Staying In-In: The Rise Of The Adult Sleepover

Going out-out is so over. Instead, we’re taking inspiration from our teens and having sleepovers. Gwendolyn Smith settles in for the night wearing her satin pyjamas...

adult sleepover

by Grazia |

It’s Saturday morning and I wake up in an unfamiliar bed. The person still slumbering by my side isn’t a man; I’m not about to endure small-talk after a one-night stand. She’s a female friend and, along with six other pyjama-clad pals, we had a sleepover last night.

I know. The word sleepover conjures up images of your teenage years, when you’d gather a group of friends and stay up all night, high on fizzy drinks and sugary sweets, gossiping about boys. Or the scene in Grease where the Pink Ladies, their hair up in curlers, lampoon Sandy for her prissiness by singing Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee. They sound like something most adult women have consigned to a sweet but distant memory.

But they’re no longer solely the preserve of adolescents on their first night away from home without their parents. Adult women are exchanging their traditional catch-up routines – shouted conversations in crowded bars and restaurants – for the joy of spending a whole night (and breakfast too) with their friends.

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The reason is simple: in our hectic, tech-dominated lives, they offer a chance to connect with friends on a much deeper level. The whispered discussions that take place after the lights go off – and half of the guests have fallen asleep – are the most intimate you’ll have. Family, sex and relationships are dissected, but in a more contemplative manner than usual; confidences bear the air of the therapist’s chair rather than an inebriated rant.

The sleepover trend is permeating our culture elsewhere. Pyjamas – the ultimate shut-eye signifier – are now legitimate partywear, Dua Lipa’s New Rules video plays with the slumber party aesthetic, and even museums have clocked the zeitgeist – the Science Museum in London invites visitors to bed down among the exhibits for ‘Astronights’, while the Natural History Museum hosts ‘Dino Snores For Grown-ups’, where guests camp under the new blue whale skeleton.

adult sleepover

‘They’re a great way of catching up, last longer than dinner or drinks and they’re cheaper, too,’ says book editor Samantha Bramley, 31, who’s started having sleepovers a few times a year. There’s only one thing for it – I haul my sleeping bag down from the attic and organise my first sleepover in over a decade.

The main difference, now we’re all grown up, is assembling the group – myriad dates are discussed before we find one where more than two people are free. (One naysayer has actually already said yes to another sleepover.) On the plus side, friends I haven’t seen for ages sign up; departing from the usual disorderly drinking session seems to appeal to my more sedate mates. When the evening comes, wine is drunk, but it’s not the focus, which makes a welcome change.

In recent years, we’ve each hosted nights in at our flats. But minus the pressure to produce a complex Ottolenghi concoction – it’s sacrilege to spurn the sleepover holy trinity of supermarket pizza, crisps and endless E numbers – and show off what a whizz you’ve become in the kitchen. No one ducks out of the fun early to embark on a vertiginous tower of washing up, or kills the conversation by brandishing a blowtorch with which to put the ‘final touch’ on a preposterously showy pudding.

I've bonded more wih my fellow night owls than during innumerable slurred chats

Certain activities are more successful than others. Board games are a hit: ‘Not to boast, but I excel at Articulate,’ boasts Eugénie. But people are too self-conscious to tell ghost stories, and bouncing on the bed is more precarious now we no longer fit into clothes from Tammy Girl.

One of the elements I like best is that it forces us to cut through the artifice of adulthood. Catch-ups with some of my more alpha friends are brisk post-work affairs, during which, still clad in blazers and intermittently checking emails, they remain half the austere, professional version of themselves. But, as my friend Jess puts it, ‘It’s impossible to play it cool when you’re larking about in the bathroom, hair swept into a scruffy topknot, wearing PJs.’

adult sleepover

Most importantly, the usuals don’t get to dash home, citing last train/boyfriend/busy day at work/being a bit tired. With hours at our disposal, and without having to holler over loud music, conversation is sparky and wide-ranging. One friend recalls her adolescent recorder-playing exploits; another offers a deliciously acid-tongued description of dinner with her boyfriend’s family. A couple of people talk frankly for the first time about mental-health struggles. Someone sheds light on the tough reality of their perfect-seeming job. As morning dawns, I realise I’ve bonded more with my fellow night owls than I’ve done during innumerable slurred chats. Hanging out with friends who aren’t wearing any make-up, and watching them nod off with their mouths ajar and glasses askew engenders a fresh tenderness towards them. I’m reminded of their childhood selves and, in turn, of their vulnerability – if that doesn’t sound too much like the quixotic ramblings of a brain

addled by too many Haribo Tangfastics.

Of course, you can do the whole thing with grown-up glamour. The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell, a London boutique hotel, offers a ‘Grand Night In’ package, where six friends can pass a night watching films, sipping cocktails and being pampered. The hotel started the nights after getting requests from women looking to fit more than just a couple in a room. Female professionals book for birthdays, hen parties, or just a treat, says Natalie Raw, the hotel’s head of press and marketing. ‘People like the camaraderie. They relish the opportunity to stay in rather than go crazy on the town.’ Waking up in a strange bed, then, is worth it – for the revelatory heart-to-hearts alone. Adulthood and sleepovers might be natural bedfellows after all.

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