Can Bedroom Design Help You Sleep Better?
Bedroom design is about so much more than just the colour on your walls and whether you choose carpet or wooden floor. The bedding you choose, the way your room is arranged and even the room temperature can all contribute to how well you sleep. But what are the best options, what should we consider when decorating our bedrooms and how do we optimise our sleep space to ensure a well-rested night every night?
In this episode, Dr Pixie is joined by Dee Campling, an interior designer who specialises in bedroom design and how it affects our sleep and Sammy Margo, a physiotherapist who has a specific interest in how what we sleep on can help us sleep better.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:00:07] Hello everybody and welcome to the Sleep Matters Podcast from Dreams. Everything you need to know about how to get a great night’s sleep and why it matters so much. I’m Dr Pixie McKenna. And in this episode, we’re going to be chatting about bedroom design. And I’m delighted to say I’m joined by Dee Campling. Dee is an interior designer and stylist, and she’s got a specific interest in how the design of our bedroom can help us sleep, or I guess hinder us from sleeping as well.
Dee Campling [00:00:37] Absolutely, either way, yes.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:00:39] And then we have Sammy Margo and Sammy is a physiotherapist, and she also has a specific interest in sleep. So welcome. Apart from nerves and new locations, what about the physical effects in terms of beds? Sammy, as to how that can help us sleep, I would definitely say because sleep anywhere, on the floor without anything – I’m a good sleeper.
Sammy Margo [00:01:03] You’re very lucky, you’re so lucky. So as a chartered physiotherapist, I see the impact of the physical environment on the quality and quantity of sleep. So we need to think about things like the bed, the pillow, the mattress, the sleep environment, the temperature, the whole sleep set up, the colour of the bedroom. These physical things are critical and important to getting a decent quality night’s sleep as well as all the other factors that are thrown in when it comes to sleep.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:01:33] I’m curious to know how somebody who couldn’t sleep would end up as a physiotherapist.
Sammy Margo [00:01:41] It’s not quite like that. I’m a chartered physiotherapist, so my special interest is backs and necks and the physical well-being of individuals. And as a physio, I’ve spent many many years visiting patients in their homes and treating them and making them better. The thing that really hit me was how amazing it was that people got better really quickly after surgery or after injury had the most amazing calm serene bedrooms. Decent beds, decent pillows. And I thought hey ho, there’s something in this, that recovery, rest, restoration and repair is affected by the bedroom and that’s set me on a journey to try to understand what the link was between the physical medicine recovery and the physical environment in which we live.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:02:28] How interesting. And from your point of view, Dee as an interior designer, what for you are the must-haves if you are going to be sure of getting a better night’s sleep?
Dee Campling [00:02:41] I think the most important thing is to have a calm and collected bedroom and then to pick up on your point there – sleep is the best medicine isn’t it? I really agree with that. And so the first thing you need to have is everything put away if possible. By the way, I’m the worst person doing this myself.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:02:57] So am I; I’m embarrassed actually. [LAUGHS]
Dee Campling [00:03:00] I think if you can go to bed and you’re surrounded by calm surroundings, no clutter, no mess, no views of the ironing pile – that I’ve got by the way -then you will definitely start to calm down much more quickly than you would normally.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:03:15] And what about the positions that we’re sleeping in? Because I suppose with interior design, it’s like fashion really isn’t it? So you’re going to have things in your bedroom that are aesthetically beautiful but completely dysfunctional. Are there any things that maybe are going to cause you problems if you got a whole the cushions. What are the things that maybe you should be throwing off the bed?
Dee Campling [00:03:35] I think your bedroom should be as I said, uncluttered but also surrounded with things you love. So I quite often say to clients have your wedding dress up hanging up on your wardrobe door so you can see it or any clothes that you love, have them hanging out because it’s quite nice to see those and it helps you. If it’s something you love it’ll make you feel happy and with cushions have as many as you like. It’s a big argument with husbands, isn’t it? You can have too many cushions on your bed, but I think just put them on the floor when you get into bed, that’s absolutely fine.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:04:06] What about the sleeping position? So the bed and how you sleep and you know things like you know sleep on your front, rolled up, on your back. Is it anything goes?
