Want the secret to a good night’s sleep? Read on…

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Quality rest is literally life-saving. So how do we get some?

words Miriam Methuen-Jones

Let’s start with a confession: your writer is a chronic insomniac. I’m busy, the world is busier, and sleep often tends to fall by the wayside. For a long time, despite eye bags and headaches, I simply refused to prioritise it.

Then my PT pal intervened. “If you’ve only got time to either go to the gym or get some sleep, always choose sleep,” he said. I was dumbfounded. I’d been heading in the wrong direction in the pursuit of ‘health’.

Sleep improves everything: your brain performance, physical health, emotional responses, concentration span. It reduces your risk of heart disease and dementia. But what if you know all this and you still can’t manage to drift off?

BED MATTERS

Time to change things up and perfect your routine. Start with the big things. Firstly, your bed should be in a protected position. It should be against a solid wall (not a window) and, where possible, should have a view of the door without being too close to it.

This provides a subconscious sense of safety and stops the body from being too alert.

“The bed should ideally be placed where someone standing outside the room cannot peep in and see you,” says Elisabeth Rogoff of Champalimaud Design. Your mattress should suit you.

Take advantage of the lengthy trials offered by brands like Eve and Simba, and make sure you’re not waking up with a sore back. Bedding should be hypoallergenic and breathable.

Invest in the highest quality pillows you can afford (trust me, it really makes a difference) and research the best style for the type of sleeper you are.

“Your pillow should encourage the natural ‘S’ shape of your spine, and relive any tension in your neck and head,” says Lucinda Newbound of Back in Action.

Bear in mind that feather allergies are very common. If you wake every morning feeling all stuffed up, swap the feathers for foam.

Need lots of support? Buckwheat pillows mould to the shape of your neck and head, and are free from synthetic materials. Once you’re happy with your pillows, work out what temperature suits you. This can be hard if you’re not a solo sleeper, but a single duvet each (or a split-tog duvet) could be the solution.

“An optimal temperature in the bedroom is between 18 and 22°C,” says Berit Christiansen of JYSK.

“A good rule of thumb is to choose a duvet filling power of around 10 to 12 togs in a bedroom that is 20 to 22°C.” Take this with a pinch of salt, especially if your partner is a furnace.

IN THE DARK

Explore your options to discover what works for you. A properly dark room is essential for most people to sleep soundly, and is easily achieved with blackout blinds and curtains.

Mechanical window dressings will make your life a little easier in the mornings and evenings. If pitch black incites panic, however, lean into your natural rhythms and choose light linen curtains so you rise with the sun.

Invest in a wake-up lamp for winter mornings. Once all these building blocks are in place, work on minimising distractions and implementing a strict evening routine. Mine? Exercise, a light dinner and then a few pages of a book.

Work chat is off the table, and screens are banished after 8pm. Does it always work? Well, no. But I’m mighty smug when it does, and even if I’m not sleeping, I’m resting.

Sometimes, that’s enough.

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