The connection between sleep environment and quality of sleep is closely related. To get a good night's sleep, you need to be in an environment conducive to sleep, which means having the right conditions and creating an environment that is dark, quiet, and cool.
Research shows that optimizing everything from wall color to room temperature in your sleep environment can have a big effect on your sleep quality by helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep until the morning.
So, what is the optimal sleep environment for quality sleep then? Read on as we cover every element of the ideal bedroom environment.
Bedroom Elements That Affect Sleep Quality
Science shows us that a bad sleep environment can result in sleep deprivation and sleep disorders1, which can ultimately lead to health complications like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and mortality. The environmental conditions that affect the quality of sleep include:
- Sleeping temperature
- Mattress and bedding quality
- Wall and furniture colors
- Clutter in the room
- Scents in the bedroom
- Air quality
1. The ideal sleeping temperature
The temperature of the sleeping area can affect your quality of sleep. A bedroom that is too hot or cold will not allow you to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed.
Adjust your heating or cooling to find a temperature that works best for you. The best temperature for sleep is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6-19 degrees Celsius). If you don't have air conditioning, you can leave the window open to allow the fresh air to cool the sleeping area.
The negative effects of having the wrong temperature include struggling to fall and stay asleep. Temperatures that are too high or too low will allow you to fall asleep faster but tend to hinder a deeper, more restorative sleep. This means you may find yourself waking up several times during the night.
2. Noise in the bedroom
The noise in the bedroom can make it difficult to fall asleep. A combination of noises that are too loud will make it difficult for you to fall and stay asleep.
Although some people sleep better in a noisy environment, sleep and sound don’t go well together. An ideal sleeping environment doesn't have any noise at all. Noise in the sleeping area can come from the outdoors, the street, your neighbors, or even inside the house. You should consider whether there is any noise that’s affecting your quality of sleep and find an appropriate solution.
Noise can be manageable by using earplugs or setting up a white noise machine. If it’s possible, you may even consider changing the location of your bedroom if that will help to minimize noise.
3. Lights in the sleep environment
An ideal sleeping area should have no lights because it will make it difficult to fall asleep. Even if you fall asleep with the lights on, the effects of lights on sleep quality will have you wake up during the night or in the morning, feeling tired and in a bad mood.
The reason you should avoid lights is related to the circadian rhythm, your body’s internal 24-hour clock that manages sleep and wakefulness, and the circadian rhythm’s biggest influence is light. When it’s light out, this tells the body it’s time to be awake and alert. Conversely, darkness tells your body it’s time for sleep, so if your bedroom is as dark as possible, this will help foster sleep.
People afraid of the dark can choose dim light specially designed to not disrupt their sleep. Using a warm-red light bulb for a nightlight can help you reduce your fear of dark rooms while still creating a good sleep environment. You can use blackout shades or curtains to make the sleeping environment dark, especially if your neighborhood is well-lit during the night.
4. Mattress and bedding quality
The ideal sleep environment requires good bedding and a quality mattress because it can make it easier to fall asleep at night. You may struggle to find a comfortable position if the mattress is too soft or firm for your weight and preferred sleeping positions. The quality of the mattress should be consistent with your weight, or the mattress will be uncomfortable. Depending on what you find the most comfortable, you can choose between memory foam, latex, or spring mattresses. It's important to consider your sleeping position when choosing the right mattress because what works for side sleepers may not be the best for people sleeping on their backs.
You’ll also need to consider the type of sheets and pillows you sleep on since you can utilize these items as well to foster better sleep. Some people run hot at night and can benefit from cooling sheets while others may prefer extra-soft sheets to help them feel more relaxed and cozy.
When it comes to pillows, you need to consider qualities like support and loft and how these correlate to your preferred sleep position. Say, for instance, you’re a stomach sleeper. Rather than having a higher pillow that can put your neck and head at an awkward angle, you’re better off with a flat pillow. Conversely, side and back sleepers are better suited to medium or higher-loft pillows.
5. Colors in the bedroom
An ideal bedroom environment should have calming colors to reduce the stress that can prevent you from falling asleep. According to science2, blue helps lower blood pressure while green promotes calmness. While you may love the idea of covering your bedroom walls in red paint, this color is known to trigger the body’s flight-or-fight response and stimulate the mind, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
Additionally, many design experts point to earth tones and neutral palettes3 as great bedroom colors because they, too, promote relaxation. These include colors such as white, cream, gray, brown, and black.
6. Clutter in the bedroom
Clutter in the environment will make it difficult for you to sleep. It's best to remove all the clutter from your bedroom because it can cause stress and anxiety4 that disrupt your sleep. Clutter can consist of clothes, toys, books, or personal items. Not only will clutter make it difficult for you to fall asleep at night, but it can also increase stress in your life. Too much clutter can make you nervous once you wake up, causing you to dread spending time in your bedroom. You should only keep the things you use daily in your bedroom and remove everything that can cause stress.
