How innkeepers ensure a good night’s sleep

When I’m away from home and have an extraordinary night of sleep, it’s not above me to tear away a part of the sheets and mattress pad, trying to over-analyze just what made the difference.

This is not something that I bothered to do after a night on a mattress whose firmness could be pumped up (to ironing board hardness) and down (to hammock-like depths). But in other settings, I’ve wondered just how much thread count, quilted mattress covers, lightweight comforters and the right pillow assortment could make a difference.

’Tis the season for Valentines, and what could be better than building a cozy nest at home, or finding one to call your own for a romantic weekend?

Some people, and companies, have made a career out of studying the winning combination for a good night’s sleep. A lot of it is psychological, from what’s on your mind to who’s sharing the bed.

In 1999, Westin Hotels and Resorts released research about sleep away from home. Among the findings: Great sleep was a higher priority than great sex. Most travelers sleep fewer hours when away from home. A comfortable bed was more important than any other hotel room item.

Then the Westin filled a hotel ballroom with 50 beds from 35 hotels, luxury properties to mainstream chains. Staff studied and slept on it – box springs to pillowcases – before introducing the 10-layer Heavenly Bed, which took the best of what could be combined.

This is a fine way to sleep, I learned at a Westin in Ixtapa, Mexico, a few years ago. Fans can buy the whole Heavenly Bed deal – linens to mattress – for $2,900 (king size) or $2,565 (queen). Go to or call (877) 777-5418 to learn more.

Who else knows how to make a great bed? We asked Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association ( members what makes a bed perfect. Here are a few of their helpful replies; call (800) 432-8747 for a free B&B directory.

“The perfect bed, like Goldilocks said, is neither too soft nor too hard,” says Suzanne Crager, New Yardley Inn, Baileys Harbor. “It has plenty of room for its occupants, has a reading light easily reached on both sides, a table or shelf on each side for glasses or book, plenty of pillows, and sheets that are crisp, cool and ironed.”

“Perfection: A log bed in a cozy log cabin with warm homemade quilts and a fireplace in the room,” says Jan and Ole Knutson, Grapevine Log Cabins, Sparta.

“A stupendous bed means the percale sheets come straight off the clothesline and are ironed,” says Debby Sween, Quiet Cottage, Sturgeon Bay, on Lake Michigan.

“A picture says 1,000 words, but a great bed begins with our $2,000, top-of-the-line king and queen Verlo mattress sets,” say Dawn and Gary Bahr, Cameo Rose, Belleville. “It is not enough to just add fine linens, decorative pillows and down comforters to a poor foundation.”

“I have pristine, antique cotton sheets and lace trimmed pillow cases on my beds,” says Nancy Wendt, Victoria-on-the-Main, Whitewater. “My guests ask what kind of fabric softener I use.  I tell them it’s called ‘fresh air’.”
“We only use 250 thread count linens, and iron them faithfully,” says Brenda Wanless, Hotel Ruby Marie, Madison.

“A wonderfully comfortable bed in a beautiful setting makes you feel like royalty,” says Rita Nelson, Port Washington Inn.

“We offer our guests a choice,” says Kristen Mueller, Lighthaus Inn, Sparta. “The pillowtop mattress, with support, is forgiving to weary bones after a day on the bike trails, yet not too soft. The Beachhouse Room has a standard bed fitted with a feather bed on top; covered by another mattress cover. It is commonly thought to be old-fashioned, as in ‘Grandma’s featherbed’.”

“It is difficult enough to sleep when you are away from home, so it’s important to have a good mattress,” says Cindy Oerter, Green Fountain Inn, Waupaca. “We also have high thread count cotton sheets that we hang out on the line for that outdoor fresh smell that can’t be packaged.”
“We have firm but not rock hard mattresses,” say Craig and Linda Foreback, My Friends’ House, New Glarus. “Our bed linens are attractive to women but not too frilly for the male gender. Remember, some men have had their arms twisted to visit a B&B.”

“Our primary objective is to provide a bed so visually appealing that guests immediately want to snuggle in for a few hours,” say Paul and Jane Welteer, Stewart Inn, Wausau. “We exceed expectations by starting with a sturdy, Amish-built solid oak bed frame supporting a premium Stearns and Foster pillow-top mattress and box spring.”

“Flat – not sagging, filled with soft material and covered with special care,” say Steve and Jennifer Dunn, Franklin Victorian, Sparta. “That is a good bed … only you can know the differences.”

“Cozy comforter, fluffy pillows, soft sheets that make you want to snuggle – those are the makings of a great bed,” says Kathy Schwarz, The Inn On Main Street, Stevens Point.

“It’s not unusual for a past guest to call us a year or two later, asking the brand of the mattresses we use, as they are shopping for replacement mattresses for their own beds,” say Jeanine & Mike Adams, Pleasant View, Chippewa Falls.

“We have four-poster king size beds, which many guests – especially tall ones – really enjoy,” say Renee and Bruce Elliott, The Elliott House, East Troy. “Guests find large, comfortable beds with at least four fluffy pillows and crisp, yet soft, fresh sheets.”

“Guests most frequently comment on the feather bed, twinkle lights and lace headboard,” says Donna Justin, Justin Trails Resort, Sparta. “Twinkle lights are woven into the headboard, and you can snuggle between silk sheets on a fluffy down featherbed for a perfect night of romance and slumber.” 
“A wonderful bed appeals to all senses. The beauty encompasses rich linens, fresh scented laundering, classical music at bedside, and delightful chocolates on the pillow,” says Mike Hohner, Hillcrest Inn & Carriage House, Burlington.

“What makes a bed perfect?  Lots and lots of layers,” says Karen Partridge, Breese Way, Portage. “A feather top, soft and luxurious sheets, piles of pillows, down comforters, a beautiful spread.”
“The only thing that makes a perfect bed is the person you share it with,” conclude Jeff and Mary Serafico, Black Walnut Guest House, Sturgeon Bay.