Vital sleep sanctuaries in which we humans adopt a horizontal position of solitary unconsciousness, the bedroom can be treated as a ‘dream vacation’ so to speak. And if things don’t work out well there, well, they won’t work out well in the living room either.
How to benefit most from this mandatory downtime has fascinated researchers for many years. An important fact to consider is that getting a good night’s sleep is an all-day affair. How and where we wake up, what we do during the day and our nightly routine before bed can all affect the quality and quantity of our sleep.
This naturally recurring state of mind and body is characterised by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory movement, reduced muscle activity and that of almost all voluntary muscles during REM rapid eye movement sleep. Plus, totally reduced interactions with our surroundings.
Sleep has traditionally been divided into four stages, which all produce different brain waves as a result of the brain’s electrical activity. These range from light sleep – the first stage – to deep sleep and the rather special REM sleep, and back again.
Getting the right amount of sound sleep plays an important role in physical health. It’s involved in the healing and repair of the heart and blood vessels, while ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney problems, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
So, sleeping well directly affects mental and physical health. Fall short on this and it can take a serious toll on daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance and even weight. However, we humans have much more control over the quality of our sleep than is likely realised. The way we feel during our waking hours often hinges on how well we sleep at night, so a solution for sleep difficulties can often be found in daily routine because unhealthy daytime habits and lifestyle choices can have adverse effects.
Preparing for a good night’s sleep means investing in a good mattress. Remembering that we spend an average of 24 years of life sleeping, a mattress that helps induce sound slumber (not necessarily the most expensive one) is vital. Choose the mattress best suited to both individual morphology and budget. Lie on it, try to test it. Don’t rush the procedure.
South African mattress brand Sloom was established in 2016 with the main goal of simplifying the mattress buying experience. Their Rudo Kemp says his products are designed to eliminate the confusion and frustration of buying high-end beds. The online company sells directly to consumers, with products being delivered in an easy-to-handle box that uses innovative packaging technology to compress and roll up the mattress. Further, this is the first and only comfort customisable mattress in South Africa, eliminating the need to test multiple mattresses before selecting one. It consists of four different comfort layers that can be rearranged according to the consumers’ specific firmness preference.
Premium quality foam is used to support up to 150kg per person in a mattress with almost 0 percent motion transfer when a partner jumps into bed. These mattresses are 100 percent South African made, with a 25-year service warranty. They’re built to last.
Next, it’s important to discover an ideal sleep schedule, one that’s in synch with the Earth’s natural solar day / night cycle. In the absence of artificial light, outdoor sleepers such as campers return to their primeval pattern – going to bed earlier, waking earlier and sleeping longer. These are ideals to aim for.
Rudo Kemp: ‘Research shows that a third of adults aren’t getting enough sleep. This adds up to major economic liabilities for any economy as sleep-deprived employees are likely to produce less with more absenteeism, to cause workplace accidents and are at higher risk of life-threatening chronic illness and disability. The need to be innovative in an industry that has been a bit stagnant over the years is essential.’
So, our bodies have evolved to sleep to a regular schedule, but in current 2021 24/7 society, it’s not always practical. And yet a regular sleep schedule should be adhered to where possible, and in best cases this means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. If for any reason we go to bed later than usual, it’s still advisable to try and wake up at the same time. This is particularly important when establishing a new, healthier sleep routine. Wake-up time seems to set the hour for when to sleep.
Day and Night
On waking, exposing the eyes to bright light – particularly blue-white light – sends a signal to the brain to stop releasing melatonin and start raising cortisol levels to assist in the wake-up procedure. Research suggests that morning exposure to bright light can also help in the onset of sleep later that night.
This early morning light may even help regulate the metabolism and sleep experts see a correlation between such exposure and a healthy body. Dr Phyllis C. Zee, a sleep expert, notes: ‘Light is the most potent agent to synchronise the internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance. The clear message is that humans require more bright light between 8am and noon.’
In 2021, manual labour will remain the best sleep aid, and so in our techno-focused economy – where most of us sit at a desk all day – it’s vital to do a daily bout of exercise. Research suggests that regular exercisers sleep better than those who don’t and that, where possible, exercising in the morning assists in waking.
When the sun goes down, the human body naturally starts releasing melatonin to encourage sleep. Bright lights, specifically blue light, can disrupt this process and increased exposure to digital screens at night time is partially to blame for the increased sleeping problems modern humans experience.
We should turn off all TVs, computer and other screens two hours before bed to ensure optimum sleep; however, most people can’t or won’t do this. Fortunately, there are apps that can be installed on digital devices to eliminate the blue light emanating from screens – such as f.lux (iOS) and Twilight (Android). A further point is to dim the exterior lights around the property where possible, even regular white light can interfere with our circadian rhythms.
The bedroom needs to be an oasis of calm that provides relaxing, restful feelings. And it should not be overheated. The human core body temperature decreases just a tad as we fall into sleep, which may explain why a cooler room temperature induces sleep faster and contributes to deeper sleep. Research indicates that the optimal temperature for a good night’s rest is between a surprisingly cool 17°C and 20°C.
Even with eyes closed, light still has a way of reaching the retinas and may disrupt sleep. Make sure the bedroom is dark and keep devices that may have flashing lights and glowing screens switched off. Some people simply sleep better when there’s the low rhythm of a ceiling fan or an air con unit. This type of white noise can help because it masks any sudden sound that might occur while drifting off. Falling rain is similarly soothing.
