Shakespeare sums it up perfectly when Macbeth describes it thus: “Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care. The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course. Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”

And often, when faced with a great dilemma, someone might say ‘Why don’t you sleep on it?’ Because a good night’s sleep can mean that we waken not only refreshed, but with a whole new perspective on our problem.

I think that it’s fair to say that most people would love to be able to guarantee a solid 7-8 hours of slumber every night but few achieve it, especially as they get older, and this was what I was keen to explore with Claire Watkin of the Fine Bedding Company on a recent Teatime zoom chat. To be honest I had never fully acknowledged the relationship between the right bedding and the quality of the sleep that I have, despite the fact that I never leave home without my own pillow for any overnight stay either with friends or in a hotel. Why? A myriad of reasons! These include at least the chance that I’ll sleep well despite an unfamiliar room and bed, the guarantee that my head and neck will be really happy and comfortable and that I will be breathing in a familiar soothing smell from my pillow, which sounds disgusting, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Claire is the fourth generation of a bedding company which was started by her Great Grandfather. She has been part of the family business since her late twenties and is now Managing Director of The Fine Bedding Company. You might be interested to know that they supply bedding to John Lewis stores.

Here is Claire’s advice on choosing the right bedding for your personal needs to optimise the chance of a good night’s sleep.

Pillows (my favourite topic!)

We had several questions for Claire about neck and shoulder pain with stiffness, discomfort and headaches on awakening. Key piece of advice is that the spine wants to be aligned with your head, so make sure that your pillows don’t push the neck to one side or the other because this disrupts that alignment. Some people like to sleep on their stomachs which is not advised by chiropractors because it can cause compression on the nerves. Claire also mentioned that you can now buy pillows in much the same way as mattresses and choose between soft, medium and firm, whether the filling is natural (down and feather) or synthetic.

Pillow Cases

I didn’t discuss this Claire on the zoom call, but in my breakout group I heard strong recommendations for satin pillowcases from two of the participants. These ensure that you wake up with smoother skin rather than with lines or wrinkles across your face from the creases you’ve been lying on. These are, thankfully, temporary, but the older I get the longer they last, so satin pillowcases sound like a brilliant idea.


The lightest, softest and most premium duvets are filled with goose down. The down is found on the breast of the bird and has none of the quills that you find in feathers. Investing in a high quality goose down duvet may seem like an indulgence but they will last for twenty years or more, whilst pillows wear out much more quickly due to harder wear. 

Claire’s mother came up with the idea of seasonal duvets by offering a combination of two duvets of different Tog ratings so that you could vary the warmth according to the weather. I personally use the same duvet all year round but add a big furry throw if temperatures plummet, and just have a cotton sheet over me if there’s a heatwave as there was last summer. 

Claire also commented that there’s lots of choice now for synthetic duvet fillings, with many that compare well for weight and warmth with premium quality natural fillings. 

And a new innovation may be a boon if you struggle to put on your duvet cover - the all-in-one washable duvet. This is a synthetic duvet with an attractive cover attached. The whole thing is washable in a standard sized washing machine. It can either be tumble dried or quickly dried on a washing line.


Not sold by the Fine Bedding Company, but Claire’s advice was that ‘breathability’ was important in a mattress and a filling that can wick away excess heat and moisture if you tend to get really hot in bed (especially during the menopause). For this, sprung mattresses tend to be better than denser, more solid foam ones. 

Obviously you will know the level of firmness that you prefer your mattress to provide, but as a rule of thumb, heavier people benefit from a firmer mattress and two people of different weight who sleep in the same bed probably need a mattress which can cater for both of their needs. 

I can also attest to the fact that mattress protectors and toppers can be a wonderful addition to any bed. I bought  one of these glorious items a few years ago and it has transformed the comfort of my bed. I ‘plump’ it thoroughly every morning and turn it frequently as I always occupy the same side of my bed. I can honestly say that every night I feel as though I am sleeping on a cloud. What could be more conducive of comfortable rest?


A high thread count in cotton sheets is often deemed to be the most luxurious, but these tend to need very careful ironing (maybe you just need staff!), so for me, the best sheets have a lovely sateen weave which feels beautifully smooth and soft  to the touch whilst being relatively easy care. Claire also mentioned ‘hot sleepers’, who are people who become hot in bed and may benefit from sheets that have been treated to increase breathability. There are many reasons for people becoming hot at night, from the menopause to certain medications and to having a higher metabolic rate (i.e. most men compared to women), so sheets which efficiently wick away the excess moisture can make all the difference to both comfort and to ensuring a good night’s sleep.

Bedding has come such a long way since we all had lumpy mattresses and pillows covered with stiff, scratchy sheets and pillowcases, piled with heavy wool blankets and topped by an eiderdown or candlewick bedspread depending on the temperature in the (often draughty) bedroom. When I was at college in the 1960s, I seem to remember being sent away with orange nylon sheets which managed to be simultaneously slippery, cold to the touch and full of static electricity. I also remember the first time I slept under a feather filled duvet on a trip abroad. What a revelation! Bedding which was simultaneously lightweight, cosy, soft to the touch and gloriously comfortable to sleep in.

And this is precisely how I would describe my bed now. Whenever I have a day when I long for sleep to ‘knit up my ravelled sleave of care’, I know that at the end of it, I can climb into the most comfortable bed in the world to find the peace, rest and oblivion of sleep which, as Shakespeare observed, truly is ‘the chief nourisher in life’s feast’. 

Enter our competiton with The Fine Bedding Company here: 

Watch my Teatime with Tricia and Claire, the sleep expert here: 

Find The Fine Bedding Company here: 


Tricia x

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