I feel like I start every single column with some version of now more than ever – because now more than ever our homes have become the literal and metaphorical centres of our lives. But genuinely, now more than ever, we all need a good night’s sleep.
Let’s start with your bed. The bed industry – they would, wouldn’t they? – suggests we change our mattresses every 10 years. My grandmother, a hospital matron, used to say always spend as much as you can on your bed and your shoes, because if you’re not in one you’re in the other and generally I think this is good life advice.
If your mattress sags and you just can’t get comfortable, then it’s probably time to change it. Another good clue is if you sleep more comfortably away from home – and it’s about the bed, not the other person in the bed – you may need a new mattress. I’ve stripped the linen off hotel beds before to find out what the mattress was and I’d do it again. Best ever: Swedish brand Carpe Diem, and if I ever accidentally find myself with access to the GDP of a reasonably-sized nation, that’s what I will spend it on.
To get the best life out of your mattress, let it air for an hour or so every week when you change the linen – and each day when you make your bed, fling back the covers and give it a mini air out while you shower and dress, too. Vacuum the mattress with the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner every couple of months to help get rid of dust, dust mites, crumbs, skin flakes, and well, do you really want me to go on?
Many mattresses now come with a claim that you don’t need to flip them or turn them, but I think it does help so I persist in wrestling with mine every couple of months.
Also, buy mattress protectors – in fact, buy two for each bed, so you can swap them over for laundering.
I also air my duvets. A friend once told me she always knew when I was changing the bed because “I drive past on a Saturday morning and your duvet is hanging out of the window like some sort of peasant”.
But sunlight kills dust mites and I find that a couple of hours in the peasanty fresh air makes the down fluff up beautifully. Also, I am quite mean and I am sure these regular, bracing, out-of-the-window spa cures prolong the life of the duvet.
So my recipe for a good night’s sleep is a little care and a lot of air (for you and the bed; don’t forget to air out the room by throwing open the window for a bit at least once a day, too).
It may not be the answer to everything, but it is the answer to a small but fundamental thing you can control today, right now, and that will do for me.