‘Night time requires the human waking state to reach a deep, psychologically tuning down of the mind and body to relax and prepare for sleep,’ says George Giorgio of Italian import Poltrona Frau. ‘This means that the bedroom is a sanctuary where the senses have importance and while scientists have examined closely how medical and behavioural issues affect sleep, not so the bedroom environment. This latter to comprehend how aesthetic beauty affects sleep and therefore human health and performance.’
For over a century, Poltrona Frau has understood that this particular aesthetic is the result of extrasensory comfort. With their iconic Notte Bed collection, they maintain that the one-third of human lives spent asleep should involve as much style and comfort as possible. This collection offers beds to best fit any personal requirement, complete with a wide array of made-to-measure bases, mattresses, pillows and toppers.
George Giorgio: ‘The Notte collection is designed following ongoing careful study of ergonomics and proportions and uses natural, high-quality materials processed with artisan expertise. Key flag airlines have incorporated this on their two-floor Airbus A380s, with 5-star hotel seats and double beds in First Class, and with Poltrona Frau upholstery featuring in 78 places in Business Class, where seats recline to become a single bed.’
‘An innovative bed brand from Turkey, Yataş promises a brand-new sleeping experience and comfort to its users with the Move-Up Master adjustable base,’ so says Zubair Garda of Enza Home. ‘The Yataş Move-Up Master base ensures adjustment to any position required with its innovative power system, for five separate regions: head, neck, waist, back and feet. This offers relief for individuals with varying health problems and can eliminate the physical disadvantages that occur later in life by helping to ease sitting, straightening up or getting off the bed. The required position is easily adjusted with a remote control.’
The head part of the Move-Up Master movable base can be adjusted from the waistline for effective solutions to disorders, such as reflux and sleep apnea. Whilst the neck part ensures a healthy sleep with its anti-snoring position, the waist region disperses the body weight in a balanced manner to assist in the elimination of waist and muscle pain; and the adjustable foot offers healthy relaxation and the regulation of blood circulation.
Rest En Suite
The bedroom is an intimate space that can best exhibit the user’s true personality. The materials, forms, colour and textures selected create a unique temple that is able to enhance the soul of the user.
Expansive bedroom design – if space is available – can be something of a quandary. It’s a personal penchant and can therefore be perfectly showcased in individual projects, which should turn out to be both intimate and enjoyable in the final analysis.
Bedrooms adjoining wet areas are currently en vogue and will likely continue to be in the coming year. So, if you are thirty-something, svelte or slender, muscular and or tanned – or all of these – then being often on show in an integral wall-less bedroom / bathroom layout just might work. But then again, perhaps not. Privacy can be important in en suite bedrooms.
Bearing in mind that sleep areas are becoming integrated with bathrooms, is this holistic interior space the best solution? It’s often seen and experienced in high-end hotel suites, but can we live with it daily? Does it genuinely represent a comfort zone? Rather, the ultimate prerequisite might be the design, decoration and equipping of comfortable spaces in which to relax and rejuvenate.
It’s a fact that well designed and decorated master suites add value to any home, whether it be an apartment, loft, cottage or mansion. At the top of the list are welcoming, uncluttered bedrooms. Stylish design concepts for a 2021 solution may need to incorporate both aesthetic functionality and decorative appeal, added to which might be key fixtures, innovation and even a touch of fantasy. This to create a unique interior of originality and freshness.
Today’s high-profile en suite bedrooms can go further, manifesting as a three-part story of interconnected areas that are in synch with each other. The third element is sympathetically appointed storage for clothes and accessories through the use of purpose-made dividing walls and wardrobes in dressing rooms. Here, the design signature is extended to complement the fixtures and décor of the en suite format.
Global trends for bedroom design and decoration continue to point towards natural materials and neutral tones with which to garner ultimate comfort and overall tranquillity; space and its intelligent use being key in a satisfactory result. Compact or spacious contemporary sleeping areas can be made more appealing by incorporating ventilation and airiness through windows and skylights.
Then add: personal comforts, ease of use and maintenance and simple, uncluttered interior decoration. The result should be the aesthetic creation of ergonomically pleasing sleep spaces that apply contemporary materials, fittings, fixtures and personally selected decorative accents.
The palette should help create a relaxing ambiance, conjuring the impression of a secure and peaceful place of rest. Often it might feature beiges, lighter earth and stone colours, soft greys and ivories that invoke tranquillity and an easier transition into sleep. Accent colours can be added in moderation, but the sleep sanctuary interior palette should not be at odds with its primary purpose to facilitate the passage into unconsciousness.
Primary colours, vivid geometrics, bright lighting, loud noise, television, laptops, tablets and smartphones are widely regarded by sleep experts as negative factors that may cause overt eye stimulation.
There are now devices available that indicate how well, or poorly we sleep; such as smartwatches that can track sleep patterns through actigraphy. These monitor movement during sleep with algorithms employed to calculate such cycles. The proof? Less movement equals deeper sleep.
Without doubt, sleeping in a space that one finds both comfortable and pleasing to the eye pays dividends. We look forward to being there, to enjoy bedding down. Why? Because we Homo sapiens instinctively know that sleep is crucial in contributing towards physical health because it’s key in the repair and healing of our cellular structures.
Yet there are no failsafe statistics. All humans are different, so there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ night’s sleep, nor a ‘normal’ length of sleep. Rather it’s better to build a picture of what would work personally, to establish an individual awareness of sleep needs and create sleep rules. If adhered to, these will pay dividends. Carrying out a measure of personal research can work in making the best selections to ensure sweet dreams.
Sources: Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep and The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep