What Is the Scandinavian Concept of “Lagom,” and How Can It Help You Sleep Better?

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If you’ve been feeling stressed out and are finding it hard to sleep lately, it could be that you need a bit more Lagom in your life.

Lagom is a Swedish word, meaning that we should be seeking balance and moderation in all areas of life. While there’s no direct translation of the word in English, it translates roughly to “in moderation” or “just right.” Not to be confused with the Danish concept of Hygge, which relates more to coziness or comfort in your living environment, Lagom is more about striking a balance in life to lead to comfort and contentment. 

“It can be tempting to fill our calendars with social engagements, but in Sweden it’s all about finding the right balance to avoid burnout and stress,” explains Catharina Bjorkman, lifestyle expert at Swedish wood-burning stove brand, Contura.

“A busy work schedule and packed social life can be better managed by adopting a more Lagom way of life: from being choosier about the events you attend, being mindful of spend, avoiding excess alcohol and not overindulging, to creating a welcoming, cozy and relaxing home environment.”

Lagom is about being mindful of all areas of life and trying to make them work together in harmony, by making sure you don’t have too much or too little of anything. Similar to the English phrase “less is more,” it’s about seeking a life away from excess — and being all the more happy for it. 

Where Does Lagom Come From?

There’s no official consensus on where the term originated, but one (likely false) story of its origin claims it is a contracted version of the phrase “laget om” (meaning “around the team”). 

As the legend goes, the phrase was said to be used in Viking times to specify how much mead someone should drink from the horn as it was passed around the group, so that everyone received a fair share.

It’s more likely, however, that the term comes from a centuries old Swedish term meaning “according to law,” which admittedly is much less fun than a term used to dish out mead.

Incorporating Lagom Into Your Bedtime Routine

A life of balance and contentment in a busy world sounds wonderful, but it’s not just about finding a balance in your daytime routine. A vital part of Lagom is also creating a sleep environment that allows you to relax, wind down, and be in a restful mindset before bed.

In order to make your bedtime more Lagom, sleep expert and the founder of Owl + Lark Hafiz Shariff recommends opting for a mattress that provides just the right amount of support (neither too firm nor too soft) then pairing it with breathable, organic bedding that keeps you comfortably cool.

He adds, “Creating a consistent sleep schedule is also a part of ‘Lagom’, where you feel like you can do the things you enjoy (like reading or scrolling on social media) but also give yourself time to wind down and know when to stop. 

“This could be leaving your phone outside the bedroom, or setting a cut-off time a couple of hours before bed where you can then spend your time doing things that relax you, such as reading a book, practicing gentle stretching, or indulging in a warm, soothing herbal tea.”

That’s right — with Lagom, you can look at your phone before bed, as long as you still know when to stop and take time to wind down afterwards.

Creating a Lagom Sleep Environment

Spending time creating a calming, well-designed sleep environment is also crucial to incorporating Lagom into your nighttime routine.

“The bedroom should serve to help us relax, unwind and de-stress, away from our busy day-to-day lives,” says Thomas Høegh Reisenhus, a Scandi-native based in Denmark and a sleep specialist at TEMPUR. “To achieve this, we need light, airy, soothing tones; dusky pinks, soothing greens, hazy blues, and muted yellows are all ideal.”

“Another sleep-friendly styling trick is to use biophilic design, which is focused on increasing our connection to the natural environment. Look for plants with air purifying qualities, including the visually striking snake plant, perfect for larger bedrooms; the easy-to-care-for spider plant; or, if you’re tight on space, opt for a pint-sized money plant.”

When it comes to sleep, it can sometimes feel like there are rules to follow — we need to aim for a certain amount of sleep, or sleep at a certain time, or aim to switch off screens a certain number of hours before bed. Yet Lagom offers a more refreshing perspective. It’s about balance, calmness, and contentment, whatever that looks like to you.

  • Shariff, Hafiz. Author interview. June 2024.

  • Reisenhus, Thomas Høegh. Author interview. June 2024.

  • Bjorkman, Catharina. Author interview. June 2024.

Rachel Finn

Rachel Finn

Rachel is a freelance journalist, content writer, editor and nap-lover. Her work has covered entertainment, lifestyle, celebrity, music, fitness, travel and now sleep, for publications such as i-D, Vice, The Guardian, Metro, OK! and Cosmopolitan. She hates mornings and is a combination sleeper: back, stomach, side and everything in between.

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