What can you do to make your bedroom a healthier place to sleep?
I have been thinking about that for quite a while now, and the silence on this blog wasn’t due to the fact that I went into hibernation – although I do sometimes feel like it this time of year. The reason for being so quiet was my finishing off the manuscript of the first part of my Green Parenting Series, which will hopefully also be of interest to some of the readers of this blog.
Hibernation itself doesn’t necessarily mean to sleep like bears or bats, who sleep solidly throughout the dark winter months, but there are also other modes such as squirrels, who wake up occasionally. It might sound funny, but varying your activities according to the season is perhaps a way to combat depression and season blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Allowing your body to adapt to the colder and darker months is bound to help with your sleeping patterns as well, as is making your bed a healthy and comfortable place, which is what this post is about.
But what about sleeping in general? It seems that sleeping these days is often regarded as something of a bit of a waste of time. And high achievers need very little of it, or don’t they?
Some people claim they can survive on just four hours sleep every night, amongst them personages like Napoleon and Margaret Thatcher. One might argue it hasn’t done them a lot of good.
I slept far too little as a student, but when you are about twenty you don’t really think about these things. I do more so now. The feeling of inevitable sleep deprivation – there is very little choice if a baby wants to feed in the wee hours of the morning – and the knowledge that there is very little opportunity to catch up on my sleep during the day or the following night, have led me to think about how the sleep I get can be as restful and refreshing as possible.
Most of us these days suffer from some kind of insomnia, interrupted sleep patterns and general problems settling down at night. Even though we know that this seems to be due to a stressful workplace, over-stimulation by TV sets, mobile phones and social media and the internet, it is very difficult to escape it altogether.
But as always, there are a few simple steps you can take, some of which I would like to share here with you.
#1 The very first step would be to remove these sources as well as chargers of any other electronic devices from your bedroom. Easy enough said if you live in a tiny bedsit as I used to do myself as a student – there is nowhere else to put these things. But switch them off anyway, at least an hour or so before bedtime.
#2 The next step would be to make your bed a comfortable and safe place to enhance restful sleep.
Stay away from man-made, petroleum-based fibres, chemically treated mattresses and synthetic blankets and duvets, you know, the ones that give away sparks and feel like an electric shock when you touch them. If you have them – get rid of them.
- Invest in a mattress made from natural fibres
There are quite a lot of different materials to choose from, both animal- and plant-based, or mixed materials. Your options are coco-mat, natural latex, wool and mohair. The advantage of wool is its temperature regulating properties and that it adapts to your body shape.
What works well to keep the sheep warm on the Lake District fells can’t be too wrong for us two-legged creatures. We invested in it, and trust me, it makes a world of difference.
Our company of choice was Herdysleep.
They are based in Yorkshire and if you live in the UK, ordering from them comes with the added bonus of supporting local businesses and reducing your carbon footprint at the same time. They also go down the route of reduced packaging which means that the mattress comes in a small box which is easier to handle when you have to carry it up a narrow staircase etc. The mattress is all rolled up in there, so you will have to leave it to rise (a bit like leavened bread) before you can enjoy your first night of restful sleep on it. You will also have to turn it over every month for the first three months to start with then every six months (a good reminder might be when the clocks go back or forward).
They also make lovely pillows filled with Herdwick wool, which take on your body shape and help with sore necks and the like (ever suffered from that when sleeping in a hotel and the pillow just didn’t feel right? AArgghh…).
- For duvets, go for wool as well. The woolroom has some lovely choices of duvets with different togs according to requirement and/or season.
- Shop around for bedding and mattress protectors made from organic cotton. Greenfibres is an excellent port of call for ethically sourced fibres.
The above recommendations are even more relevant if you do decide to co-sleep. To make sure your baby is safe, it is well worth having a look at the Unicef guidelines. I found the whole co-sleeping or bed-sharing business very easy and I am not thinking about changing anything after 9 months of co-sleeping. I go into more detail about this in my book.
#3 All of this is equally important for your baby’s cot. To get the right mattress and bedding for your baby or toddler, consider the products of littlegreensheep. It could even be considered vital to check the mattress has the right firmness for your baby, as unsuitable mattresses have been linked to SIDS or “cot death”. Later on, you can flip it over to make it suitable for toddlers.
#4 If you suffer from allergies, there is even more of a reason to switch to natural fibres. The products mentioned in this post are hypoallergenic and dust mite proof. It is also a good idea to air your room frequently and keep plants in your room.
#5 The last point we are about to consider is to get rid of old carpets and use some natural floor covering. We haven’t got very far on this, apart from the bathroom. Being an old house, even the bathroom had a carpet which we ripped out and sanded the floorboards down and used some water-soluble varnish. Look out for updates next year.
Overall, it seems the extra effort and money is well worth it considering the health benefits (both your own and your family’s) along with environmentally sound choices.
And last but not least: Enjoy your sleepy time!