I still think about the cosiest bed I’ve ever stayed in: it was layered up with a super-soft faux-fur throw that rippled on to the floor in inviting folds. Under that was a fine-knit wool blanket (the cashmere kind, rather than the itchy kind). Then came a luxuriously thick duvet that felt light and bouncy but cocooned you reassuringly as you slept. The bed linen was a silky-smooth, cool antidote, and the whole lot sat atop a mattress that offered the perfect ratio of support to sinkinability. When you did manage to haul yourself out of bed, there was a fluffy sheepskin rug in just the right place so that your feet didn’t have to touch the wooden floor, which was heated, obviously.
As you can tell, it made quite the impression. It helped, too, that the bed in question was up a mountain, in the poshest ski chalet ever, and it was -10°C outside. To be clear, it was a two-night work trip and I will never, ever be able to afford to go back, so I’ve made it my mission to try and recreate the snuggly magic.
Back to reality, then, to my not-very-well-insulated bedroom in north London. While it’s a huge improvement on my room at university in Scotland, where, on the coldest nights, you could see your own breath, it is still never quite warm enough. To counteract this, out come bed socks and fleecy reindeer-adorned pyjamas that were never intended for any night apart from Christmas eve, and even then, were worn with a certain irony. Then, after a restless night where I end up wrestling with bed socks at 3am, I wake up boiling – damn you, central heating – in a tangled mess. And that’s just me.
Consider yourself lucky if your optimal sleeping temperature aligns with a partner. There’s actually a bloke who has written a whole book on the subject. He interviewed hundreds of heterosexual couples and found that the woman was three times more likely than the man to be the colder one. So, what is to be done? We consulted The Sleep Council, an independent body promoting the health benefits of sleep, as well as The Pool office, to attempt to ace winter sleeping.
Start with the right temperature
“Just as bears ready their dens to hibernate, people need to plan for a good winter’s slumber,” says Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council. Artis recommends going for a temperature between 16°C and 18°C, so warm rather than hot, and free from draughts. My bedroom has French windows, which were brilliant in the heatwave, but less good now, particularly as the wood has warped slightly, meaning there is a bit of a gap. I’ve plugged it with one of these draught excluders that come in loads of different fabrics.
Top up your mattress
Mattress toppers are game-changers. If only I’d known this in my twenties, when I was sleeping on ropey, always suspiciously stained mattresses, provided by landlords. As the name suggests, a topper sits on top of your existing mattress, usually held on by straps. It can both add support, so revamps an existing mattress without you having to fork out for a new one, and it adds another layer of insulation. The sort you go for depends on personal preference and the state of your current set-up, but they come in different materials – down, wool, synthetic fills or firmer latex and memory-foam options. I’m a side-sleeper and don’t like anything too firm, so have an ethically sourced down number. If you’re happy with your mattress as is, try a fleecy protector, which tend to be more economical.
Switch on the heat
As a child, I remember visiting my aunt and uncle who had an electric blanket with dual controls. My sister and I would have competitions over whose side was the hottest. These days, they are good options for couples with different preferred sleeping temperatures (so basically every couple). They also have come a long way efficiency-wise, so can keep you from having the heating on at night, thus saving energy and keeping bills down. This one heats up in five minutes, so about the time it takes to clean your teeth. If you want to be particularly snazzy, you can now get smart blankets, which can be controlled with a phone or tablet, or even paired with Amazon Alexa.
Change up your tog rating
The need-to-know: the higher the tog, the warmer the duvet will be. Between 10.5 and 13.5 tog is what to look for in winter, and again, fill will be personal preference. If going for a natural fill, such as feather and down, the higher the down percentage, the lighter the duvet will feel, whereas a high feather ratio will give you a plump, weightier duvet. If you suffer from allergies, look for non-allergenic options, the best of which will have the feel and warmth of a natural duvet. “If you’re a sleeper who is cold to begin with, but soon warms up, use several layers of bedding rather than a single layer,” advises Artis. “Layers will trap warm air and are easily removed if you get too hot.”
Opt for a new take on an old-fashioned water bottle
If you’re looking for a more budget option – or you are want to save energy – a hot-water bottle will do the trick. We like YuYu’s innovative long, thin bottles that you can wrap around your body for a more spread-out source of warmth. I can see why they’ve been adopted by a number of five-star hotels. They use the same amount of water as a traditional bottle, so you’ll only need to boil the kettle once, but as they cover more of your body, one will keep you toasty for longer. The inners are made from fairtrade rubber and the covers come in a huge range of fabrics, from Liberty print to cashmere (on my Christmas list). For a cosy version that’s not as pricey, we like the fleecy options.
Splash out on bed linen
Think about how much time you spend in bed – in an ideal world, eight hours a night. Then think about the cost-per-hour you get out of your bedding – why, then, would you scrimp on sheets? Again, I probably should have thought about the benefits of less-scratchy bedding vs the merits of drinking more vodka and Red Bulls at university, but that is what growing up is all about. I love linen bedding for its relaxed look and feel that gets softer as you wash it. If you like a posh-hotel vibe, House of Fraser and Designers at Debenhams have ranges that are great prices for the quality. The general consensus is that thread counts can be misleading, as a high number doesn’t necessarily mean better – it’s all about the quality of the thread. So, it comes down to the feel against your skin and what does it for you. I’ve recently discovered British brand Bedfolk, whose ethically made bedding comes in simple white, dove grey and blush pink, and three different styles of breathable cotton. Its silky ‘Luxe’ range is probably the closest to my ski-chalet-bed dream.