Help me update my bedroom to maximize calm and sleep
October 12, 2013 2:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm sometimes an anxious person. Most times it doesn't really bother me, but it does affect my sleep, thereby indirectly affecting other parts of my life. I'd like to improve my bedroom layout and decor to maximize my calm and relaxation when I enter bed. I'm hoping to give my sleepy time a little boost so that I can set aside life's worries for at least 8 hours a night.

The room is long and narrow, 9'x15'. Right now it's pretty minimally filled: There's a dark-walnut Ikea bookshelf, a nice dark-walnut and orange fabric chair I restored, a plain white side table, and a bed I made that's basically a platform made of 4x4's (legs), 2x6's (beams), and 1x6's (platform). Room paint is off-white with a pinkish-beige tint (cant paint, and anyway I like it). The room itself has two doors, both of which have really cool arch features. The mattress is a soft spring topped with 2" memory foam (I have found that a soft mattress helps 6'2" me sleep comfortably on my side).

I'd also be interested in any habits of highly effective sleepers. I already try to keep my bedroom for sleeping only, with the exceptions of occasionally reading a book or some nookie with the girlfriend. And I try to keep the room cool and minimize outside noise by closing windows.
posted by cman to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I just listened to this lovely 30-min Fresh Air interview with Penelope Lewis regarding sleep and dreaming: link
It emphasized:
- darkness
- minimizing bright screens before sleeping
- hints for physiologically adjusting your body for sleep
Mostly it was fascinating to hear about the PURPOSE of sleeping, which actually made me appreciate it more.

Sorry I don't have decoration help. No scary clown beds?
posted by contemplativenapper at 2:48 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have a small table lamp? Soft light helps make a room feel sleepy. Look into blackout curtains and a white noise app. (We sleep to a river flowing sort of noise.)

And smell can be a powerful signal to your brain that it's sleepy time; sprinkle a drop or two of lavender essential oil on your pillow. It's clinically proven to help you relax.
posted by Specklet at 3:01 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

It sounds great. I would suggest making a habit of planning for at least 7 hours' sleep a night and setting a bedtime and getting-up time each day in advance. They say you should get up at the same time each day, but sod that - I'm not getting up at 6am on the weekends.

I use the Sleep Cycle app to help me get up, and I use the sound generators to make the soothing brook noises.

I have some really nice rose and geranium spray from Neal's Yard which I spray into the air and then the scent particles cascade down and I inhale and I just go aah. You should try it!

I'd also plan in some buffer time where you can read yourself to sleep. There's nothing worse than tossing and turning like omgicantsleep. Remember that if you're tired, you'll sleep, and in the meantime you can read. Or sometimes if that isn't comfortable, I turn on YouTube just for listening (because I can't see without my glasses and looking at a screen is bad), or a podcast. I'm invariably asleep before the first broadcast is finished.
posted by tel3path at 3:10 PM on October 12, 2013

My wife buys us really wonderful quality sheets, changes them regularly, and even irons them before putting them on. Having not grown up in a home where people ironed bed sheets, I was willing to write this off as another of her Eastern European quirks. But I'll be damned if crisp, freshly pressed sheets don't knock me out like a fistful of Ambien.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:11 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have a lot of pillows, which I stack around me like a cozy nest. I also have a humio humidifier with a tray for essential oils in the winter which use with lavender. I keep the room cool and run a fan, not pointed at me, for the noise and the air circulation. I also have found a sleep mask helps to block light and avoid staring into shadows.

Also, stories at bedtime are not just for children! I put Frederick Davidson's reading of Three Men in a Boat on and set it to turn off in forty minutes - his drawling delivery and the narrative put me out like a light.
posted by winna at 3:16 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh golly, yes. I change the bedding once a week, on Sunday morning. I don't iron the sheets but on the rare occasions when someone else has ironed the sheets it's that much more comfortable.

When my blood pressure was a bit elevated a few years ago, someone told me to put a pillow underneath the foot end of the mattress to raise my feet that little bit. Darned if that didn't get my blood pressure back to normal. Since circulation and anxiety are so related, you might benefit from doing the same.
posted by tel3path at 3:17 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Try a warm shower or bath before bed. The drop in body temperature from the warm water to your cool room will get your brain ready for sleep. I also adjust my light before bed like a reverse sunflower. I turn off the overhead light and turn on a little reading lamp. I used to have a dimmer light that I would slowly dim as I got closer to sleepytime.

Nthing reducing screentime before bed. I fail at this pretty much nightly but the bright lights from your computer, tv or phone confuse your brain. You should an actual paper book or something to wind down. Also blackout curtains or blinds, and a white noise machine. I can't sleep for shit without some kind of noise. A quiet podcast (Like Fresh Air in a subject I'm not super-interested in) will do the trick also. The noise distracts my busy brain and gives me something to focus on as I drift off.

A cluttered, messy room makes me too anxious to sleep, but that doesn't sound like it's a problem for you. Nice, soft, cool sheets (I have to have percale sheets, I can't deal with jersey or flannel sheets because then I don't get the coolness), soft, warm blankets, and lots of fluffy pillows make my ideal bed. This may be a girl thing, but I spray my sheets and pillowcases with either lavender or green tea body sprays because I like when my bed smells nice
posted by Aquifer at 4:12 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I heard that orange lighting at bedtime helps promote good sleep (I googled and I'm not making this up!) so you could try switching out your bedside light's bulb for an orange one. It makes logical sense to me, because its close to the natural lighting color at dusk.
posted by Joh at 4:26 PM on October 12, 2013

A white noise machine?

