you struggling with a dodgy mattress or bedding that is too hot/cold/large/small? Are you breathing in allergens while you sleep?

It all starts here. Begin with a thorough spring clean of your bedroom, including hoovering the mattress and washing the duvet/blankets and pillows on a hot wash (60C, if the care label allows, otherwise follow what it says) and if possible hanging out to dry in the sun, which also kills off that evil beastie, the dust mite, enemy of the people. Avoid keeping things underneath your bed if at all possible, and hoover there regularly as well. If you can’t afford a new mattress, try a mattress topper, or putting a board underneath it to give more support. Your back will thank you for it. Rummage around to see if you have more suitable bedding hidden away somewhere, or failing that, consider investing in new sheets from a supermarket value range or charity shop – ironed white ones always feel more like an upmarket hotel, even if they are polyester cotton mix rather than Egyptian cotton with an obscenely high thread count (anything above 60 threads per inch is sufficient for the luxury feel, by the way). If you are a couple, consider having a single duvet each like our sensible Northern Europeans cousins do, to ensure the best possible sleep (you can always allow your toes to touch modestly if you are feeling affectionate). Air your bed daily (for inspiration, think of all those Swiss chalet  balconies with enormous marshmallow-like eiderdowns flopped over them, competing with the window boxes of red geraniums for space), and if you don’t have time to make it, leave your bed wide open to allow any humidity to evaporate. Change your sheets weekly and make up the bed nicely afterwards, so for at least one day a week it’s looking inviting. Who knows what pleasant unintended consequences of this there might be …?

What is your bedroom like?

Moving swiftly on, if your bedroom is full of work items, electronic gadgets, unironed washing or general household clutter, it’s pretty obvious that it’s going to be a lot harder to settle down in there (this applies to children, televisions and toys as well).  So brace yourself and move anything that’s not truly bedroom related out somewhere else. The bed should be the glorious focal point of the room, with a bedside table and lamp giving off a delicate light ready for reading. A choice novel by the side of the bed invites you to spend ten or fifteen minutes slowing down mentally before going to sleep, and the act of visiting your local library and borrowing a recently published glossy hardback for free gives many a thrifty housekeeper an illicit thrill (and gives the author a small royalty).  Make sure the room is dark enough and the temperature is conducive to sleep (do not do what a friend of mine did and spend a fortune titivating an entire house with great glee only to ignore the heater in the guest room, forcing your friends to sleep in the tasteful antique bed with Egyptian cotton bedding, wrapped in every stitch of clothing they have brought with them and praying morning comes soon! That is surely unnecessary in the 21st century, unless I missed a meeting).  In winter, this might mean making sure you have an extra fluffy blanket to hand, and in summer you might want to air the room for a couple of hours before going to bed, keeping blinds and curtains closed during the hottest part of the day to keep the heat out and protect your fabrics. You might want to arrange a small vase of garden or wild flowers on a table or windowsill, if you get the chance, which always boosts morale, as does displaying your most attractive cosmetics on a dressing table or similar like a 1950s film star. As they say, it’s the little things that matter. Live the dream.

Image: graur codrin /


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