From sweat-wicking fabric tech to bedding that stops you waking up in the middle of the night, here’s what to sleep in to get a better night’s rest. If these pjs are good enough for Beyoncé…
Gone are the days when we headed to bed in our faded school leavers’ t-shirt, wrapping ourselves in a low tog duvet and kipping down on pancake pillows. Given this week’s news that fewer than one in five of us achieve the eight hours’ of sleep that’s recommended by the NHS, and that half of us sleep for six hours or less every night, the extra hour gifted to us by the clocks going back this weekend will be most welcome, as is anything that can help us to sleep more soundly and for longer across the board. We’re stepping up our sleepwear game with duvets that help to minimise the impact of night sweats and improve skin health, pyjamas that are scientifically proven to boost sleep quality and chic, long-lasting nightwear that’s loved by the likes of Chrissy Teigen and Beyoncé and never needs to go near an iron. Here’s to making an hour’s extra kip a regular thing…
The skin-kind sheets
Getting your ‘beauty sleep’ seems like a very 1950s/Disney Princess ideal, but just as sleep deprivation affects everything from our mental health to our immune system function, so it impacts on our skin too, although not always in the way you might think. Consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk explains the potential skin-pact of sub-par sleep:
“Studies indicate that sleep deprivation impairs skin barrier function , which is vital for keeping moisture in the skin and protecting us from allergens, pollution , infections and other external aggressors.
“Accelerated skin ageing, evidenced by uneven pigmentation, fine wrinkling and skin laxity, has also been demonstrated in those who have poor quality sleep.
“To top it off, lack of sleep leads to increased secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol, and in turn, stress induces secretion of the neuropeptide substance P. Both are known to play a substantial role in acne development.”
It’s enough to keep you up at night, but there is one skin/sleep misconception that Dr Kluk is keen to bust:
“A study of almost 500 Brazilian women found no correlation between dark under-eye circles and a lack of sleep so at least this particular myth can now be dispelled!”
Clearly clocking up more and better quality sleep is the solution for off-setting the dermatological downsides of sleep deprivation, but it turns out that your bedding can play a part in skin health, and not just in terms of how often you wash it, although do change yours every two weeks, minimum.
Therapeutic bedding brand Dermatherapy aims to improve skin health in a number of ways. First off, its sheets, duvet covers and pillows are antimicrobial, with independent tests showing that the antimicrobial agent used within the fabric can reduce the colonization of acne-spreading bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Staphylococcus epidermidis. Secondly, the bedding is designed to be as smooth and soft as possible on skin, with no short fibres that can spike irritation or cause friction. This minimally abrasive approach is especially helpful for eczema and dry skin sufferers and is a soothing alternative to cotton and polycotton sheets that can aggravate sensitive skin due to loose, rough fibres that can attract lint in tumble dryers.
Finally the Dermatherapy range has microchannels within its fabric to improve air circulation and wick moisture away from the skin, reducing the spread of bacteria and keeping skin comfortable should your temperature fluctuate during the night. A further antibacterial advantage is the fact that, despite the fabric being lighter and thinner than cotton, it’s more durable, longer lasting and can be washed at high temperatures without changing shape or texture. There’s a reason that Dermatherapy sets are being increasingly used in hospitals. For household use, the range begins at £19.95.
The ‘body clock’ bed wear
“Performance sleepwear” sounds a bit too active and go-getting a descriptor for clothing intended for your peak chill-out hours, but bear with us as Sleepdeep pyjamas aren’t your average trackie b’s. Made from 94 per cent natural fibres, namely extremely finely woven merino wool combined with eucalyptus plant fibre renowned for its ability to regulate body temperature, Sleepdeep’s nightwear has some pretty impressive stats to justify its wince-worthy cost (prices start at a whipping £114).
The range was tested on volunteers over the course of 1000 nights with analysis led by neuroscientist and sleep expert Professor Vincent Walsh. Walsh and his team discovered that, when wearing Sleepdeep clothing, participants fell asleep 53 per cent faster, woke up 75 per cent less during the night and experienced 64 per cent more episodes of deep sleep than when wearing their normal pyjamas or sleeping naked. Professor Walsh perceives that the pro’s are particularly important to women for a number of reasons:
“ Insomnia is known to be a bigger problem for women, but historically over 90 per cent of sleep research was, and still is, carried out on male subjects. This is because the menstrual cycle makes it harder to measure the effects of sleep. Our scientific research ensures that Sleepdeep works for everyone because it was developed on both men and women.”
Professor Walsh admits that he was initially skeptical of the effects that what are essentially a pair of pyjamas could have on sleep patterns, but he’s now an investor in the company and believes that nightwear such as this is so ingenious as it complements our circadian rhythm:
“The fabric works with the natural body clock that governs thermoregulation. It helps to maintain the cooling of the body during the night by wicking moisture from the skin and preventing hot or cold spikes. During the night, a part of the brain called the hypothalamus works to cool the body in preparation for bed and continues the cooling through most of the night. This sleepwear assists that process.”
