While it may be tempting to follow interior design trends and fads, scientific evidence shows that it’s a good idea for your sleep schedule and stress levels to stick to simpler routes. According to statistics released by the Center for Disease Control, one in three Americans aren’t getting enough sleep which can lead to heightened stress and anxiety in everyday life.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the bedroom within the household. It’s an area that allows the body to recharge and relax after a busy day. In order to get the full benefits of a relaxing room, here are seven interior design tips on how to reduce stress and maximize sleep.
1. Add a few plants around the room
Photo: James Bombales
In a 2008 study, hospital patients who were exposed to plants in their rooms reported much less stress and anxiety than those who weren’t. Deena Shaffer, who runs a weekly event called Mood Routes at Ryerson University to help students and staff de-stress through nature, says that humans’ innate need to be around nature is known as biophilia and that having plants around the home actually acts as a stress reliever.
“[Having] plants in the home is a great first step to honoring our biophilic natures and to repairing that separation from nature. Plants help with air quality, remind us of the cycles of life, and require our tending which are all positive aspects,” she says.
At every stage of her life, Shaffer has had plants. At work she has hibiscus and peace lilies and at home she has spider plants, bamboo and a yucca. Tending to plants is also a family affair. Shaffer has her two daughters help water the plants around the home and they do some seed work in the late winter to prepare for their spring flower and vegetable garden.
“If you're starting out with plants, I would keep it simple,” says Shaffer, “A simple, flourishing plant is a lot lovelier than a wilting, fussy, tropical one.”
She suggests looking at the NASA guide for best air filtering plants to keep your bedroom fresh. Before you buy though, check and see what type of light you can provide for your plant.
“There's no point fighting against what is. If you have low light, stick with those few plants that can take it.”
2. Use focal point lighting
Throughout evolution and before man-made lighting, humans lived by the sun and moon cycle. During the moon cycle, the lack of light would cause our bodies to create more melatonin, which is the chemical that makes us feel tired. With the invention of man-made lighting, the cycle our bodies have grown accustomed to over the course of thousands of years has changed. Now, during the moon cycle we are exposed to constant indoor lighting meaning our melatonin levels aren’t increasing around bedtime in order for us to start feeling tired.
To get those melatonin levels where they should be, instead of a harsh overhead light, start using soft focal lighting from lamps in the evening to allow your body to enter that relaxed stage. A decorative lamp on the bedside table or a standing lamp in the corner of the room are both good ideas to boost the aesthetics of the room while also boosting the melatonin in your body.
3. Install opaque window curtains
Since our bodies chemically react to light, it’s also important to make sure that once you’re asleep you stay asleep. Opaque blinds not only block out the sun, but also car headlights, street lamps and any other nuisances that could interrupt your sleep cycle.
While sheer curtains look nice, they don’t block much when it comes to light which is why completely opaque blinds are best when trying to catch some z’s. But there’s no need to toss aside those sheer curtains. Instead, layer them underneath the opaque ones so you can still have some privacy throughout the day while letting sunlight in to brighten your room.
4. Shield your technology
Not only are the little blue, red and green lights distracting and act to reduce melatonin levels, they also prevent the brain from getting the time it needs time to relax and slow down. Gadget use before bed keeps the brain alert and cuts into the seven to nine hours of sleep adults should be getting per night. And, unless they’re put on silent, notification beeps and phone calls interrupt natural sleep cycles.
To avoid these distractions, furniture like TV cabinets, desks with a laptop drawer or even a decorative room divider or shelf between your bed and the gadgets will drastically change your sleep. Not only will it make your room look a lot tidier and organized, but you will seriously notice a difference in how rested you feel throughout the day.
5. Paint the room in cool hues
There are many reasons why colors influence our moods. First off, socially we attribute certain colors to certain objects. Red is associated with alarm like fire trucks, green is associated with calm like nature, and so on. However, our reactions to colors are also influenced by human evolution. Our visceral reaction to red, which causes our heart rate to speed up, dates back to the caveman era when the color was associated with fire or danger.
Cool colors like blue and green have the most beneficial effects on your body. Green relates to our biophilic natures and blue causes the opposite reaction to red, lowering our heart rate and blood pressure. While yellow, a warm color, has beneficial effects when it’s related to the sun and flowers, it also has negative effects when related to jaundice and sickliness.
So, it may be best to save that bold accent wall for the living room and paint your bedroom a cool green or blue. Not only will these colors help you relax at night when you’re getting ready to wind down for bed, but they will also offer a safe haven from the distractions from the rest of the house.
6. Use proper storage
Everyone has that one desk in the bedroom that they swear they’ll keep clean and tidy but instead it just ends up becoming a dumping ground for things that need to be taken care of later. While it may not seem like it, that pile of bills is actually causing higher levels of stress and anxiety which leads to a less restful sleep.
The visual trigger keeps our minds thinking about things that need to be done or worries that we have in our day-to-day lives. If the papers are properly stored and hidden from view when it’s bedtime, the mind can fully shut down without being plagued by stress-inducing thoughts. Not only would those thoughts interrupt our dreams, but they keep us awake longer than we should be, cutting into those precious hours of sleep.
Office file sorters or inbox bins are not only visually appealing, but they keep those pesky papers out of view and can sit on top of your desk. Or, if you prefer less clutter, a filing system within your desk drawers is another helpful trick.
7. Install a ceiling fan
Photo: Kendyl Young/Flickr
While ceiling fans keep air circulated to avoid stagnancy, they have a couple other benefits that will improve your sleep. Temperature control is important for a good sleep and ceiling fans have settings for both winter and summer months to keep the fan circulating the air at exactly the right speed to either keep you warmer or cooler throughout the night.
Fans also create white noise which can mask any background noise that might keep you awake. White noise — a mash-up of many different frequencies delivered at a consistent volume — has proven to help many people not only fall asleep, but stay asleep. This noise can block out noises from other rooms around the house or even soft snoring from your partner, ensuring a long and restful sleep.