Sammy Margo [00:04:21] So this is a massive subject. So 75 percent of us sleep on our side be it left or right. 10 percent of us sleep on our backs, and the remaining 10 percent ish sleep on our fronts. Now, as a physiotherapist, I discourage people from sleeping on their fronts because many people end up getting neck pain or lower back pain as they get older. So I’m not a big fan of front sleeping although with a mattress and with pillows you can set it up so that you can sleep on your front. The large percent of people sleep on their side. So what’s critical and important apart from the bed, which will we come on to discussing I’m sure, is how you set your pillows up just to make sure that your head is supported in the midline position. The pillow needs to fill the gap between your shoulder and your neck so you’re not too crinkled down to one side or carrying it over to the other side. So for someone who is petite like yourself, you might need fewer pillows whereas for someone, no offence it’s just you got a very beautiful slim neck you’re not broad, but you’re slightly broader, so you might need a few more pillows to get into the best position. But the whole point is to keep your head and neck in the midline when sleeping on your side. And when it comes to sleeping on your back you may well choose to have a very thin pillow because you don’t want to be too bent forwards or too bent back so you may wish to have a very thin pillow that just supports you in the midline position with a little pillow under your knees to take the slack off the low back as well.
Dee Campling [00:05:50] That’s interesting. I love a low pillow. My husband has about five.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:05:54] How interesting. I sleep on my front normally with my forehead on the pillow and my head in the mattress with my two arms up. [LAUGHS]
Sammy Margo [00:06:05] So one thing you can do if you are a front sleeper is put a pillow underneath your chest. That means that your neck won’t be so rotated and we tend to discourage people who sleep on their front from actually having a pillow at their head. You want to avoid the rotation because can you imagine if you spend the day for six to eight hours with your head turned to the one side. You want to keep your head in the midline position ideally. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for neck problems later on in life, particularly if you get stiff. So I’m a big fan of encouraging people to either sleep on the side or learn to sleep on your back because when you’re older, and you have to have surgery, you are always told apart from the odd surgery to lie on your back. So sleeping on your back is a bit more symmetrical. But as I said, most people tend to sleep on their side and even putting a pillow between your knees just to prevent any twisting or turning, or torsion can help minimise it. Sleeping position is really important, but the bed and the pillows is an area that we really have to discuss.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:07:08] Your wardrobe falling apart or not being comfortable or not being you know very functional is just an irritating issue. Whereas if your bed isn’t good then that’s going to cause a whole host of problems surely.
Dee Campling [00:07:21] I’m sure a mattress is the most important thing. But yeah I think that’s your area.
Sammy Margo [00:07:28] So there’s a few points here. The bigger, the better. You want as big a bed as possible, particularly if you’re sharing a bed. And I know that I might occupy too much of the beautiful room space.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:07:38] There’s going to be a fight here! [LAUGHS]
Dee Campling [00:07:44] I think it doesn’t matter really, it’s what the client likes. There are no rules about what size bed.
Sammy Margo [00:07:47] The bigger, the better because there’s less disruption from the other party and I’m just a fan of the bigger, the better which is my first point. My second point that’s really important is – buying a bed is a bit like choosing a marriage between comfort and support. And it does vary from person to person. You may prefer a firmer bed. You may prefer a less firm bed, but finding the ultimate blend of comfort and support is critical. Two separate people might have different preferences, so they may need, within the same bed two separate mattresses or two smaller beds pushed together because each person has got a different climate depending on their personal preference, their sleeping position and just how they like to sleep. So for me, the other point is budget. I always look at beds as beds last fall somewhere in the region of eight to 10 years. By eight years, the bed would have deteriorated by 75 per cent and buying a new bed can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. It can improve the length of your sleep by around about 42 to 45 minutes. It can really improve your sleep. So spending money and stretching on a bed is really worthwhile. If you think about your average cost of a mattress – it depends on what you’re looking at. Look at spending 50p for 365 days a year over eight years. That’s 1500 pounds.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:09:13] When you put it like that.
