How much time do you spend sleeping? Do you doze off quickly and wake up rested in your bedroom? These are important questions to ask, because even little design and decorating tweaks will have a significant positive impact on sleep onset and quality. Think about your bedroom the next time you feel the itch to redecorate. These small, affordable changes often have to do with sensory cues—what you see, what you hear, what you breathe, what you feel—that influence the way you sleep. For example: You can reduce the noise that seeps into your bedroom or decorate the room with plants to help purify the air.
There’s also the one component of interior design that is often neglected or overlooked by DIY decorators: lighting. When it comes to interior design, lighting is used to affect how you perceive and experience a space. It can set the mood or make the room seem larger or smaller than it actually is.
Bedroom lighting normally consists of window treatments to control natural light, as well as artificial light sources like overhead fixtures and lamps. Several light sources in one bedroom is par for the course, but they are not commonly placed there with better sleep in mind. Rather, lighting management usually takes cues from waking hours and habits. This is a mindset that needs to be changed, because the effects of light exposure on sleep health are immense! Yes, you can stick to just using your trusty sleep mask night after night; but why limit yourself to that? Below are a few bedroom lighting design tips for the sleep-deprived.
#1 Move the TV and Computer Somewhere Else
We’ve included this piece of advice in so many articles that we may as well make it an overall recommendation! Keeping the bedroom separate from the entertainment area may necessitate an adjustment period and a lot of grumbling and mumbling; but it keeps noise levels down, cuts down on artificial light, and removes distracting elements from the bedroom. Less machines in the room also means less heat. If the main purpose of a bedroom is to be a sanctuary for sleep, this is the way to go. Other upsides to moving the TV, gaming console and work machine: If you share a bedroom with your partner, you won’t have to worry about disturbing their sleep if you stay up late to work, play a game, or watch something on Netflix.
Can’t do it just yet? The next best thing is to set time limits. Unplug and refrain from using anything with a digital screen—this has nothing to do with interior design, but it’s worth noting that this should include tablets and smartphones, too—a few hours before sleeping. Better yet, cover the machines with a cloth or place them in cabinet furniture so it’s easier to resist the urge to use them.
#2 Invest in Blackout Curtains
Heavy and opaque curtains that can block out light are great for bedroom windows. At night, they can keep out artificial light from outside—neighbor’s porch lights, streetlamps, and the like—and they can keep you from waking up too early if your bedroom window faces the sunrise. While curtains like these are nice to have but ultimately nonessential for the average person, they’re especially useful for the chronically sleep-deprived; as well as night shift workers that need to sleep through the day.
Blackout curtains are fairly easy to find online—the average price is around $15-$30. You can also find tutorials that teach you how to choose the right fabrics and make them yourself. Pro tip: Natural light is important to sleep health, too. If direct sunlight is too hot or bright for your room during the day, consider having two sets of curtains: blackout curtains for sleep, and translucent ones for the daytime.
#3 Block or Remove Small Sources of Artificial Light
Big or small, a source of artificial light is still what it is: a distraction and a possible detriment to maintaining a healthy sleep cycle. When we say small, by the way, we mean it! Try this in your bedroom once night falls: Turn off all the lights, shut all the doors, draw all the curtains. Ideally, you should be looking at total darkness at this point. If not, identify where the tiny spots of light are coming from. Usually, the culprits are digital clocks, along with power buttons of miscellaneous items.
You can either block the light, or remove the offending item from the bedroom. Digital clocks may be replaced with the traditional kind, and small power buttons can simply be covered by opaque tape. Simply turning them around so the light source faces the wall won’t really help.
#4 Use Specific Light Sources for Specific Purposes
This tip comes from personal experience, with a dose of common sense. If you have several light sources in your bedroom—lamps on your nightstands, pin lights for alcoves or closets, a night light near the bathroom, etc.—you won’t always have to use the main overhead fixture, especially at night. It’s not realistic to keep the bedroom in total darkness once the sun sets, but we can control the brightness of the light that we do use.
These multiple light sources are also convenient. For example: Need to go to the bathroom? Turn on a dim night light to provide just enough illumination to keep you from stumbling, but not enough to jolt you awake. Need to get up and get dressed early, but don’t want to wake up your partner? Turn on a pin light far from the bed. You get the idea.
#5 Consider Using Red Spectrum Light Bulbs
While energy-efficient and very popular for home light fixtures, LED bulbs are definitely the worst choice for the bedroom. They emit more blue light—the same kind of artificial light that makes using digital screens detrimental to sleep health—than any other alternative. The same goes for the spiral-shaped compact fluorescent bulbs (CFBs); energy-efficient and long lasting, but heavy on blue light emission. Use LED bulbs and CFBs for other areas, instead; like the kitchen or patio. Halogen bulbs are also not a good option, as they’re very bright and get very hot.
You’re probably already using our second-to-best recommendation: incandescent bulbs. They’re easy to find, inexpensive, and the light they give off it warm but not too bright; although they’re not energy-efficient. Unless you’re losing a lot of sleep and are at a point where you want to try anything that will help, you can probably stick to these bulbs. If you want to go the extra mile, though, experiment with red light, as the idea that red light is conducive to sleep has been studied extensively. You can try this out first by using red Christmas lights that you may have in storage. Not feeling the faintly bordello-like atmosphere of an all-red lit room? There are many kinds of red spectrum bulbs available these days, with newer ones marketed as sleep solutions; but red lights have been used in photo developing rooms and indoor gardening for a long time. There should be quite a variety of options available to you online and in physical stores. In any case, you can simply buy a red spectrum bulb and use it on a directional lamp.