Sleepdeep nightwear has just gone on sale through Kickstarter and they’re probably the most expensive set of pjs you could purchase, but if a good night’s rest is proving elusive, they could save the day/night.
The night sweat specialists
As you’ll be appreciating by now, it turns out that temperature control plays a vital role in sleep and with our planet and bedrooms getting hotter (temperatures in our bedrooms now typically exceed the optimum 18.3ºC environment for sleep), the future looks frankly a bit uncomfortable from a restful slumber perspective. Factors such as hormonal fluctuations experienced during our menstrual cycle , pregnancy and the menopause serve to exacerbate sleep-disrupting body heat surges and can lead to the kind of night sweats that leave you sodden.
Two women who’ve experienced such debilitating night sweats were former advertising executive Nancy Zeffman and fashion expert Eileen Willett who went on to found Cucumber Clothing to provide a cooling antidote for daily and nocturnal hot flushes. They also wanted to put rarely discussed stress and hormone related sweating on the agenda rather than brushing it under the bedsheets, so to speak. The Cucumber range of sleepwear and loungewear is suitably sweat-wicking as well as loose and soft and everything from jumpsuits to kimono dresses and more conventional pyjamas is incredibly quick to dry and designed to be ‘washed and worn’. You won’t even need to look at an iron. Fabric incorporates modal, jersey, soft cotton, cashmere and polyester microfibre and the newest collections will incorporate bacteria absorbing volcanic ash to keep both odours and moisture at bay. Prices start at £65, so it’s not a budget option, but you’ll get years on wear out of each item - it’s functional, not fast fashion.
The ‘just right’ jim jams
So far we’ve covered the stuff that cools you off, but given the predicted Arctic blast, getting too chilly to chill could be an issue too. While a cooling off of body temperature signals for your body to become sleepy, too cold and you’re likely to experience disturbed sleep, and having the shivers makes you less likely to drop off in the first place. Enter the ‘Goldilocks’ of nightwear brands, the very hygge sounding Dagsmejan , a rather niche Swedish word meaning “the last days of winter when the warmth of the sunshine melts the snow even when the temperature is still below zero”. An idyllic image and one that’s vaguely reflected in the company clothing aim to “ensure you stay warm but never overheat”. Natural fibre based (merino wool crops up again), the lineup of sleep dresses, tops and bottoms start at £64 and fit into ‘stay warm’ and ‘balance’ categories, all of which have been proven to be more softer in feel and comfortable to sleep in than traditional cotton pyjamas. Light the fire and eat some cake to complete the hygge vibes.
The chic celebrity sleepwear
Want to sleep like a celebrity? Miami based sleepwear, swimwear and lingerie brand Eberjey at your service. The ‘boyfriend’ cut pyjamas are particularly popular and designed to be both nonchalantly elegant and incredibly comfortable - there’s not a tight waistband, clingy top or too short trouser leg in sight. The fine knit modal fabric is made from breathable cellulose fibres so keeps you at the perfect juncture between cosy and cool, while wood-pulp derived rayon is equally airy and soft. Each item from the sleepwear range is sustainably made, biodegradable and offers easy ‘wear and care’ - it won’t shrink, crumple or wrinkle and it delivers all the feel of silk without the sweaty downsides. As for the aforementioned celebrity devotees, you can count Chrissy Teigen, Emma Watson, Bella Hadid, Rihanna, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and none other than Beyoncé among their number. Prices start at the £50 mark, so they’re suitably swanky in that regard too.
The eco-friendly bedding
Sleeping on wool sounds about as comfortable as a hair shirt, but hear us out. Chris Tattersall, founder of homeware company The Wool Room , told us at the recent Somnex Sleep Show in London that wool absorbs around 30 per cent its own weight in water, compared to cotton’s measly eight per cent, making it an ideal natural material where moisture wicking is concerned. It also biodegrades over a period of around 18 months and, unlike many manmade materials, it doesn’t release microplastics into our environment. If you’re worried about wool itch, top a woolen bed, mattress, duvet, pillow or a mattress topper (The Wool Room’s mattresses start at £280, with beds from £400) with natural bedlinen. Which brings us to...
The sleep range that gets softer with time
Made with 100 per cent natural stone washed French linen, the Piglet bedding offering feels pleasingly weighty during the winter months but breathable and absorbent at the same time. From pyjama sets to sheets, duvet covers, eye masks and hot and cold ‘wheat packs’ to soothe aching muscles/ hangovers, founder Jessica Mason has pretty much thought of everything where the fusion of style and sleep is concerned. Pillowcases are £32 and pyjama separates start at £35, but you’ll be relieved to hear that your purchase will only improve with wear, as Jessica explains:
“Linen gets softer and softer with wear and so its role in the household is more and more special the longer you own it. Our pyjamas have been a big hit and we have received a lot of requests from our male customers asking for us to launch a range for them.”
Jessica emphasizes that bedding and nightwear has also been a hit for those with sensitive skin, and the styles suit most tastes too.