Lack of sleep is a common malaise in our hyper-connected world and something I’ve personally really struggled with these last few years. In an effort to create a more restful environment, I recently overhauled my bedroom. While it’s certainly helped, there’s a wealth of science that say our daytime behaviours and bedtime routines are also huge factors on how well we sleep.
In an effort to understand the latest discoveries in the science of rest, I caught up with sleep expert Dr. Carmel Harrington, who gave me some of her best tips to inducing slumber.
A bed time ritual signals to your brain that it’s time for sleep. “If you implement a sleep routine the body is smart, it becomes entrained to understand that these behaviours, that this routine, is a prelude to sleep. You can train and tell the brain to start doing the thing it needs to do such as producing sleep hormones and closing our awake pathways,” says Carmel, who suggests winding down for bed an hour before sleep time. Put the tech away, turn down the lights, taking a bath and diffusing oils, which brings me to…
Scent is so important in creating a restful environment and studies have shown that lavender can help switch you into sleep mode. I pop a few drops of In Essence Sleep Oil in my diffuser about an hour before bed. “Lavender is particularly effective in calming and reducing feelings of stress allowing us to, more easily, fall asleep and stay asleep,” says Carmel. “Numerous studies have revealed lavender has related benefits which support sleep, this includes its proven ability to lower heart rate, temperature and blood pressure which are all processes the body undergoes when falling to sleep. Lavender is also effective at reducing feelings of anxiety, due to these benefits.” Other essential oils that can help include chamomile, sandalwood, valerian, jasmine and frankincense.
I recently upgraded my bedside tables with the Oskar bedsides from Totem Road because they have two deep drawers, perfect for storing my sleep-inducing stash. The bottom drawer is full of books, my LED masks (I have the Omnilux one for face and the Current Body one for chest) and my Five Minute Journal by Intelligent Change. The top drawer has my essential oils for my atomizer, my favourite sleep mask. I love the Slip Contour Sleep Mask as it has little hollows over the eyes. Normal masks feel suffocating to me but this mask almost gives the effect being in a dark room, rather than wearing a mask. On top of the bedside is my Byredo Hand Cream in Rose and Maison Balzac Bonne Nuit that I spray my pillows with every night. Both scents have become signals of sleep for my brain.
Next to my bed I have a console (also from Totem Road) that holds my diffuser and a few coffee table books (currently I have Prada Catwalk and The Kinfolk Home) and a ceramic shell filled with Palo Santo sticks and Sage. My favourite diffusers are the Palm Beach Aromatherapy Stone Diffuser which looks beautiful with my ceramics and the In Essence Waterless Pure Essential Oil as you don’t have to refill it with water every time you use it. You put a whole bottle of oil in there so it lasts for ages without refilling. It’s also cordless! I have my water in the Maison J’ai Soife Balzac Caraf in white. It’s great as it prevents dust from falling in your water when you stack the glass on top.
Bedding most definitely haves an impact on sleep quality. On top of my bed I’m all about European Flax Linen. It looks textural and gorgeous. Cultiver Linen is my favourite – my bed is covered in the white quilt cover set with a grey pinstripe quilted throw. While I love sleeping on linen sheets, too, lately I’ve been testing out some new sustainable fibres known as “vegan silk”. Bamboo sheets were the first take on soft silk-like sheets and now the latest buzz is around Eucalyptus Lyocell. I’ve been testing out some by Aussie brand Touche and love them. They are super lightweight yet breathable, the feel cool and silky, so are great in summer. My other tip is to buy a super cushy mattress topper. I recently upgraded to the Deborah Hutton Pure Balance Copper Mattress Topper from House. Not only does it feel like sleeping on a cloud, but the copper has health benefits, too. Copper is meant to help with blood circulation, temperature regulation, and apparently even collagen production. It’s also antimicrobial so protects against viruses and bacteria – always a good thing in beds!
The Bose Sleepbuds II are super soft earphones and designed to be worn to sleep. They’re great when there is ambient sound around (e.g. noisy neighbours, snoring husbands or on planes). It won’t play your podcasts or sleep meditations (not sure why they don’t do that?) but it will play Bose engineered sleep sounds like naturescapes and white noise, which definitely helped get me off to Snooze Town. “Ambient sounds can support sleep, in particular white noise has been proven to help sleep,” explains Carmel. “They dampen external noises so that your brain is more relaxed and so that you can sleep better. However I would advise that you don’t really need it if you’re sleeping in a quiet area.”