Remember when you were a kid and bedtime was something you dreaded and tried to postpone as long as possible? As an adult, you’re likely facing the opposite challenge: wishing you could slip under the sheets far sooner than your schedule would allow.
A whopping 1 in 3 American adults don’t score their recommended 7 hours of sleep per night regularly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We know that when and what we eat, our gut health, our pre-bedtime habits and our partner’s sleep schedule can make a big impact on the quality and quantity of our zzz’s. As can the space where we try to rack them up.
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“In order to maximize your sleep, it’s essential to make sure your bedroom is your ultimate safe space,” says Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University in New York City.
Read on for how to ensure your bedroom feels safe and sparks joy—and serenity.
7 Bedroom Design Tips for Better Sleep, According to Experts
“Making a comfy, serene environment dedicated to sleep is essential for the behavioral changes to sleep better,” says Carleara Weiss, Ph.D., a sleep science advisor at Aeroflow Healthcare’s sleep division.
Try one or all of these soothing design tips to potentially fall asleep quicker and score more high-quality rest while you’re at it.
Place your bed in the prime position for feng shui.
The best place to rest your head is one that’s quiet, dark and comfortable, Weiss says. According to the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui, where we situate items in our space can foster better balance within our natural world. To maximize the feng shui in your bedroom, Hafeez says to “position your bed with a complete view of your room, but out of line with the door. Your headboard should be against the center of the main interior wall, making your bed the focal point and potentially leaving space on both sides for bedside tables.” (Bonus points if those tables are home to plants, which can “add a natural essence to your space,” according to Hafeez.)
This bed positioning will allow you to watch over your space without staring directly at the door, which could lead to a “looming feeling of pending interruption,” she adds.
Remove any reminders of work.
Speaking of interruption, if possible, leave any potential ones—yes, including your phone and especially that work computer—in a different room.
“We have grown very connected to our electronic devices. However, we should ban electronic devices from our bedrooms. TV, laptops and smartphones should stay outside of the room,” Weiss says. “The bedroom should be used for sleep or sex only.” So if your bedroom suddenly became your WFH office during the pandemic, carve out a separate space elsewhere if you can. “Your bedroom should be your worry-free zone, and thinking about work won’t help,” Hafeez adds.
If you currently have a bookshelf as part of your bedroom decor, you might be better off with that in another room, too. “Keeping any books, or even a bookshelf, in your bedroom would only remind you of unfinished projects. So unless it’s what you’re currently reading, you should consider storing your books elsewhere,” Hafeez says.
Clean out under your bed.
In other storage news, if you’re tucking tubs under your bed so they’re out of sight, they might not be out of mind, Hafeez says. “There should not be anything underneath your bed, even as storage. Sleeping on top of things like shoes or mementos can radiate negative energy that subconsciously leaves you uneasy while trying to rest,” she explains. Any other clutter you can remove will also be beneficial, Weiss and Hafeez agree, to eliminate as many distractions as possible.
Choose calming colors.
“Color therapy, also known as chromotherapy, suggests that specific colors may have a calming effect on our mood and may help us sleep better,” Weiss says. The best bedroom colors for sleep include white, blue, yellow, green and silver. According to Weiss, “Research suggests that using these colors in light tones can increase the total sleep duration per night.”
(ICYMI, here are the worst bedroom colors for sleep.)
Replace lightbulbs in lamps and overhead fixtures.
The artificial light in your home can mimic natural light and therefore throw off your natural sleep rhythm, disrupting the rise of melatonin levels as the night progresses, Hafeez says. To promote a more restful lighting scheme, replace all your bedroom lightbulbs with amber-hue bulbs (buy it: $12.69 for two bulbs; Target), and set them on dimmer switches, if possible.
“These will fill your room with warm, dimmer lighting that’ll signal your brain it’s time to rest, therefore producing more melatonin,” Hafeez says. “The sun gives off the same blue light that your devices radiate, which keeps you alert and awake. The light actually suppresses your melatonin.”
You may also want to use blackout curtains (these Nicetown 100% Blackout Lined Curtains have more than 37,000 five-star reviews; buy it: $45.95, Amazon) to keep the room dark, Weiss says, and use a noise machine (such as this Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light and Time-to-Rise; buy it: $59.99, Target) to block external noise, if there is any.
Infuse the air with soothing scents.
“Aromatherapy has been proven to help ensure your space is free of any stress, anxiety or mental arousal that can keep you awake,” Hafeez says. Essential oils including lavender, ylang ylang and chamomile are among Weiss’ picks; she explains that they are known to promote relaxation by reducing body temperature and lowering heart rate and blood pressure. (This Sleep Essential Oil Blend for Diffuser includes all three in one; buy it: $9.95 for 1 ounce, Amazon. And we’re still obsessed with this $23 diffuser.)
“Several studies conclude lavender has the most calming effects on the heart, blood pressure and even insomnia,” Hafeez says. “Scents can also become a part of emotional memory. Essential oils, especially those associated with positivity and calmness, can aid in preparing for bed and staying asleep.”
Opt for a medium-firm mattress.
The quality of your bed can be subjective, considering different people can feel different levels of comfort on the same mattress, Hafeez explains. But as a general rule, research suggests that a medium-firm mattress with adjustable firmness that supports the curvature of your spine is often best to promote healthy sleeping habits, she says.
“According to the National Sleep Foundation, as long as your head and neck stay in a neutral position, you should be able to get a good night’s sleep without waking up to readjust,” Hafeez says. A medium-firm memory foam mattress (like Casper Original Mattress; buy it: $985.90 for a queen-sized mattress, Casper) is ideal for providing spinal support, Weiss adds. (The National Sleep Foundation has 17 more expert-recommended mattresses here.)
The Bottom Line
As is true when renovating any part of your home, making your bedroom a sleep haven takes some time and financial investment. So with that in mind, Weiss advises, “Use these recommendations according to your budget. Just remember the take-home message here is to have a quiet, serene, dark and comfortable space for sleep.”