Sleep Like a Swede Using the Lifestyle Philosophy of 'Lagom'

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Another Nordic cultural concept to prove that Scandinavians have it all figured out ... but this one could help the rest of us sleep better too.

There’s hygee and friluftsliv and fika – the Scandinavian cultural concepts that are challenging to pronounce and show off the ways in which those from the Nordic countries do it better than the rest of us. They embrace coziness with friends and family (hygee)! They have an active relationship with nature (friluftsliv)! They make it a priority to stop midday for sweet things and coffee with friends (fika)! They even have “Swedish death cleaning” – which misses the mouthful of letters, but makes up for it in a morbidly pragmatic and luring approach to decluttering.

The latest catchy concept making the rounds comes from Sweden and goes by the name of lagom; and it’s hard to deny the appeal. Meaning “just the right amount,” it is variously defined as “in moderation,” “in balance,” and “perfect-simple.” In the United States, a place where abundance is worshipped, a little bit of logam could go a long way.

In a new book on the topic – “Lagom: Not Too Little, Not Too Much: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life” – author Niki Brantmark dishes out the secrets for this Goldilocks approach. While the book covers a whole range of topics, everything from decluttering to parenting to celebrations, it’s the advice on sleep that caught my tired eyes. According to Brantmark, these basic tips (which I've expanded upon) are how people in Sweden put logam to use for a good night's sleep.


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1. Skip the pajamas
They sleep in the buff or just their underthings. Swedish homes are well insulated, thanks to the northern climate. Wearing too much to bed keeps the body too warm; Time magazine notes that "thin pajamas, plus a sheet and blanket, could crank up your skin temperature to that 90-degree range – even if your room of slumber is only 65 degrees." Better sleep happens when the body is on the cooler side.

2. Do double duvets
Sweden isn't the only place that has this custom, but I've rarely seen it in the United States. Rather than one king- or queen-size duvet to be tugged back and forth between two people, use two small duvets so you each have your own. Not only does it prevent tugging, but you can each use a blanket weight that suits your individual thermostat and there's less duvet to get tangled up in. (And skip the top sheet while you're at it.)

3. Clean up your room
Keep it clean, reduce clutter, avoid chaotic things.

4. Make it soothing
Think of Swedish decor; it's pale, subtle, simple, modern. The bedroom should be the same, under the tenets of lagom, to ensure a stress-free space. HouseBeautiful writes: "The Swedish bedroom, with its soft, muted colour palette, minimalist furnishings and airy feel, is the epitome of calm. Think white and light grey walls, pure linen bedding – great for keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter – and layers of natural texture for cooler evenings. It's a simple space and a calming oasis in which to switch off from the stresses and strains of daily life."

5. Embrace the dark
Not in the gothic Scandinavian way, but as in lights. Joyce Walsleben, PhD, associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine tells "Light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that naturally promotes sleep. Even if you doze off, light can be detected through your eyelids – and your brain won't produce melatonin if it's confused between night and day. You want as much darkness in your bedroom as you can handle without tripping over things." Think black-out curtains, alarm clock lights covered, nightlights off, etc.

And once you're rested up, you'll have all the more energy for coziness, nature walks, cake and death cleaning ... skål!