Sammy Margo [00:09:14] So when you when you break down – and that’s like that’s a mid-range price – so I think it’s really worth breaking it down and looking at the day in day out package and really stretching and really investing in a really decent bed. And as we’ve discussed, you only need to buy a bed once every eight to 10 years but definitely contemplate buying a new bed because it can make a huge difference to how you feel, how you look all facets of your life.
Dee Campling [00:09:42] Absolutely, sleep is so important, isn’t it? And you do spend up to eight hours a day in there. It’s obviously worth the money.
Sammy Margo [00:09:48] I find it amazing people spend so much money on their sofas. But they’re happy to spend a lot less money on their beds. So we spend a third of our lives sleeping. What percent of time do we spend sitting on our sofa? Less than a third. Yet we’re still not thinking about investing in a decent bed.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:10:09] What about pillows? I mean there are beautiful lovely pillows, all kinds of linen and everything, and then there will be your pillows. Maybe you have a fight over there. Tell me about your type of pillows first of all.
Dee Campling [00:10:23] Back to your point about spending money on a bed. Absolutely. So from an interiors point of view, I leave that to experts like you to advise people to buy the proper bed for them. But when it comes to dressing a bed it’s got to be something that it makes looks inviting to you, that helps to calm you down. So if you’ve got lovely clean bedding, isn’t that lovely? Isn’t the best night’s sleep with fresh sheets, comfortable sheets that suit you? I like really lovely linen ones. Lovely quilts or duvet, load it up with cushions if that’s what you like. It depends what makes you happy. If your bed to look at makes you happy, with your lovely fabrics that suit you and cushions and throws then that’s the most important thing really. I’m not saying you must choose this or that you must choose what makes you feel happy and makes you feel pleased to see your room and you feel calm when you enter the room and ready to get into that inviting bed that is made just for you.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:11:16] Because I suppose the last thing you want to do at night when you come in if there are loads, it all looks lovely and you have to take everything off before you get into bed.
Dee Campling [00:11:26] I mean again everyone’s very busy but if you’ve got a lovely made welcoming bed waiting for you at bedtime then your naturally going to calm down immediately and fall asleep.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:11:35] You’ll make the bed in the morning.
Dee Campling [00:11:37] Yeah I never do that by the way. [LAUGHS] But ideally I think a welcoming bed at bedtime that’s well-made and well-dressed will help you relax.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:11:47] So talk to me about pillows.
Sammy Margo [00:11:49] This is a whole podcast on its own. I’ll give you the top lines with regard to police are buying a pillow can be a complete nightmare ironically and really what you’re looking for is a pillow that fits you like a glove. So it depends on what position you sleep in how broad you are your budget annual personal preference and pillows are normally divided into three sections. They’re either the memory foam style pillows you either love them or you hate them. They can make you hot and sweaty. In the summer they’re a bit more soft, in the winter they’re a bit more hard they’re like marmite type substances. People either love them or hate them. Then there’s the feather or feather and down style pillow. These are more luxurious, more sumptuous, more comfortable. They last a long time; they’re a bit more expensive. But if you’ve got allergies, they’re really not ideal. But most people who would like a luxurious setting, love those sorts of pillows and they also shape around your neck, and you can contour them. And the last style of pillow tends to be microfibre, which is the more modern fibre these are much cheaper. You need to replace them more often. They are hypoallergenic, and they are washable. The only problem is you might get a bit hot and sweaty, and some people don’t like the feel of them. But the great thing about them is they actually have got a – technology’s come on so much now – they’ve got a feather-like kind of sensation so they can give you that sensation of the feathers and down without the downside a feather in down. So really buying a pillow is a massive again a bit like buying a bed. It’s a massive thing. Many of my patients have gone out and bought loads and loads of pillows, and they’re trying loads and loads of different pillows. I think it’s worth spending money again on pillows because getting a good night’s sleep is so important.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:13:35] And what’s the lifespan of a pillow?