I also second the idea of buffer time. I hate that feeling of, "Oh, if I don't fall asleep NOW I will be exhausted tomorrow and my life will suck and blah blah blah." If you get in bed a little early and read, you won't feel the MUST SLEEP pressure. (If that's even an issue for you).
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:46 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fur or faux fur will create a snuggly atmosphere.
posted by windykites at 6:04 PM on October 12, 2013

I stopped reading "real" books at bedtime - the books I've bought or borrowed from the library and want to read because they're interesting and I want to learn what's in them - in favor of re-reading old favorites that put me in a calm happy headspace. My "real" reading is usually history, which I found was often violent or thought-provoking in a way that didn't promote calm sleep. I keep the old favorites on the bedstand and it's like greeting old friends at bedtime and they reliably get me calmer and readier to sleep than new books ever did.

In the winter, I use a heated mattress pad (it gets turned on when I'm brushing teeth, doesn't take long to heat up.) A cold room and a warm bed gives me the best sleep.

If you like white noise, there are lots of white noise apps for smartphones, you don't need to buy a separate white noise machine.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:14 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Aquifer: "Nthing reducing screentime before bed. I fail at this pretty much nightly but the bright lights from your computer, tv or phone confuse your brain. "

Joh: "I heard that orange lighting at bedtime helps promote good sleep (I googled and I'm not making this up!)"

If you find that you have to do something on the workstation close to bedtime, take a look at the f.lux app, which automatically changes the temperature of your screen to a time-appropriate color. It's available for a variety of plaforms: Mac, Windows, iPad, etc.
posted by jquinby at 6:15 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

You might try organizing your bedroom on the principles of feng shui.

I don't believe in it, but there was something about taking the time to create a space deliberately designed for sleeping that helped with my restless nights.

Also seconding many of the ideas above.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:45 PM on October 12, 2013

I've discovered that my bedtime ritual is more important than my room, per-se. That said, I've also made my bedroom into the most cozy, peaceful place I can think of.

As for comfort: my bed is soft but has good support....lots of pillows and room...covers that make me smile when I climb in :) I also have a space heater that looks like a fireplace, which makes it uber cozy. Still, if my mind isn't peaceful, sleep isn't happening.

So, ritual is huge! I make a pot of tea and light a few candles. I have space in my hallway where I set the candles and put on a guided meditation (I recommend Meditaion Oasis or the Chopra Center podcasts for this), and I sip tea in the candlelight while I meditate on whatever topic I feel I need. When the guided meditation ends, I put on some meditative music and continue to rest my mind and work through any mental knots that may be preventing me from total calm. I also do some free-form yoga at this point. It helps me to get my body and mind both ready for deep rest by working out any kinks that are still there from my day. The combination of movement and mental meditation can really help me go deeper. Sometimes, I have ideas that help me feel I'm on track with my goals. Sometimes I find a brittle spot in my emotions, and I cry or breathe through it. Regardless, the ritual of self-care at the end of the day has become very important to good sleep.

When I'm sufficiently peaceful, I wash my face and brush my teeth - sometimes take a shower. Then climb into my warm, cozy bed with the 'fire' going. All of this takes between 20 min and an hour depending on my needs.

Bottom line, I think that bedroom organization is important, but ritual and self-care at bedtime have been MORE important in my experience.
posted by SarahBellum at 8:31 AM on October 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

You've mentioned a lot of furniture, but I can't really fathom the connection between an IKEA bookshelf and a good 8 hour's rest. You can't really see the scratches in the wood with your eyes closed, right?

The one furniture piece you didn't mention was curtains. Unless you get up with sun, you probably want to get sufficiently thick light blocking curtains the darker your room the better. And the moonlight / city glow / car headlights will also be distracting. One side benefit of using my phone as a wake up alarm / clock is that I no longer have LEDs brightening my room up. You should seek to eliminate as many LEDs as you can!

You mentioned keeping the room cool but also keep yourself cool at night. Comforters can keep you warm and cozy, but they may keep you a little too warm to fall asleep quickly. I often end up with mine at "half-mast" during mild winters.
posted by pwnguin at 1:22 AM on October 14, 2013

I agree that an uncluttered bedroom, clean ironed sheets, nice bedding and correct temperature are all conducive to good sleep. I say this as someone who's had her share of sleep issues. I also love to spend about 10-15 minutes reading something relaxing before bed. I read a lot of Sherlock Holmes this way, but I also find that chick lit is good for night time reading. The key is that it isn't too depressing or stressful.

I have also been an anxious sleeper and still am on occasion. I posted a question some time ago, you might find the thread interesting.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:28 AM on October 14, 2013

Chronic sleep issues here. I've made significant improvements since I:

I switched rooms so that the office is now in the old master bedroom. The reason? All of that space meant more stuff and who wants to sleep when there is a desk and a lap top and a tv and stuff!!!

Now I have a wonderfully cozy painted black bedroom with a gigantic king size bed. There are no shelves, no tv, no nothing except the night stands and closet. It is on the quiet side of the house. It is heaven.

I bought black out curtains and top the bed with good sheets and plenty of fuzzy and heavy blankets. I keep it cold in there and I love the weight of a bunch of blankets.

Before I go to sleep I'll look at Cute Overload of watch a few comedy segments or a Panda Cam.
posted by haplesschild at 2:24 PM on October 15, 2013

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