herald

Sunday 16 December 2018

What your bed says about you

Irish couples are following in Brad and Angelina's footsteps by opting for bigger beds. But do large beds prompt a better night's sleep and improved intimacy or invite other distractions asks katie Byrne?

The humble 4ft 6in double bed used to satisfy our slumber needs quite comfortably. Well, assuming your bedfellow wasn't a snorer, or someone who moved around at night.

That's slowly changing. The king-size -- a bed that used to be considered the epitome of luxury -- is becoming a mainstay in our bedrooms, closely followed by a suite of regal-sounding bed widths: the super-king, emperor (7ft wide) and the Caesar (8ft).

Arnotts notes that customers are upgrading from the 4ft 6in to the 5ft bed, while Top Drawer (Irish-owned bedroom outfitters) says that homeowners are trading up even beyond the king-size.

According to owner Liz Fenton, 90pc of her Dublin customers go for the super-king.

"The Irish Sleep Society actually recommends it for the best night's sleep. Very, very rarely would you have a couple going for a 4ft 6in.

"We also sell a lot of 5ft beds because -- size-wise -- an awful lot of houses aren't able to accommodate a 6ft bed."

Better

Further afield, Tesco in the UK has reported a 45pc growth in 2010 in sales of king-sizes and super-kings.

Nonetheless, Ireland and the UK still trail behind other European countries when it comes to the average bed size. The most commodious beds can be found in Belgium, Greece, Holland, Iceland, Finland and Switzerland.

The US, where bigger always equals better, still tops the league worldwide. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie once admitted that they had a specially made 9ft bed to accommodate their brood.

"One more and we'll have to go to 11 feet," said Pitt at the time. Jolie announced that she was pregnant with twins the following year.

Granted, we don't all have small football teams to fit into our beds, but many parents of small children will concede that their duvets are often flung back to accommodate their toddlers.

A bigger bed might mean the entire family can enjoy a reasonably good night's sleep, but it doesn't bode well for intimacy.

Your choice of bed speaks volumes about you as a person -- Tracey Emin made a work of art out of hers, for goodness sake.

No matter how big the bed, relationship counsellor Lisa O'Hara (mrcs.ie) believes that only two people should sleep in it. "It's a sacred space for a couple. Nobody else should be in that bed.

"Of course, we can all stand on our high horses and say that children should sleep in their own beds, but there are times, in the interest of peace and a good night's sleep, that a child will go into the bed. The danger is that it becomes habitual."

Does this suggest that a bigger bed -- with no children -- would in fact promote intimacy? Probably not. Figures from the 2006 Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships show that 50pc of married people are not having weekly sex and 14pc of men and 17pc of women have sex less than twice a year.

The move to bigger beds is more for practicality than passion. The extra six inches side to side afforded by a king-size bed is for allowing a better night's sleep, rather than more space to perform bedroom gymnastics.

A super-size double bed allows couples personal space in which to sleep without having to nod off in separate bedrooms.

Or perhaps we're realising that the 4ft 6in is simply too small to occupy two adults who don't want to sleep like tinned sardines night after night. Remember that a 4ft 6in standard double gives each person just 2ft 3in of space.

"I wouldn't even sell a 4ft 6in bed to a couple," says Liz Fenton. "I'd tell them that they are out of their minds."

In a recent ergonomic trial oft-quoted by bed salesmen, 15pc of couples said they would buy a larger-than-standard bed before they actually tried it. After the trial, 50pc said they would.

In many ways, bigger beds are becoming a necessity rather than a luxury. People are growing (both taller and fatter) and we need more bed space than our grandparents.

According to a UCC study, today's 14-year-old stands at around 5ft 6in tall, while in the 1970s, their father at the same age would have been around 5ft 3in.

By the same token, the average bedroom size is decreasing, which begs the question: where are we finding the space for these super-size beds?

Actually, we're not. With the bed dominating more space, the functionality of it is evolving.

Enter the TV Bed, the latest consumer must-have. The footboard is designed to store your TV, which lifts up with the assistance of a pneumatic mechanism. Elsewhere, the overworked can pick up laptop stands especially for bedsides and pillows with built-in iPods for relaxing sounds before they sleep.

Theories abound on why our beds are getting bigger, with everything from obesity to relationship discord being cited.

Perhaps the most logical answer is 'why not'? Consider TV screens; some quarters say the average television size is going to be 60 inches by 2015. There are no speculations on what the average bed size will be, though the likelihood is that they aren't getting any smaller.

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