Sammy Margo [00:13:37] So it depends on which fabric it is. When you’re looking at feather and down you’re looking at two to three years, if you’re looking at a microfibre you’re looking at somewhere like six to eight months. I encourage patients who like the fibre pillows to replace them frequently. There is nothing like a fabulous new pillow in the bedroom. I once did a podcast with a man who’d kept his pillow for 53 years, and I was horrified. All I could think about were the bugs in that pillow, the sweat, all of the dust mites.
Dee Campling [00:14:04] You get attached to your pillow. Everyone has their favourite pillow.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:14:07] I am horrified.
Sammy Margo [00:14:09] You need to replace your pillow frequently.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:14:12] I cannot confess to any pillow stories. Wow, I didn’t think, so some of them you get rid of within a year.
Sammy Margo [00:14:21] You do. Particularly inexpensive ones. Because remember the pillow’s importance in your life is to support your head and that stuff if you’re on it for six to eight hours gets squashed down because of the loading through it. Think about cushions they get squashed down because of the loading through it. So the fabric ends up, there is creep that happens. It’s a physical thing the creep happens so it loses its efficacy and there are lots of different tests you can do to check whether your pillow is still working. But you’re looking for a pillow that has that loftiness that gives you the support so that your head remains in the right position. When you sleep and if it’s lost that support – a bit like a pair of shoes. We tell patients to change their trainers every three to six months. If your trainers have lost the support so has your pillow. It’s the same thinking. Because you’ve got creep, the action of the gravitational forces acting down on the fibre that actually squashes it and then it doesn’t work anymore. Doesn’t give you the support that you need.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:15:19] How fascinating because the mattress I kind of get, but I would never really have thought about that.
Sammy Margo [00:15:25] And that’s an easy win, a pillow is an easy win.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:15:27] Yeah of course. So actually for people listening, you know even if you haven’t got the budget to go right now, at this moment in time, change your mattress and your bed. Maybe think about your pillow. Think about that pillow.
Dee Campling [00:15:46] What about these mattress toppers?
Sammy Margo [00:15:49] I’m a big fan of just freshening up the bedroom, freshening up the bed because that may well help improve the quality of sleep so pillows certainly. Mattress toppers. But if you can’t afford can buy a mattress topper, I often say to people get out some of those old duvets that have been hanging around in the airing cupboard and layer them up a little bit. And that actually is what a mattress topper is. It just helps the top of the bed be a bit more soft if your bed’s too hard. Or even put a board under your bed like we used to say in the olden days, that you can buy from a hardware store. Just to firm up the bed a little bit. And also make sure that you are turning the mattress over. But my view anyway on mattresses is I think it’s worth sacrificing a little bit of budget just to even buy a new mattress because getting a quality night’s sleep is like buying a life. So it’s so important.
Dee Campling [00:16:41] Very interesting.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:16:41] Colours, what about colours? So need new pillows, new bed, new mattress. Now need to get the paint brush out I’m guessing as well.
Dee Campling [00:16:54] Yes, the colour of your bedroom is really important. I tend to favour things like earthy colours. At the moment the current colour of the year is spiced honey, which is a very earthy colour. And those colours are very soothing and warm. They make you feel very cocooned. Obviously, it also depends on what colours you like, and that’s also the other key thing is. Paint the bedroom in the colour you like. So everyone tends to feel they have to follow trends, but you don’t at all. But if you are going to follow a trend, then the earthy colours around at the moment are really lovely in bedrooms as are the pinks. So dusky pinks and as we were discussing earlier, they have got red pigment in them which is very warm and helps you to feel soothed and comforted. So I think the answer is to choose what colour you like but try and choose a colour that’s got red pigments in it because it’s soothing and creates a lovely cosy cocooning environment.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:17:53] Don’t go for something like really angry or really dark.
Dee Campling [00:17:56] Typically, things like reds and blues would be no no’s in the bedroom. Again if you like red and then have red, if that’s gonna make you feel happy then yes choose whatever. I think we were saying earlier that green is very good in the bedroom.
