Are you bad in bed? I am. Naturally, this fact keeps me up at night. A sleep app I (too) regularly check tells me I get 6 hours and 3 minutes of sleep out of 7 hours 28 minutes in bed. Forget counting sheep, I’m counting sleep, or rather my sub-optimal volume of it. But, compared with the rest of you, my nightly rest and repose sounds positively rosy.
This, after all, is the age’s great anxiety. We are a nation brimming with troubled sleepers. The NHS have gone as far as to report that one in three people in the UK suffers from poor sleep. Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes — and it shortens your life expectancy. Furthermore, it’s now clear that a solid night’s sleep is essential for a long and healthy life. Sleep — a good night’s worth — is fast becoming the century’s most in-demand commodity. Something needs to be done.
Hence my bleary-eyed odyssey to London’s most soporific hot (should that be cosy?) spots in search of some help in the bedroom department. The enervation economy is booming: Fitbit’s £219.99 Versa 2 wristwatch, for instance, features a vast sleep scoring system, which ranks your sleep from 1 to 100 based on three core components: time asleep, deep and REM sleep (aka the quality of your sleep), and restoration. The fix is in, and the modern message is clear: if you’re not fresh, you’re not fit for purpose. And so, to The Ned, Soho House’s £200 million powerhouse in the Square Mile, where cavernous marbled halls reverberate with the tinkle of a live jazz piano house, and a subterranean spa has just launched the highly promising “Sleep Series”. This is just the ticket: a half hour, £90 ticket devised by acupuncturist, aromatherapist and “healing holistic facialist” Annee de Mamiel. Relax, though, no needles here. A masseuse helped me choose an aromatic essential oil (I plumped for “Rise”, a “bespoke blend of herbs, milk thistle and jojoba to support the flow of energy around the body”), which was wafted beneath my nose as I lay stomach down on a massage bed. Hot cloths were rested on my eyes as I was led through an inhalation, then talked through deep breath exercises, before the masseuses began applying weight to each pressure point around my body. I nearly drifted off. Half an hour stretched — and then it was over. My lunchtime break dropped my resting heart rate from 60bpm to 52bpm. “You’ll only really feel the effects tonight,” the masseuse said. And I did. I slept 10 hours.
Of course, not everyone has this luxury. If time for your 40 winks is hard to find, it’s your environment that has to change. And so to the Leman Locke hotel in Aldgate, where I was installed in a studio apartment with a twist. If you think it’s a jungle out there, try spending the night in a £189-per-night suite (prices fluctuate) bedecked with Boston ferns, peace lilies and snake plants. In fact, I recommend you do. The thinking here — proposed by the hotel’s design partners Thejoyof plants.co.uk — is that the common-or-garden bedroom is starved of plantlife. This is not new thinking: E O Wilson, a Pulitzer prize-winning biologist, published his theory of “biophilia” in 1984. Humans, he argued, “subconsciously seek [connections] with the rest of life” and nature because they create positive responses and feelings.
“People are waking up to the fact that the humble houseplant is so much more than just a decorative object,” says Chanel de Kock, UK manager at Thejoyofplants.co.uk. “They are a powerful source of life that give so much more than they take.”
Features therefore include a romantic botanical bed canopy, an indoor forest bathing experience, and a room focused on energising the business traveller’s mind. I am staying here alone (my partner opts out of commuting from central London) but my flower bed is a happy one. True, a carpet made entirely from moss is peculiar. But my app tells me I’ve slept six hours and 58 minutes out of seven hours 20 in bed.
You might also choose to gird your mind. The rise of the mindfulness hotel has been duly noted in London. In Paddington, there is Inhabit, a boutique new soothe spot set across six Georgian townhouses, which offers silent “sanity walks” to set you into a restive state. Come for the walks, stay for the snoozes. But remember — it’s all in your head.