And so to bed: Inside the luxury of sleep

Words by
Daisy Palmer

25th April 2019

With a good night’s sleep at the top of most people’s wellbeing lists, a whole high-end industry has grown up offering the well-heeled the means to a perfect slumber

With smart beds that rotate the air around them, bespoke mattresses that keep every body part perfectly aligned and eiderdown-filled duvets costing six figures, it is no wonder that sleep has become the new frontier in luxury. And it’s not just at home: hotels are quick to follow the trend, offering sleep concierges and sleep retreats — and even, at the Savoy, a £70,000 Savoir bed made from yak fibres. Kip, it seems, has become truly hip.

The Hari, designed by Tara Bernerd
The Hari, designed by Tara Bernerd

The Hari, designed by Tara Bernerd

“I’ve been in the sleep industry most of my life, but the one thing that always fascinated me was that people knew the importance of sleep but did nothing about it — they almost took it for granted,” says sleep coach Nick Littlehales, who trains sportsmen such as Christiano Ronaldo in better sleep for performance. “There are three key health and wellbeing pillars: nutrition, exercise and sleep. As a society, we have got to grips with the first two, but never really sleep. People are now getting more and more worried about the long-term effects of not getting enough sleep and its link to memory loss, Alzheimer’s and organ deterioration. The problem is that we are adopting non-human schedules, carrying out extreme exercise and not taking enough rest. It has an impact.”

Dr Param Dedhia, who runs Canyon Ranch’s sleep retreats in Arizona, which include sleep polygraphing and psychotherapy, concurs: “People are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Increasingly, they want to live their best lives. Traditional wisdom — eat your greens, get your rest — is starting to catch up with science. People are looking to feel well. They are not willing just to caffeinate and they want their best brain health.”

Savoir beds
Savoir

Savoir

And for those searching for the perfect night’s slumber, there is plenty of help to speed you on your way to the land of nod. Rested, based in north London, is a service and store dedicated to high-end sleep. “It used to be about the aesthetic grandeur of expensive beds,” says co-founder Toby Walzer. “Now, those serious about sleep are looking at the best performing beds to help them sleep better.” He is a big believer in the new science of beds. “We sweat 300ml of liquid a night, so beds that suck air out of the room and purify it allow for an optimum temperate zone at night,” he says.

Companies such as Freshbed from Holland (whose beds are found in the Mandarin Oriental and Lanserhof hotels) produce such air-circulating beds, which work by filtering air from the room and delivering it to the body through the mattress, set to a temperature of your choice — and yours for £28,000.

Another new frontier, for those who really don’t want to leave the comfort of their bed, is an adjustable one, which allows the slumberer to move seamlessly from sleep to breakfast in bed to reading a favourite novel upright, without straining one’s neck.

Freshbed hotel beds
Freshbed

Freshbed

And when it comes to the mattress, Walzer says: “You need to find the right fit for hips and shoulders — the mattress should be optimised to keep the spine straight.” This means spending a few hours testing out mattresses and lying in numerous somnolent positions.

If the appliance of science isn’t hitting the spot, maybe a beautiful headboard adorned with a peacock’s plumage or a George Stubbs’ steed will do. For the affluent clients of UK-based Savoir Beds, they are just some of the many bespoke options on offer. Thanks to its collaboration with the National Gallery, this can mean a bespoke bed illustrated with an artwork of your choice, such as a Turner sunset or Gainsborough wheatsheaf — yours from £16,800. Want it circular and rotating? No problem, although add a nought to the fee.

For a truly one-off design, Savoir can create a canopy bed with a hand-inscribed family crest, with silk embroidery care of the Royal College of Needlework, which was responsible for embellishing the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress. However, the 180 hours of work it takes to craft the box spring, mattress and topper bring this bespoke bed in at a hefty £250,000.

Savoir x The National Gallery
Savoir x The National Gallery

Savoir x The National Gallery

As previously stated, a good night’s sleep begins with being at the correct temperature, which means ensuring bed covers are neither too hot or too cold. Norwegian luxury bespoke bedding company Norvegr makes a range of desirable duvets. “It is a family business,” says CEO Nils Henrik Stene. “My grandfather started out in 1956, maintaining and restoring duvets and pillows with a steam cleaner.”

The absolute jewels in Norvegr’s crown are its prized eiderdown duvets, costing from €3,196. With only 100 or so made each year, each one is painstakingly crafted from discarded down from the nests of the Svalbard eider duck. The down is collected by hand after the female birds have fled the nest, before being hand cleaned and used for filling the duvets.

Norvegr can also make duvets with two differing sides for couples who like to sleep with different thickness of covers at night. Or there are its polar duvets, for particularly hardy types who prefer to sleep with the window open, even in sub-zero Scandinavian winters. The company even had one resilient client who had a bed set up on his terrace outdoors so that he could sleep under the stars, cosy under his polar duvet — despite being freezing midwinter in Norway.

Norvegr luxury beds
Norvegr

Norvegr

“When the quality is good enough, eiderdown is very resilient — if you treat it correctly, you can keep it for decades,” says Stene. “We have even serviced a 100-year-old duvet.” So its €29,800 bespoke polar duvet should be seen as a life investment.

How does ones keep these stately covers at their optimum? “Give them a gentle shake in the morning, fold them once over and leave them to rest with the windows open. Leave for an hour or two then make up the bed,” Stene explains.

Linen has also become super high end. See Ilinka’s bespoke offerings, which are glamorously embroidered with monograms or family crests and all made to measure. Or turn to Ploh for its 1030 thread count long-staple Egyptian cotton linens for superior slumber.

And its not just about the actual bed — interior designers are increasingly looking at what creates the perfect restful space. “Check the light in a room,” says Tara Bernerd, who has overseen the design at hotels including London’s The Principal and The Hari.

Ilinka bedding
Ilinka

Ilinka

“Does the digital clock stay on all night? Does one of you regularly use the bathroom at night? If so, don’t have an open-plan bathroom and bedroom. And if you and your partner get up at different times, consider dividing the room so that you aren’t waking the other by getting dressed,” she explains.

Designer Inge Moore, who spoke at the Sleep + Eat conference last November and whose projects include the Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair, adds: “Make sure the air conditioning doesn’t blow directly on the bed and open the windows a crack.”

Rest and relaxation is top of the list for many when away from home, too, and hotels such as Six Senses resorts around the world offer sleep butlers, concierges and retreats to ensure their customers have the most satisfactory slumbers. At SHA Wellness in Spain, for example, a week-long course includes an overnight sleep polygraph to monitor brain activity, oxygen and other functions; psychotherapy sessions; and a personalised nutrition plan.

Six Senses beds
Six Senses

Six Senses

And at Duke’s hotel in Mayfair, a “Beditaton Butler” will provide herbal teas, calming podcasts and advice on breathing exercises to help you drift off.

For the well-to-do, it seems, there’s so much more than counting sheep to ensure the perfect night’s sleep.