Think about what items don't belong in the bedroom. The only things that should be on your nightstand are the items you use before bed, such as a book or alarm clock. The rest you can store somewhere else to create a calm and relaxing sleeping environment. Try to find a place for every item so that the environment in your bedroom is more suitable for sleeping.
7. Scents in the bedroom
The right scent can help you fall asleep faster, but a bad smell can keep you up. Bad smells can make it difficult to fall asleep, so it’s important to know how scents can affect sleep. Citrus scents and heavy perfumes can irritate you and keep you up without you even realizing it. Some scents may even give you a headache or make you nauseous if you spend too much time in the room. A bad smell in the room can wake you up at some point during the night.
The best smell for sleeping is lavender because it has calming effects5 that help you sleep. The scent of lavender reduces your stress hormones, helping you calm down and relax before bedtime. You can buy an essential oil diffuser or place dried lavender in the room to create a calming and soothing sleeping environment. Chamomile and peppermint oils are good choices if you don't have lavender. Both can help you relax and sleep better.
8. Air quality of the sleep environment
The air quality of the sleeping area can help you sleep better or prevent you from sleeping at all. Bad air quality can make it difficult to sleep at night. It can make it difficult for you to breathe, resulting in headaches, nausea, coughing, and sneezing.
Things that affect the sleeping area’s air quality are bedroom cleanliness and outside air quality. The cleanliness of your room is important because dust and other particles in the air can irritate you when trying to fall asleep. The quality of the air outside is crucial if you leave the window open while sleeping. If it's bad, it can result in dust and smoke entering from the outside.
The best thing you can do for better sleep conditions in your bedroom is clean it regularly. Vacuum any dust in the room and remove loose dirt by using a damp cloth to wipe down objects in the room. You should replace or wash your bedding weekly or every two weeks. Ventilate the room regularly to allow fresh air in, control the humidity, and change your AC filter regularly.
9. Electronics in the Sleeping Environment
You should keep electronics in the sleeping environment to a minimum if you want better sleep. All electronics should be off at least one hour before bedtime. TV, computers, cell phones, and even alarm clocks can all interfere with your sleep by giving off light that keeps you up. Light from these devices simulates sunlight, which keeps you up at night by indicating to your brain that it is daytime. If you need an alarm clock in your bedroom, choose an old-school one that doesn't emit any light. All electronics can affect sleep quality and will disturb your sleep if you use them in the room before bedtime.
How to Design the Ideal Bedroom Environment for Sleep
Improving your sleep environment is easy. Follow these steps to create the perfect bedroom for sleep:
- Remove all work items from the bedroom. If you are limited in space and need to work in your bedroom, use a room divider to keep your workspace separate from where your bed is.
- Choose walls and furniture that come in blue, green, neutral, or earth tones.
- If you want to use a nightlight, choose one with a red hue.
- Use blackout curtains to keep out light from outside or wear a sleep mask.
- Reduce noise pollution, either by using a white noise machine or earplugs.
- Remove clutter to prevent additional stress.
- Regularly clean your bedroom to prevent dust from accumulating.
- Keep electronics away, including cell phones, laptops, and tablets. Notifications and blue light from these devices can keep you alert.
- Have a comfortable mattress.
- Invest in comfortable pillows and sheets.
- Set your bedroom thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use a diffuser with a lavender scent.
Last Word of Advice
There are many elements you have to consider when creating a bedroom environment that’s ideal for sleep. From the color of the wall and the temperature of the room to the mattress you use and more, incorporating the tips we’ve covered in this article could help you achieve more restful sleep.
A final tip to remember, though, is that you don’t have to do everything all at once. Rather, you can take it one step at a time. For example, if you’re not ready to invest in a new mattress or blackout curtains, you can start by removing any work products, cleaning your bedroom, and keeping the room cool at night.
- Johnson PhD, Dayna A., Billings MD, Martha E., Hale PhD, Lauren. “Environmental Determinants of Insufficient Sleep and Sleep Disorders: Implications for Population Health”. Current Epidemiology Reports. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6033330/. 2018.
- Kurt, Sevinc., Osueke, Kelechi Kingsley. “The Effects of Color on the Moods of College Students”. SAGE Journals. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2158244014525423. 2014.
- Bennett, Jessica. “16 Neutral Bedroom Color Concepts for a Restful Retreat”. Better Homes & Gardens. https://www.bhg.com/rooms/bedroom/color-scheme/neutral-colored-bedrooms/#:~:text=Bedrooms%20are%20intended%20for%20relaxing,to%20achieve%20a%20restful%20look. 2022.
- Saxbe, Darby E., Repetti, Rena. “No Place Like Home: Home Tours Correlate With Daily Patterns of Mood and Cortisol”. SAGE Journals. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167209352864. 2009.
- “The smell of lavender is relaxing, science confirms”. Frontiers. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181023085648.htm. 2018.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the editor for Sleep Advisor and a certified sleep science coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.
She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.