AVE YOU EVER woken up in the middle of the night with the feeling that someone has lit a fire under your bed? Welcome to the pillow-top mattress, the mattress topper or the memory foam mattress. These are the latest additions to hotel beds to make us feel comfortable and cosseted. However, at four in the morning, when the feathers and foam have absorbed as much heat as possible, the mattress tries to perform spontaneous combustion under us; at least that’s what it feels like.
Modern hotel rooms have become showrooms for bedroom trappings: scatter cushions, bolsters, bedspreads, runners, microfibre duvets, 400-thread luxury linens, incredibly thick drapes, and that’s before we get to the pillow menu.
Having a good night’s sleep has become a battleground of human versus bedroom. Before you can even get into bed, you have to dismantle all the toppings and trimmings. Then the room looks a mess, because who can fold up a bedspread that weighs more than a sumo wrestler? Actually, I think sumo wrestlers retire to be chambermaids – who else can lug around all the trimmings of a modern hotel bedroom and tuck in the sheets and duvet so tight that you lose your nails trying to loosen the hospital corners. Phew, and then when you have climbed up on to the seven-foot square plateau, panting from the exertion, the reading light gives out as much light as Wee Willy Winkie’s candle.
Not that we ever want to go back to the days of horse hair mattresses, concrete block pillows and banana beds – the ones that sagged so much in the middle you woke up bent like the fruit.
Hotels entice us with their beds – Westin has the Heavenly Bed, Sheraton has the Sweet Sleeper. Not only can you sleep in their beds, but you can buy them too. A Heavenly Bed will set you back about €3,000, plus some €700 for the linens.
A good night’s sleep is what a hotel has to sell and the Benjamin Hotel in New York takes sleeping so seriously it has a sleep concierge to help you plan your night’s rest. Choose from the 12-pillow menu – water or buckwheat filled, satin covered to protect from wrinkles, or a pillow with in-built speakers. The concierge can also recommend bedtime snacks for a restful night, including milk and cookies.
Hotels spend fortunes on making rooms comfortable and promoting their beds, but sometimes simple is what we need; just a bed, looking for a guest to keep warm and comfortable.
And don’t get me started on the air conditioning, windows that don’t open, and the chocolate on the pillow that somehow ends up melted into the bed.