Bedroom Design Tips for a Restful Night’s Sleep

Toronto Life
Peerutin Architects
Bedroom by Peerutin Architects

The benefits of restful sleep are well documented. Studies have shown that people who catch between six and eight hours of sleep a night are more energized and productive during their waking hours than those who sleep for six hours or less. However, for many, the struggle to fall and stay asleep can be an uphill battle.

Fortunately, researchers have discovered a link between your environment and ability to sleep well, meaning small changes in your bedroom’s design can increase your chances of sound rest. According to Dr. Christina Brown from the Florida School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, Tampa, “In a good number of cases, getting to sleep and staying asleep is a matter of your surroundings.”

Surroundings in the bedroom include lightning, bedding, and décor. The following list describes the most effective ways to arrange and control these elements and experience the most serene nights of your life.

Georgette Westerman Interiors
Georgette Westerman Interiors

Lighting

Kristina Held, assistant professor of Interior Design at the Art Institute of Charlotte, a campus of South University, recommends making your bedroom as dark as possible, using several layers of curtains to block out light from the moon, buildings, and cars just beyond your window. Black-out shades are highly recommended, but appropriate alternatives include layered curtains with at least one sheer panel.

As Held explains,

Sheers and heavy protective curtains can help soften the room visually, help with sound absorption, help insulate the window, and are a great opportunity to bring in some color and pattern.

Sheer curtains can be left drawn during the day to allow natural light to enter the bedroom while maintaining a degree of privacy.

Plus, as people naturally rise and sleep according to the Earth’s rotation around the Sun, Held suggests positioning your bed to the east, so that rays from the rising sun will stimulate your body to wake in the morning.

The use of warm, low-wattage bulbs or a dimmer switch in the bedroom will let you easily unwind before bed.

Vicki Bergelt Interior Design
Bedroom by Vicki Bergelt Interior Design

Also, you should ban artificial light from the bedroom before you climb onto your mattress to catch some zzz's. “Get rid of your phones, TVs and iPads while in bed,” suggests Held. Artificial light interrupts the body’s natural sleep cycle by stimulating the brain at the exact moment it should be powering down.

Though many bedrooms feature clock radios with lighted displays, some doctors recommend sleeping with the clock’s face turned toward the wall. If your eyes should momentarily open during the night as you shift from one stage of sleep to another, the dim lights from your clock may mistakenly send a message to your brain that it’s time to wake up.

Other forms of mental stimulation you should avoid when preparing for bed include working, reading, and watching movies and TV. In fact, many psychologists recommend removing electronics, excess reading material, and other reminders of stressful or stimulating daytime activities from the bedroom altogether.

Even if you don’t watch TV or read a book in bed every night, the presence of these items in the bedroom, coupled with the fact you may occasionally catch a few minutes of the 11:00 news or spend half an hour engrossed in a novel before bed, can impact your ability to sleep restfully. This is because your brain begins to associate your bedroom with an entertainment or work centre, rather than the peaceful oasis it should be.

Christopher R  Arelt
Watch the nature channel instead of TV! Design by Christopher R Arelt

You should just associate the bedroom with sleep and physical intimacy, according to Dr. Michael Breus, author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health. In his book, Dr. Breus explains that creating a physical and psychological separation between work space and sleep space enables your bedroom to become a more relaxing environment.

Bedding

First, select a comfortable mattress and pillow.

The ideal mattress should suit your personal needs,

explains Tamara Robbins Griffith of IKEA Canada. Consult a mattress expert about which make and model will best accommodate your weight, preferred sleeping positions, and other habits.

Visit mattress stores and be prepared to test a variety of makes and models. Will a firm futon work best for you? Maybe you'll find a luxury coil or memory foam model to be your perfect match. “Lie on your favourite one for as long as you need to before you buy to make sure it’s comfortable,” recommends Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein of Harvard Medical School.

Next, seek the appropriate pillow to complement your chosen mattress. You sleep most soundly when your neck and head muscles are completely relaxed. For this reason, Tamara Robbins suggests side sleepers invest in a high pillow that provides adequate muscle support. A pillow of medium thickness will do the trick for those who prefer to sleep on their back, while stomach sleepers will be well supported by a low pillow.

Moss Envy
Don't Be Afraid To Invest In A Quality Mattress! Photo by Moss Envy

You should enclose mattresses in a hypoallergenic cover that will repel dust mites, pollen, and animal dander. These pollutants in the air can worsen pre-existing allergies and contribute to low indoor air quality. Experts also recommend using hypoallergenic pillows and pillow covers (pillow covers differ from pillow cases in that the former firmly encloses the pillow with a wraparound zipper).

High-quality bedding items with high thread counts are your best defence against pollutants and allergens that threaten to interrupt a good night’s rest. Egyptian, Pima, combed, and Supima are all forms of high-quality cotton that will stave off unwanted critters such as dust mites.

An even better alternative to cotton is bamboo bed sheets. The anti-bacterial, moisture-wicking material naturally repels pests and feels as luxurious as silk against your skin.

Another useful way to prevent microscopic nuisances from taking up shop in your bedding is to wash bed sheets frequently (expects recommend once a week). You should wash duvets and pillow and mattress covers once a month in warm water, while you should clean bedroom surfaces and floors regularly.

Luis Jauregui
Bedroom by Luis Jauregui

Décor

When deciding on your bedroom’s colour scheme, keep in mind that mellow, neutral hues are best to soothe the mind. Natural linen tones, such as white, beige, and camel, can make a room seem more open and airy than it actually is, while colours found in nature (turquoise, sage green, and navy blue, for example) inspire calm.

Kristina Held cautions against the excessive use of red in the bedroom, explaining, “It makes you awake and some say aggressive.” She also strongly discourages deep shades of purple. Researchers in the United Kingdom recently surveyed 2,000 homes to determine the optimal bedroom colour scheme for a good night’s sleep. According to the results, people who sleep in purple bedrooms tend to catch just under six hours of sleep per night. Though the reason for this isn't entirely clear, the researchers surmise that purple is to too mentally stimulating to encourage rest.

David Churchill  Architectural Photographer
Photo by David Churchill 

The study’s results also indicated that a blue bedroom will increase your chance of sleeping soundly. People sleeping in blue bedrooms slept an average of seven hours and 52 minutes per night.

“This is an amazing result,” enthuses Chris Idzikowski of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre.

There are specialized receptors called ganglion cells in the retina part of our eyes, which are most sensitive to the color blue. These receptors feed information into an area deep in our brain that controls 24 hour rhythms, and affects how we perform and feel during the day.

Hopefully, using one or more of these design tips will transform your bedroom into a peaceful oasis that lends itself to restful sleep night after night. As we know, adequate sleep leads to increased energy levels and improved productivity. So if a healthier lifestyle is what you’re after, it’s worthwhile to seek a restful night’s sleep.

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