Property: And so to bed

We spend an awfully long time in it, and not just sleeping. Rosalind Russell suggests a stylish way to get some shut-eye.
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For some people, it will be a relief getting up an hour earlier next weekend, when the clocks change. It is estimated that more than 60 million working days are lost each year because of back problems, many of which could be eased by sleeping in a decent bed.

Bed makers claim we should change our beds every 10 years (well they would, wouldn't they), but the average couple hang on to theirs for more than 17 years.

Given the cost of replacing it, that's hardly surprising. Buying a new bed is a major outlay. A straightforward, no-frills 5ft divan and mattress from Marks and Spencer costs almost pounds 700, not including a headboard.

Even the Lord Chancellor's much publicised pounds 8,000 Gothic bed isn't the most expensive on the market. A new double pocket spring system developed and made by Leeds firm Spink and Edgar promises a good night's sleep to the oddest-sized couple... at a cost. A 5ft base and mattress starts at pounds 1,750 and goes up to pounds 9,000, plus the cost of bed head and surround.

The beauty of it, says Peter Spink, is that it always feels soft on top, but firm when the springs work together. It suits all shapes and sizes.

"We spend a third of our lives in bed," says Jessica Alexander, consultant to the Sleep Council, "so it's important we know how to make the most of this with quality sleep."

Given we are in bed for up to a third of each day, that adds up to 29,200 hours' lying time during a 10-year bed lifespan. The Sleep Council claim 34 per cent of 15 to 40-year-olds eat in bed, 59 per cent drink in bed and more than a third of the population use their beds as a family meeting point at the start of festivities like Christmas. No wonder the bed sags and everybody's exhausted.

British beds are among the narrowest and shortest in the world, falling way behind Belgium, Finland and Switzerland in the slumber stakes. America, needless to say, has the largest standard size in the world and their California kingsize is a McMighty 72" by 84".

But James Adam, makers of classical wooden reproduction beds in Woodbridge, Suffolk, will happily make a 7ft square bed to order if required. The company specialises in French and American styles, supplying tailor-made beds. Four-posters are popular with clients, who can buy the mattress and base from the firm, too. The James Adam Directoire Daybed is a copy from an original, taking the style of the French Directoire government in the late 1700s. It's hand-carved with some of the Revolutionary symbols. The solid rosewood bedframe costs from pounds 1,838. A Louis XV upholstered bed costs from pounds 1,638.

Simon Horn Furniture, in London, was one of the first to bring the French Lit Bateau bed to the UK. His latest design is the Rococo bed, hand carved from rosewood and a copy of an antique dated 1890. It can be made in any size to order, and prices start at pounds 3,482 for a double.

The Iron Bed Company have just launched two new designs, Linden and Merlin, the first to be made with padded headboards. The headboards are removable for cleaning and can be covered with a fabric from the company's range or you can supply your own.

Prices begin at pounds 449 for a 3ft Merlin. The company has also just produced a mail order brochure to include accessories, including linen, lighting, nightware, alarm clocks and "funky" hot water bottles. Perhaps the Lord Chancellor would like a copy.

For 'Bed Buyers Guide' or 'Sleep Good Feel Good Guide', send SAE to The Sleep Council, High Corn Mill, Chapel Hill, Skipton, N. Yorks, BD23 1NL; James Adam 01394 384471; Spink & Edgar 01132 771255; Simon Horn Furniture 0171-7311279; The Iron Bed Company 01243 778999.