a woman with insomnia laying awake at night on a pile of mattresses with a pea wedged under the bottom one

The Princess and the Pillow: Finding the Perfect Linen for a Good Night’s Rest

I’m fussy.

I’m not fussy with food, weather, traffic or coffee. I’m fussy with pillows. And bedsheets.

My husband knows the first thing I’ll do upon arrival at a hotel room is slide my hand between the sheets.

“They’re scratchy,” I’ll say, with a disheartened moan.

“Anything under three million thread count doesn’t cut it,” he says, with a resigned sigh.

Dreaded hotel linen

Then I press my hand into each of the pillows and bemoan the fact they’re too soft. Too firm. Too high. Too low. Too scratchy. Too wrong.

There’s something about hotel linen that feels starched, firm and unpleasant. It’s white, clean and crisp – all those things we love to admire. But it rubs against my skin, feels rough and feeds my insomnia. It doesn’t smell right. Scent is a powerful emotive and the smell of my own fresh linen and laundry detergents is comforting. Anything else is unfamiliar and a reminder I’m not at home.

Bad bedding leaves me sleepless

I swear I could tell if there was a pea inadvertently stuck under the mattress. I’m not trying to be difficult. I just know unfamiliar, scratchy bed linen leaves me completely sleepless. And that in a hotel room there’s nowhere to hide, so my husband is potentially in for a bad night too.

I’m a light and difficult sleeper at the best of times. Scratchy sheets and a sinking pillow are another distraction in the long list of reasons I’m awake in the middle of the night. When travelling I just expect I won’t sleep. It comes with the territory. I love getting out and about to explore. Disappearing to new destinations, meeting people, seeing new things. But I do it all sleep-deprived.

Soft, comfortable home linen

My linen at home has been carefully selected over the years. I’ve donated many a set of sheets to the spare bedroom after searching for the exact level of softness. Feeling anything at all on my skin is a distraction. I’m a sensitive soul – physically and emotionally – and these things contribute to insomnia. Bed linen is just one more sensation to be managed.

When it comes to pillows, I’m a princess. I’ve experimented with so many pillows over the years – the cheap, the expensive. Soft, firm, memory foam, high, low, medium, funny shapes, regular old supermarket pillow. None of them are exactly right. They don’t nestle into my body and cradle my neck in a way that leaves me completely undistracted for the night. Even my favourite pillow – found after many moons of searching – requires flipping over multiple times in the night. Not just to get to the cool side, but to rearrange the innards and nestle into my neck.

My pillow is an essential part of my night-time routine. It’s the Goldilocks pillow – not too this, not too that. Just right. I take it with me whenever possible, but there are times when it’s impractical to travel with a pillow so I make do and try not to whine.

What I wear matters too

I used to sleep completely naked because the feel of pyjamas was too stressful – all that fabric moving around in the night. Now I have very short pyjamas with soft fabrics that seem to move with me. I’m not sure my husband considers this an improvement in my night-time routine but it does give me more options with temperature regulation.

Fabrics are important to me – even during the day. They must be natural fibres that breathe. I won’t wear anything around my neck because I feel like I’m choking. I won’t wear coarse fabrics because they’re too scratchy and anything too firm is uncomfortable. Multiple layers feel like I’m suffocating.

Happy to be Princess Pillow

When it comes to managing insomnia, I have learned details are important. Bed linen and comfy pillows are part of the detail – a big part. They’re the very thing I’m in contact with the entire time I’m trying to sleep. I’ve become Princess Pillow – and I happily accept this title in order to improve my chances of some blessed rest.

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