You probably know that you shouldn’t drink caffeinated beverages close to bedtime, or use your electronic devices when you’re trying to drift off to sleep. But even if you diligently follow those rules, there are a host of ways your bedroom ― yes, the way you set up your room decor ― could be keeping you up at night.
If you’re ready to make some design and lifestyle changes, read on for some common problems and advice on how to combat them, from the doctors and interior designers who know best. Your brain, which needs good, solid nightly sleep to keep itself functional, will surely thank you.
1. You can’t keep your bedroom free of clutter
If you have a tendency to keep stacks of mail and newspapers on the kitchen table, or to throw your clothes onto that chair at the end of the day, it may be time to focus your energy on keeping at least your bedroom free of clutter if you want to sleep better at night.
Dr. Emerson Wickwire, assistant professor of psychiatry and medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he directs the insomnia program, says his sleep patients are most surprised when he says clutter could be keeping them awake. But, he explains, “Physical clutter causes mental clutter, which activates the brain and negatively impacts sleep. After all, think about it — would you pile dirty clothes or paperwork in your place of worship?”
2. Your wall color is too bright, or your wallpaper is extremely busy
Even if you keep your bedroom clean and tidy, your wall colors or decor choices could be disrupting your sleep. Wickwire says bold wall colors, such as hot pink, should be avoided in favor of more monochromatic earth tones and calming hues. Like clutter, bright colors and bold patterns excite the mind and encourage activity, rather than rest, which can keep your brain buzzing and interfere with sleep.
San Francisco-based interior designer Cynthia Spence agrees. She recommends using texture, rather than patterns and colors, to make the space more interesting.
3. There’s light coming from your phone or through your windows
Research has consistently found that blue light from devices can disturb sleep, so minimizing electronics use before bedtime is key, as is keeping your phone away from your bed. Spence notes that even if the sound is off on your phone, the light from a text or other notification can wake a light sleeper.
Wickwire explains that light from devices can disturb your sleep by preventing your body from producing melatonin, a hormone that sets the stage for sleep.
“A recent study conducted at Harvard Medical School demonstrated that using lighted e-readers delayed sleep onset by one hour, which is striking,” he says. “At minimum, turn down the brightness on your mobile device. Better yet, leave it in the kitchen overnight.”
The positioning of your light source can affect your sleep, too, says interior designer Kayla Hein of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She notes that downward-facing fixtures can be harsh on your eyes, making the transition to sleep more difficult. “When possible, choose fixtures that use upward-facing lights or have a diffuser that softens downward light,” she says.
She also recommends switching from overhead lights to soft lamps as you’re winding down for the night.
4. You need to replace your mattress
Mattresses can be expensive, and if you’re in your 20s or 30s you may still be using one from college, or one that was donated to you by a friend or roommate. A poor-quality mattress can disrupt your sleep, though, which is why Spence recommends purchasing a new one if you start to wake up feeling achy or tired, even after a full night’s rest.
Sara Abate Rezvanifar of Ambience.ca, a Canadian design firm, recommends a natural memory foam mattress that “gently contours to relieve pressure points” and says a good-quality mattress will help you to spend more time in restful deep sleep.
5. Your window treatments and carpets aren’t doing a good job of reducing sounds and light
If the sun wakes you up in the morning, or bright streetlights are preventing you from falling asleep, you may want to invest in blackout curtains or thin-slat wooden blinds. The same goes for reducing noise from external sources, such as cars or people outside.
Adds Spence, “Interlining [also known as interfacing] can add a sound baffle for external noise as well as proper fit to ensure that there are no crevices where light can creep in. Carpet can also baffle sound, although I prefer wood floors with an area rug.”
6. Your linens aren’t comfortable
You’d never guess it, but your linens might be disrupting your sleep. Liz Toombs, an interior designer with Polka Dots & Rosebuds Interiors, says it’s important to consider which fabrics feel best next to your skin — cotton? satin? fleece? — and choose those for your linens. You’ll be more comfortable, and sleep will come more easily.
7. Your bedroom is a haven for allergens
If you’re an allergy sufferer, you know how hard it is to fall asleep when you’re sniffling and sneezing. Give yourself a helping hand by choosing hypoallergenic linens, at the very least, and working toward an allergen-free bedroom.
“Right now, I have a client with a severe allergy to dust mites, so the mattress needs to be organic, the linens need to be organic, and there cannot be a rug in the room,” Spence said.
8. Your bedroom is too warm
Whether you run hot or cold, the temperature of your bedroom can have a profound effect on your sleep.
The body needs to cool in order to sleep, so investing in a ceiling fan or air conditioning system to help create a cooler environment, especially if you live in a noisy area and can’t keep your windows open, can be beneficial. Research has found the optimal room temperature for sleep is 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
And, adds Toombs, adjusting the weight of your blankets depending on your preferred sleeping temperature can help ease you into slumber.
9. There’s too much noise inside your home
Is your bedroom in an area of your home that receives a lot of noise? There are ways to soundproof your room, or at least muffle noise, to help you get a good night’s rest.
If, for example, your bedroom is above the garage and you frequently hear the opening and closing of the mechanical door, Toombs suggests having cork laid beneath the carpet to absorb sound. And if you’re near the kitchen and like to run the dishwasher at night, invest in a machine that’s less noisy ― or better yet, run it during the day.
The tie that binds all of this advice? Creating an environment that promotes peaceful, uninterrupted sleep, preferably for at least seven hours each night.
So go ahead, build your perfect bedroom — then rest well all night.