Getting solid sleep is a major component of good health, but it’s often harder to come by than you might think. A lot of factors, from caffeine to stress, can prevent you from getting necessary rest, but don’t forget that the stuff in your bedroom affects your sleep, too. Your room isn’t simply the home of all your unwashed laundry, or a place you crash after a night out. It’s an environment you actually spend a lot of your life inhabiting — and the fact that you happen to be unconscious for most of that time doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect you in a significant way.
The truth is that your bedroom can go a long way to help you have a restorative night’s rest, but it can also do a lot to make you feel cranky and tired. From the furniture you have, to the light you let creep in, to the people you let sleep in your bed, every part of your bedroom impacts your ability to get much-needed shut-eye. And — in case you need reminding — sleep is essential to health. The American Psychological Association reports, “Sleep deprivation taxes the immune system, and is associated with a heightened risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and depression.” The amount of sleep you get also affects your eating habits, as well as your memory, ability to focus, and mood. That’s ample reason to make your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary!
Read on for six things in your bedroom that may be sabotaging your sleep.
1. Your phone, tablet, and TV.
A 2014 study by the Sleep Foundation found that 89 percent of adults and 75 percent of children keep one or more electric devices in their bedrooms. Unfortunately, these devices, including TVs, mobile phones, and tablets, can have a detrimental effect on sleep. A major factor in this sleep-reduction is light: These types of devices emit blue light, which has been found to disrupt people’s natural circadian rhythms (the internal clocks that tell them when to be asleep and when to be awake). Essentially, when you perceive a lot of this blue light in the time leading up to sleep (by reading on your phone before bed, for instance), you confuse your body into thinking its supposed to be awake, and your therefore have difficulty sleeping.
In addition to the light issue, having tech in the bedroom also simply introduces a lot of extra stimulation to your sleep space — it makes sense that if something you watch gets you all fired up right before you go to bed, you’re going to have trouble settling down after.
2. Your mattress.
I fully understand that mattresses are simultaneously really expensive and super boring. Who wants to spend their hard-earned cash on a giant pillow that no one even sees? But although a mattress may not be the most exciting investment in the world, having a good mattress can really help you to have better sleep — and a really crappy one can leave you feeling perpetually unrested.
A small study conducted by researchers from Oklahoma State University in 2009 found that your mattress may have a big say in how you sleep. The researchers studied a group of 59 people to see how a mattress would affect their sleep. They had the group record their sleep quality, pain, and stress every day after sleeping in their normal beds for four weeks, and then do the same after sleeping in new beds for a month. The study found that when people slept in the new beds, they reported better sleep and lower stress in general.
3. The temperature.
When you go to sleep, your body temperature drops slightly. If your bedroom is too hot, your temp can’t lower, and you’ll have a harder time sleeping. This ability to cool down at night is important — a 2015 study found that temperature might affect sleep even more than light does. Although not everyone will be comfortable sleeping at the same temperature, The Wall Street Journal suggests aiming your thermostat for the mid-60s.
Although a too-hot room can inhibit the temperature drop you need to sleep, a too-cold room can disrupt sleep, too. Being physically uncomfortable — whether that means being too hot or too cold — can mess with your REM sleep, so if you’re struggling to get to sleep, or if you have a hard time going back to sleep once you wake up, take a moment to adjust your thermostat.
4. Your partner.
Cuddling in bed with a partner can be intimate and sexy and comforting… until it’s not. You may get along with your partner in every way, but if he or she and you have incompatible sleep habits, you’ll soon both be suffering from a lack of sleep. There are many aspects of sleeping with another person that can disrupt sleep — snoring, mismatched sleep schedules, movement during sleep or getting up in the night, and conflicting preferences about things like room temperature and mattress firmness are only the start.
Unfortunately, these issues are harder to fix than simply turning off your phone at night or lowering the thermostat, but there are things you can do to try to have your partner in bed with you and get to sleep. If your partner snores constantly, he or she may be suffering from sleep apnea, and may need to consult with a sleep specialist. If you have differing desires about temperature or mattress firmness, look into investing in a mattress that allows you to regulate temperature and firmness individually.
5. Your fur-partner.
A lot of Americans sleep with pets in their bedrooms, and even in their beds. A survey from the American Pet Products Association found that 62 percent of cats sleep with their adult owners. When it comes to canines, the smaller the dog, the more likely it is to sleep with its owner: 62 percent of small dogs sleep with their humans, compared to 41 percent of medium-sized dogs and 32 percent of large dogs. Sleeping with a pet isn’t always necessarily a bad thing; in fact one recent study about pets and sleep quality found that more than 40 percent of survey respondents felt that pets didn’t impact their sleep, or that they even benefited from having pets nearby. However, 20 percent of respondents reported that pets in the bedroom did negatively impact their sleep. (Unsurprisingly, people who slept with multiple pets had more sleep disturbance than people with only one pet.)
I think it’s possible to practice some common sense here: If you sleep just fine with your dog in your bed, then keep doing it. But if you’re pet wakes you up — or if you simply have disturbed sleep and can’t figure out why — try kicking your furry companion out of bed for a while. If you sleep better, you’ll know that your pet was the culprit.
Research suggests that there may be a link between hoarding and poor sleep. Dr. Pamela Thacher, a psychology professor at St Lawrence University, said in a 2015 statement,
Hoarders typically have problems with decision making and executive function; poor sleep is known to compromise cognition generally. So if hoarders have cluttered or unusable bedrooms, and less comfortable, functional beds, any existing risk for cognitive dysfunction, depression and stress may increase as sleep quality worsens.
Hoarding is an extreme behavior, but a bedroom crammed with junk can disrupt sleep even for people who don’t qualify for the title of “hoarder.” Dr. Carl Bazil, director of the epilepsy and sleep center at Columbia University Medical School, told the Huffington Post that a key “principle of sleep hygiene” is that “you need a space you are comfortable in, where you are able to tune out and turn off.” He explained that a bedroom overflowing with mess can make it hard to put away thoughts of “unfinished tasks” and lead to sleep-disrupting anxiety.