Text by Michelle Ogundehin, Editor-in-Chief ELLE Decoration UK
It used to be said that the fast track to promotion was presenteeism: the art of being at your desk before anyone else, as well as being the last to leave. A ridiculous concept at the best of times as all it demonstrates is that either you have way too much to do (in which case a talk with your boss is in order), or you’re spectacularly inefficient. Either way, sitting at your desk for hours on end is absolutely the least effective way to be productive, let alone creative. (Quite aside from the fact that we’re not even supposed to be sitting anymore; it’s all about standing desks people! I’ve been trialing one, and absolutely love it, rest of TeamED set to switch soon too). But I digress: it’s been proven by science that the brain needs breaks during the day to function well, and the average person can not properly concentrate for longer than 40 minutes at a time, so a swift trot around the block every hour is a prerequisite for effectiveness, not a waste of toil time. But, most importantly, to have a great day, we must also prioritise getting a minimum of 7-9 hours sleep a night.
This is so important that even the ultimate über-achiever, Arianna Huffington, co-founder and former Editor in Chief of The Huffington Post, has written a meticulously-researched book, The Sleep Revolution, on the subject, as well given many talks on the importance of the snooze, in which she quite clearly states that “the way to a more joyful, inspired and productive life, is getting enough sleep.” Her latest online venture, Thrive, is devoted to “More than living. Thriving” and features many fascinating articles from people who have transformed their lives by re-evaluating their attitude to both work and sleep. As she puts it, “only by renewing our relationship with sleep can we take back control of our lives.”
Key, is that this isn’t about slacking off, it’s about smart ways to engender optimum performance. As I’m often fond of saying, you can not drive in the super highway of life if you don’t take care of your engine. And without adequate sleep we impair memory and immune function, we unsettle our metabolisms, hormones and moods, and pave the way for illness and chronic disease. So what if we could side-step all of this, and sleep our way to health, vitality and success instead? Sounds good to me. And from an interiors point of view, what can we do to contribute to this bed-based revolution? In other words, how should we decorate and furnish our bedrooms so that they work for these lofty ideals, not against them?
In a new book from the editors of Goop, the wellbeing site founded by Gwyneth Paltrow, an interview with Dr Rafael Pelayo of the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, puts it very eloquently, “We sleep best when we feel safe, when there’s serenity in our lives. But we often lack serenity. So one of the things we do with a lot of our patients at Stanford is create an environment of serenity in the bedroom — we make their bedrooms sanctuaries. We want people to look forward to sleeping. You shouldn’t view sleeping as a chore. It’s a reward — it’s a place and a time to enjoy.”
Herewith then my top four suggestions of things you could do immediately to help you on the journey of achieving a sense of sanctuary in your bedroom, whether large or small…
1. It is essential that your bedroom contains as little furniture as possible; the main goal here is rest, not stimulation (yes, yes, I know, but I’m not talking about that!). This is the worst room in which to set up a home-office, as the temptation to just check those emails one last time will be literally in front of you. Instead, the ideal is simply your bed, two side tables, and closed-off storage ie a wardrobe or closet that has doors to conceal its contents. If you have an open rail, then could you hang a curtain in front, or throw a beautiful piece of fabric over it? Whatever it takes to blank out the busy. And it’s definitely a massive no to a TV in your slumber den or the phone by your bedside. Watch the box and charge your mobile elsewhere, and buy an alarm clock if you need to check the time. (Here’s our select of six of the best, from the high street hit to the definitive design classic clock).
2. The best possible scenario is to wake facing something beautiful and calming. If life dictates that this is not to be your partner do not fret(!), instead, could you work it to wake opposite a symmetrical hanging of photos or a painting, or a shelf displaying favourite pots (they could also sit on top of the wardrobe if that’s what’s opposite the foot of your bed as I’ve done in my home. Or at the very least, could a picture be stuck on the fronts?) Or how about re-considering your light fitting, both what it looks like (a bedroom light should be a statement not merely functional, and ceiling spots are absolutely verboten in a boudoir), and where it’s placed (never directly above the heart of your bed, it should be towards the foot, a simple hook and extended flex can sort that in a jiffy!). Or is it possible to turn your bed to face a window (extra bonus points if it faces East)? But, never put your bed with its back to a window. If nothing else it’ll be draughty, and if your radiators are there, as is often the case, it’ll be too stuffy and you’ll block the heat from getting to the rest of the room as well.
3. According to Feng Shui, you should also never sleep with your feet pointed towards the door, it is the metaphorical equivalent of lying in your coffin waiting to be carried away! If this can’t be avoided, then placing a mirror opposite the doorway is supposed to help. And this would also be useful as it’d probably give you an unrestricted route to checking your outfit for the day before you unleash it on the world as well. But you shouldn’t sleep facing a mirror. I can’t remember why, but it’d certainly be a bit weird to wake up and see yourself (reference point 2).
4. If you have the opportunity to buy a new bed, then choose one with rounded corners. Your shins will forever thank you. Alternatively, go for a duvet that’s one size too big so that it hangs over the corners to soften them. Simply put, there should be no sharp corners in a room where you get naked. And don’t forget the headboard. A lot of new designer beds have wonderful all in one, wraparound headboards, but there are many companies who’ll make one for you to attach to an existing bed, or simply hang directly on the wall behind. See our guide here.
And finally, yes, I have been through the unholy turmoil that is the challenge of newborn 10pm, 12am, 3am, 6am feeds so I have been there on the sleep deprivation frontier that comes as part of the deal with having children. But you know what, having a bedroom that I loved and that soothed me, no doubt contributed both to my survival (especially as I did it single-handed) and subsequent ability to fall asleep, to this day, the minute my head hits the pillow. It’s also, still, my favourite place to be, plus now toddler-aged son, of a Saturday morning. There really is no place like bed. The most important room in your home. Time to give it the recognition it deserves.
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And finally, take a scroll through our ever evolving Pinterest moodboard of blissful bedrooms here for unbridled sleep space decorating inspiration. And for even more Beautiful Bedrooms, make a note in your diary for the forthcoming March edition of ELLE Decoration UK, on sale on newsstands 2 February to 1 March. You’ll be able to download it here from 2 February. Or you could subscribe now here!
See also michelleogundehin.com