Sleep on scienzzzzzzz …
Why kings and queens get a better snooze
Did you know that you spend close to a third of your life asleep? That’s a lot of sheep to count. A regular seven or eight hours, turning in at the same time, and making sure your bedroom is quiet and cool are all important. Yet, what makes or breaks a good night’s sleep is what we lie on. Is your bed giving you the proper support in the right areas?
For the A to Zzzz of sleep, Haute turned to the experts from Savoir, an English manufacturer that dates back to 1905 when it created the beds for the famed Savoy Hotel in London. Hailed as the ‘King of Beds’, each Savoir bed takes 8 to 12 weeks for a team of skilled craftspeople to perfect — that means fewer than 1000 bespoke
beds each year.
We spoke to Savoir sleep experts, Dr. Rebecca Robbins Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Associate Scientist, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Senior Managing Director, Alistair Hughes. They explained how to get a rest fit for royalty such as King Hassan II of Morocco who had 24 Savoir beds.
What are the critical factors to getting a good night’s sleep?
Rebecca: #1 is time. #2 is the consistency of our routines. That means falling asleep at the same time and waking up close to the same time, including weekends, because our brains and our bodies are creatures of habit and kind of a well-oiled machine.
There are also environmental factors. The mattress, and the bed – the foundation of our sleep. With beds, there’s no one size fits all.
And then, of course, you want something very supportive of your physique and body type. And that is highly variable from one person to the next. But essentially, what you’re looking for is keeping the head, neck and spinal column in one straight line so that you can wake up without any neck or back pain.
Another aspect of the environment that matters is temperature. We want to keep a sleeper in what we call a thermal neutral range — not too hot, not too cold — slightly on the cooler side around 68 Fahrenheit. Another environmental factor is sound. You don’t want a space that’s too loud, or worse, with intermittent noises that could pull you out of sleep.
Some people believe they function perfectly fine with just 5 or 6 hours per day. Why is that?
Rebecca: I would wager that’s because they were excessively sleep deprived. ‘Sleep debt’ is the difference between how many hours you get and how many hours you need. Any sleep you catch after being in debt will feel restorative. Your body goes into survival mode, and you tend to spend more time in rapid eye movement (REM) deep sleep. In our lab, these sleep-deprived individuals fall asleep right away when we pull them into a cool, dark bedroom and give them a chance to sleep.
How does using natural materials in a bed improve the quality of sleep and overall wellness in the long term?
Rebecca: You want a surface that will promote airflow and temperature regulation so that when you’re sleeping, heat is not building on your sleep surface because that will cause fragmented sleep — and even nightmares.
Alistair: Natural materials are breathable and allow airflow. Synthetic fibres, latex and memory foams can cause overheating and deteriorate over time. Natural fibres such as cotton, wool, and horsetail wick moisture away and help to regulate body temperature.
Particularly at the beginning of the night, when we walk in and lie down on that surface, we want to make sure that our body is in the thermal neutral range — or slightly on the cooler side. A cool environment will allow us to dip into deeper sleep faster.
A myth regarding mattresses is that the thicker, the better – is this true?
Alistair: A firmer, thicker mattress is not necessarily best and may not result in the proper support. You must sink into the bed to some extent! If not, your spine will bend unnaturally. If you are a side sleeper, your hips and shoulders need to sink in to make sure you get support around waist level. If you fall asleep on your back, your bottom must sink in to support your lower back. So, the lighter you are, all other things being equal, the softer the bed you require.
How does Savoir cater to the different sleep needs of partners in the same bed?
Alistair: Your mattress should allow partners enough space to move easily during the night. It should also accommodate your different requirements, which may mean one side of the bed is softer than the other. Our craftspeople can create different tensions within a one-piece mattress or a zipped pair. With every bed made by hand, we can create tension zoning, something which is not possible by machine.
What’s unique to the Savoir production process that requires so much time?
Alistair: The Savoir Bedworks is the antithesis of a production line; one craftsman will create every element of the bed from start to finish. We have the ability to make every bed different for every customer’s required support and style. Expert upholsterers and carpenters, along with in-house CAD designers, allow us to create any bed imaginable.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
All photos: Savoir