London’s latest sleep craze is bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘sleep like a baby’. The Zed Rooms – a set of serviced apartments by Simba in Shoreditch – have installed a ‘womb room’.
A womb you say? I can categorically declare that I’ve never wanted to crawl back inside my mother’s lady bits. I’d balk at borrowing her knickers. However, I do have trouble sleeping when I stay somewhere for the first time. I’ll be awake all night with new-room-neuroses, and apparently I’m not alone – studies show that most of us suffer from the ‘first night effect’ of staying in a new place.
So when I’m invited to the Womb Room, I change into my pyjamas and I find the kind of bed that Ab Fab’s Edina might buy after a session of regression therapy. ‘I’m going back to the womb, darling! Look at me darling, I’m sucking my thumb!’
It’s like a four poster bed only it is composed of ridges which presumably represent the raw flesh of a woman’s insides. The bedroom itself has pink walls (get it?) and there’s an option to intensify the whole effect with pink lighting. I am staying there alone, but, had I been with a beau, I’m not sure much would have gone on beneath the sheets, what with us apparently being brother and sister in this womb-sharing scenario.
Although the Womb Room doesn’t completely eliminate my first-night insomnia, it’s as cosy, comfortable and lavender-scented as one might hope for from a home away from home.
So aside from recreating the womb, how can an intrepid traveller sleep well on business trips that are one or two nights here and there? Simba’s sleep psychologist Hope Bastine gives me some suggestions:
Sound of silence
With first night syndrome, half your brain is slightly alert because you’re hearing new sounds so play a favourite piece of music to nod off to, and use an app to mask the unfamiliar sounds with white noise, or pink noise which is more soothing.
Familiarity breeds… contentment
The key to getting a good night’s sleep is making the environment as familiar as possible. So if you often go to the same city, try staying in the same hotel – and if possible, the same room. If you travel to different cities, staying in the same brand of hotel can be really helpful.
Keep it like clockwork
Sticking to your pre-sleep routine will help you dial back first night syndrome no matter where you’re sleeping. So if you usually read in bed before going to sleep, bring the book you’re reading so you can stick to your routine when you’re travelling. It could be yoga or meditation – anything you do at home before bed, do it when you’re away.
It’s good to talk
Call home and talk to family and friends, because those sounds, those conversations, will help to relax you and remind you of home, which will help to reduce the first night effect.
Our memories are most affected by smells, so find ways to recreate the smell of home in your hotel room. Using lavender aromatherapy in the bedroom helps you sleep, so if you do this at home and maintain the habit when you’re travelling, the smell will be familiar as well as relaxing. But it could be anything – the British cycling team travelled with their own pillows which helped because they were used to them, and the smell was familiar.
Set the scene
Bring a familiar visual element, like a postcard of some artwork you have at home, or a favourite poem you like to read, or a picture of your family. It could even be your journal. Put together a few different things and experiment with what works for you.