Sammy Margo [00:18:18] So what we do know is that certain colours emit certain frequencies and make you feel a certain way. So for example, if you go for a walk on a hot summer’s day in the country in the green green grass, you feel calm and relaxed, and that’s because green emits a certain frequency. We also know that blue, which is a no-no for the bedroom, emits a certain frequency that actually is quite stimulating, which is why we’re very anti the whole blue light thing. And what you were saying before was so interesting that the earthy colours heading towards the reddy spectrum are lovely. Because we do know again that red emits a lower frequency which isn’t so stimulating for your brain. Red or pink are very lovely soothing colours for the bedroom. I’m a huge fan of white myself, but I think if you want to add a bit of colour and you’re thinking about the bedroom environment heading towards the earthy pinky spectrum is much better than heading towards the sharp blue spectrum. So I’d say blue is an absolute no-no. And I know that we’re painting our nurseries all sorts of colours. I think nurseries people tend to look at yellows and pinks and earthy colours as you’ve said.
Dee Campling [00:19:22] Absolutely. But even then with blues and I think people have got an idea that blue is cold. The darker blues which again are very on trend at the moment. They would also create a very cocooning environment I think is there so dark the actual light you’ve got the light less. Yeah. So back to my point is actually choose a colour that you love. I think people tend to think they have to have a certain colour in a certain room. There are rules, but they are there to be broken as well. So if you want your bedroom to feel like you and when you feel like you, you feel more relaxed and calm and happy. Then choose a colour that is in your palette of favourite colours anyway. So don’t feel there’s rules about colours. I totally get what you are saying about the light emission, that’s very interesting. But as it happens, the current trends if you want to follow trends, lend themselves very well to a soothing bedroom palette.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:20:17] So what colour am I painting?
Dee Campling [00:20:19] You can have whatever you like Pixie!
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:20:20] What was the on-trend one for this year?
Dee Campling [00:20:22] Spiced honey. But again and back to your point about white, I absolutely love white and if you if you’re not sure what to go for, people get really hung up on colours, and they get paralysed and think I’m not sure where to start with colours. So yes absolutely, go white first and if you like white, stick with white and accessorise with your textures to bring some warmth and cosiness in. Such as sheep skins and plants that also will also give a lovely texture and calming feeling to white. And then if you’re feeling brave and if you know more about what colours you like, then add a feature wall in a soothing colour.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:20:59] Any other layout tips that might be conducive to getting a better night’s sleep?
Dee Campling [00:21:04] I think you have to layer the room according to what the room lends itself.
Sammy Margo [00:21:08] I think my focus really is about the bed the bigger the better. As I mentioned before. In terms of the actual layout itself from a musculoskeletal sleep perspective not really the only thing that I know that people often talk about is it’s bad karma to have your feet facing out the door. That’s the only thing that I know. But that’s not really from a physical standpoint, but that’s more from a just what patients tell me.
Dee Campling [00:21:35] It’s really how the room lends itself to the best place for the bed.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:21:38] And the temperature of the room I guess is a bone of contention between couples.
Sammy Margo [00:21:45] What you really want is a cool, dark, quiet room. The reason you need it to be cool is that in order to get a good night’s sleep you need to optimise the release of your sleep hormone melatonin and melatonin is one of these hormones that gets released when you are cool. So somehow you need to get the bedroom as cool as possible, so we’re looking at 16 to 18 degrees centigrade. The cooler, the better if you can. Men tend to, this is generally speaking here, prefer a little bit cooler than women. It’s not normally the other way around unless the woman is going through a tropical moment in her life when she may be experiencing a slightly hotter phase in her life. But there are other things that you can do as well to stay cool. For example, before you get into bed having a warm shower, when you get out of the shower, you’re exposed to the cool, and that brings your body temperature down. Looking at the bedding that you’re lying upon and making sure that it’s either cotton or silk something that is cooling. Sleeping naked. I’m a huge fan of wearing bed socks because socks can actually minimise nighttime awakenings according to research.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:22:51] Really?
