Nordic countries consistently top global happiness charts, and Finland, in particular, claims the title of the best country for sleep. But what’s their secret to a good night’s rest?
The sleep experts at Happy Beds have shared seven Scandinavian and Nordic sleep secrets below, each of which you’re unlikely to have heard of.
1. Air your duvet outside every week to remove dead skin cells, dust mites and more
Did you know that 41% of people have never washed their duvet? Given that duvets can harbour thousands of dead skin cells, dust mites, and bodily fluids, it’s important to regularly clean your duvet. However, many Scandinavians swear by taking this one step further and airing duvets, bedsheets, and even pet beds outdoors for at least five hours weekly.
The cold, dry air effectively removes moisture, preventing the accumulation of these elements. Moreover, sunlight also has natural antibacterial properties and can help remove stains. Consider completing this task every week as part of your cleaning routine to maintain a fresh and hygienic sleep environment.
2. Don’t forget to air your pillows outside too
Similarly, the same Happy Beds study found that 1 in 4 people have kept their pillow for more than two years, which is longer than the recommended time. Not only should pillows be replaced every two years and regularly washed, but they should be aired regularly, too. Moisture from your hair and face can accumulate, leading to dampness, mould, and mildew. Airing pillows not only enhances their lifespan but also contributes to a healthier sleep environment.
3. Leave your bedroom window open for at least 15 minutes before bedtime
Many babies in Sweden, Finland, and Denmark sleep outside, even in freezing conditions. This is due to many studies showing that exposure to cold helps regulate body temperature, which transitions the body into a restful state. However, naturally, without a pram, it’s harder to sleep outside as an adult. Therefore, a simple alternative is to keep your bedroom window open for at least 15 minutes before bedtime. This allows cool, fresh air to circulate and contributes to a more comfortable and conducive sleeping environment.
4. Don’t drink your first coffee until lunch and drink it while on a walk
Adding to that, consider incorporating outdoor breaks into your daily routine, especially during lunchtime. Many Scandinavians make it a habit to enjoy their tea or coffee outside, even braving minus-20-degree weather for the experience. This is because spending time outdoors helps maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, otherwise known as your internal 24-hour body clock that regulates sleep-wake cycles.
Spending just 20 minutes outside with your coffee at lunchtime can positively impact your circadian rhythm. Exposure to daylight during the middle of the day – for example, lunchtime – naturally boosts cortisol levels, contributing to increased alertness during the day. As evening approaches, cortisol levels naturally decline, paving the way for the production of melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone, making way for a smoother transition into a restful night’s sleep.
5. Visit your local sauna, but make sure to time it right
In Finland, saunas are an integral part of the cultural experience. The Finns typically use them for muscle relaxation after a strenuous day or as a social activity with friends; however, the key is to finish your visit an hour or two before you plan on sleeping. When you enter a sauna, your body initiates a fight-or-flight response, directing blood flow to the skin to cool down, resulting in significant sweating. Exiting the sauna prompts a rapid cooldown, lowering your core temperature and signalling that it’s time for sleep.
If possible, aim to enjoy the sauna experience once or twice a week, spending at least two hours before bedtime to reap the full benefits.
6. Alternatively, have a hot, steamy bath at night
If you’re unable to attend a sauna every night due to parental demands or the cost-of-living crisis, you can replicate some of the advantages by taking a hot, steamy bath one hour before bedtime to initiate the winding-down process for better sleep.
You should also consider adding a few drops of calming essential oils like lavender, chamomile, or eucalyptus to your bath to lower your cortisol levels. The combination of warm water, steam, and aromatherapy creates a more cost-effective approach to relaxation, which still has many sleep-related benefits.
7. Sleep in separate duvets
Scandinavians often opt for the solution of having two separate duvets – one for each person – to effectively regulate their temperature and prevent the impact of tossing and turning as much. Studies have shown that this method allows couples to spend more time in deep REM due to having fewer awakenings in the middle of the night.