For all the time we spend designing a killer kitchen or sprucing up the front yard, it’s all too easy to neglect your bedroom.
We get it. The bedroom probably isn’t the focal point of your home. But it is a space where you spend a good chunk of your life—about one-third of it.
For many of us, though, the bedroom can be a source of anxiety, because we tend to treat it more as a storage unit than a sanctuary. And at a time when 48% of us report lying awake at night due to stress, it’s more important than ever to make the bedroom a calming environment for sleep.
“There are lots of sources of stress in our lives that we cannot control, but your home should not be one of them,” says Sandra Dykes of Sandra Dykes Interior Design. “There is no need to feel overwhelmed in your own bedroom.”
We consulted the pros to reveal the most common sources of stress in the bedroom. Read on to learn about the worst offenders and pick up tips on how to de-stress your nest—starting tonight.
It should come as no surprise that clutter heads up our list: “Messes overload our senses and distract us,” says Jessica Salomone, interior designer and owner of Lotus and Lilac Design Studio. “It makes it difficult to unwind when your space is overloaded with clutter.”
Anyone who’s seen “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” the new Netflix series about the organizing guru, knows this to be true. But there is science to prove it, too: A UCLA study even found that managing possessions in the home could be so stressful that it elevated levels of stress hormones for mothers.
To corral the clutter, do yourself a favor and invest in storage solutions to give all your odds and ends a home. Keep dirty clothes in a hamper, and avoid letting things pile up.
“If you can find things easily and move about the space easily, then getting ready for your day or preparing for sleep is automatically more pleasurable,” Dykes says.
2. Workout equipment, desks, and anything else inducing guilt
Sorry, resolution makers, but even your best intentions could be stressing you out. Take, for instance, exercise equipment, which can add yet another layer of anxiety to your boudoir, Salomone says.
“It feels bulky, it doesn’t feel good aesthetically, and it can create a sense of guilt when it goes unused,” she says.
If you can, remove all exercise equipment from the bedroom. Go one step further, and don’t keep a desk, papers, or anything else work-related in the boudoir.
“Being near a space with unfinished work can disrupt sleep and make it difficult to relax in preparation for sleep,” Salomone says. “It’s difficult to turn off that side of your brain.”
“If you have another space where you can move the desk, then the bedroom will certainly become a more serene and restful space for you to relax and rejuvenate,” adds Marina V. Umali, a feng shui interior designer based in New York and New Jersey.
Watch: Use These 5 Tricks to Give Your Bedroom a Luxe Look for Less
By now, you’ve probably heard that the blue light from your smartphone, tablet, or TV screen can upset your circadian rhythm and make it harder to get a good night’s rest. A Harvard study even found that the blue light might be linked to diabetes and obesity. (Ack!)
If you haven’t already banned electronics in the bedroom, start tonight. And to really improve your chance of quality rest, go beyond screens and start weeding out other distracting electronics from your bedroom—including your phone charger, Salomone says.
4. Bad lighting
What does it matter how your bedroom is lighted if it’s dark when you’re sleeping? Well, homeowners are often surprised to learn that bad bedroom lighting can make it hard to relax and fall asleep, Salomone says.
“Many LED and energy-efficient lights produce a good deal of light on the blue spectrum and should be avoided in the bedroom,” she says.
Exterior lights outside your window can also keep you up at night, says Rebecca West, design psychology coach and interior designer at Seriously Happy Homes. Black-out curtains are an easy fix for this problem.
And know this: Inadequate lighting when you’re getting ready can be just as stressful as harsh lighting at night.
Salomone recommends layering the lighting in the room to meet different needs throughout day.
“Sconces by the bed can be helpful when reading in bed,” she says. “We also recommend installing lights on dimmers to increase the control.”
5. The wrong paint colors
There’s an entire field of psychology dedicated to understanding the effects of color on human behavior. And, as you can probably imagine, the wrong color in your bedroom could mean the difference between a peaceful retreat and a stress-inducing pit.
At the University of Kentucky, interior designers Morgan Jent and Jordan McRoberts conducted a study to measure participants’ heart rate, blood pressure, and initial feeling associated with different colors.
Their findings weren’t altogether surprising, but might run counter to today’s design trends of bold colors and loud patterns: They discovered that red was often associated with strong energy and even aggression, and it raised blood pressure and heart rates. Colors such as blue, green, and white were found to having a calming effect.
“The paint color should be soothing to promote rest and relaxation,” Umali says. “Bright colors or very bold prints or stripes are not conducive to rest and good sleep.”
6. The room’s history
Your bedroom’s fraught history could be subconsciously stressing you out.
“If you’re sleeping in a room where you and your spouse always fight, or you used to share with an ex, or that evokes a painful past in any way, it’s like sleeping with the enemy every night,” West says.
But that doesn’t mean you should list your house for sale or start searching for a new apartment. Instead, give the room a simple but dramatic makeover by moving or replacing your old furniture. Change the vibe by changing things around!
7. Inadequate nightstands
Furniture can be a source of stress in the bedroom—especially if you have too much stuff crammed into a small space. But our experts agree that shoddy nightstands are the worst offenders.
Many people choose a nightstand that is “cute but not functional, like a wobbly antique or one without any storage,” West says.
Nightstands can also become a hot spot for clutter, Salomone warns, which makes it hard to unwind. Don’t let bills, books, tissues, or other miscellany make a permanent home on your bedside table.
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