Sammy Margo [00:22:52] So what we do know is that when you go to sleep at night, you need to be as cold as possible. But one thing that sometimes wakes people up is their feet get cold during the night. This is mainly during the winter months, less during the summer months. So research has shown that by wearing bed socks it can actually keep your peripheries warm so you won’t get woken up because your feet are too cold. So some people have aircon in their room. They don’t sleep with it on but they pre-air con the room; they might leave the window open if it’s not too noisy. They may choose to have a fan that circulates the air just so that the room is as cold as possible. But this room needs to be almost the coolest – apart from the fridge – the coolest room in the house.
Dee Campling [00:23:33] That’s really interesting actually, I’m adding that to my list of criteria.
Sammy Margo [00:23:36] It can actually impact hugely on the quality of your sleep.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:23:40] Just incredible. I love that.
Dee Campling [00:23:42] I’m not sure about being naked with socks on though.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:23:43] Yeah I know that’s a little weird. I’m sure I’m gonna try that one.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:23:50] What about lighting in the bedroom?
Dee Campling [00:23:52] There’s three types of lighting you need in the bedroom. You need your task lighting, so put your makeup on and get dressed in the morning, reading books. But you also need ambient lighting, and that’s hugely important for making the room feel relaxed and calm as well. So as well as your task lighting, you have overhead lighting too. Have lots of things like table lights. I actually also really favour things like fairy lights which are like candlelight so you know how relaxing candlelight is and how favourable it is on the complexion as well. So it’s a really lovely soothing, comforting light to have on in the bedroom just to help you calm down and make the room feel very welcome warm and a place you want to relax in.
Dee Campling [00:24:30] And then you want that light to be able to get you out of the room to go to the loo in the middle of the night.
Dee Campling [00:24:37] Absolutely yeah. But for the purposes of good sleep, you need a lovely soothing ambient lighting. There’s lots of different types on the market now. You can have lights actually built into your bed, and they change colours. That’s lovely. That kind of thing. More lighting table lights, as long as it’s not a warm white colour. Not the bright studio lights or bright strip lights. A lovely warm white colour. And that’s the most optimum for a soothing environment.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:25:06] Any other tips, any other things that you think for listeners that might be just a small change that you could make that maybe might give you a better night?
Dee Campling [00:25:17] Well, one of my tips is plenty of storage. We’ve touched on clutter already, but if you have plenty of storage, so it’s easy to put things away. That’s a huge win for you. So underbed storage, lots of beds now have built-in storage, so that’s brilliant for just shoving everything away even if it’s just not very tidily. If it’s out of your eyesight, then it helps you too. Out of sight, out of mind. It helps you to calm down and feel relaxed. So yeah, huge fan of storage. We talked about windows earlier and temperature, curtains are a huge deal because not only do they practically help keep out the light, to keep out the cold or keep the warmth in. They add texture to your room as well, which again adds to the cosy feeling. So I often say I don’t really favour curtains in many rooms, but in the window, I think it’s really important to have a lovely thick pair of curtains to keep the light out and you can go for some lovely velvets now which really add texture to the room to make it feel much cosier.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:26:17] Okay so good curtains, good storage, good textured curtains. I know what you’re going to say. Get a good bed. Get a new pillow.
Sammy Margo [00:26:23] Well, apart from getting a good bed and getting a good pillow. In terms of the environment, it needs to be cool, dark and quiet. So we mentioned the temperature and you mentioned the business about curtains. But I think you have to make sure that you’ve got blackout blinds as well because you really want to blackout as much light as possible many people are very sensitive to lighting even when your eyes are closed. 20 percent of the light can actually get in. So you use a bulldozer clip to bring the curtains together and Velcro at the sides to really pull the curtains down or blackout blinds. Or even an eye mask if you really need a dark environment.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:26:58] I’ve learned loads. Thank you so much. Hopefully, you’ll sleep a little bit better tonight, and I’m guessing you don’t have any problem sleeping soundly.
Sammy Margo [00:27:06] No I’m pretty good sleeping generally.
Dr Pixie McKenna [00:27:10] Well sleep well tonight ladies, thank you so much. That’s all from this episode of sleep matters from dreams if you want to hear more go to dreams.co.uk, YouTube, or any of your usual podcast places. And if you enjoy this podcast, we’d love it if you could subscribe and leave us a review.
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