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9 Things in Your Bedroom That Could Be Ruining Your Sleep

Welcome back to our regular series with certified sleep educator Terry Cralle, MS, RN. In this post, Cralle explains which items in your bedroom can help—and hurt—your sleep.

Maybe you’ve already done your spring cleaning—or perhaps it’s still on your to-do list. Either way, springtime is a great time for what I like to call a “bedroom audit.” Take a step back and look at your bedroom as a whole to analyze whether your setup is really conducive to good sleep. Here’s how.

Your bedroom audit checklist

Everything from dirty laundry to bright lights can prevent your bedroom from fulfilling its purpose as a sleep sanctuary. Follow this checklist to review the most important elements. Hint: Conduct the audit after dark, as this will help you better assess sneaky light sources.

Air quality

A 2015 study published in the International Journal of Indoor Environment and Health found that when bedroom air quality was improved, study subjects reported better sleep quality, feeling less sleepy the following day, and an improved ability to concentrate. For optimal bedroom air quality, change air filters regularly, keep humidity low, and dust and vacuum weekly. You may want to consider adding some greenery too. Several studies have found that plants help remove pollutants in the air—plus they reduce stress. (Here are the seven best bedroom plants for sleep.)

Clutter

Purge all the unnecessary items from your bedroom. (Don’t know where to start? Here’s a primer on how to use the KonMari method.) Clutter creates visual chaos, which is distracting and anxiety-provoking, and it also collects dust—all of which negatively impact your ability to relax and fall asleep. Research conducted at Princeton University shows that a cluttered home increases stress levels while at the same time impeding creative thinking. The best strategy: Display just a few items that bring you the most enjoyment and a sense of relaxation, and then move everything else out of the room or put it away. An armoire is a good furniture choice because it has a lot of room inside of it for you to store stuff.

Related: How to feng shui your bedroom for better sleep

Light

The darker your bedroom, the better. Dial down the bright lights in the evening to signal to your brain that it’s close to bedtime, and invest in blackout blinds or drapes to keep the room as dark as possible. If you often wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, install motion-detecting night lights rather than turning on bright overhead bedroom, hallway, or bathroom lights.

Mattress

They don’t last forever (more like 10-15 years)—and if you’ve been putting off buying a new one, your procrastination may be affecting how well you sleep. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine found that when people who experienced minor back pain and disturbed sleep switched to a new mattress, they reported improved quality of sleep, less stress, and less pain. When assessing your mattress, look for big dips or impressions over an inch. Also inspect for rips, lumps, or springs poking through. If your back is killing you when you wake up, that’s another sign it’s time for a new mattress. Just remember to make your bed in the morning because a neat bed can help you sleep better.

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Related: A timeline for when to replace everything in your bedroom

Pillows

Depending on the material, you can typically get about two years out a pillow. You’ll know it’s time for a new one if your pillow is flat, lumpy, and has lost its shape. Try this test: Fold the pillow in half lengthwise: It it doesn’t spring back into shape, that means it’s time to retire it.

Scent

A pleasant smell is surprisingly effective when it comes to relaxation and sleep. A pillow spray, candle, or essential oil diffuser can make a big difference in how tranquil your bedroom feels. Lavender, vanilla, rose, sandalwood, and jasmine are scents that can help you drift off to dreamland. A 2006 study involving 42 female college students found that lavender aromatherapy had a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression, while research conducted at Wheeling Jesuit University demonstrated that the scent of jasmine led to greater sleep efficiency as well as greater alertness the following day.

Sound

Are you able to hear traffic noise from the street? The air conditioner cycling off and on? If so, you may need some white noise to drown out sounds that can do a number on your sleep quality. There are white noise apps for your phone, as well as white noise machines that can be strategically placed in your bedroom. Or you can opt for noise-canceling headphones or old-fashioned earplugs.

Related: Podcasts guaranteed to bore you to sleep

Temperature

A cool bedroom is conducive to sleep. The ideal temperature is somewhere around 65 degrees, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If you tend to be cold, wearing socks to bed is an effective way to keep your feet warm that also promotes good sleep.

Wall color

Blues, greens, pale yellows, and silvers are some of the hues that have been shown to be calming. You also can’t go wrong with sticking to a neutral color palette (think: earth tones, beiges, and creams). Painting your walls one of these shades will set the stage for a great night’s sleep. Stay away from warm colors—oranges, bright yellows, reds, and purples—which are visually stimulating.

More from Terry Cralle:

Terry Cralle, MS, RN, is a certified clinical sleep educator and Saatva's sleep consultant. She is the author of Snoozby and the Great Big Bedtime Battle, the first nonfiction book directly messaging the benefits of sufficient sleep to young children, and Sleeping Your Way to the Top, the ultimate guide to success through better sleep. A nationally recognized sleep health and wellness advocate, her work in the field of sleep medicine has ranged from patient care to clinical research and continuing education for nurses.