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Psychology in the Bedroom

More than just "Pillow Talk"

A noted specialist has come out with a simple prescription for what to do (and not to do) in the bedroom. As he explains it: "Psychologically, people need to use the bedroom for sleeping and making love, and not much else."

With the economy in the doldrums and tensions rising over world events, home foreclosures and other stress and anxiety-creating situations, 70 million Americans are suffering sleeplessness, according to the National Institutes of Health. This doctor sees many sleep-deprived patients, and goes on to describe what they tell him about their bedrooms: that they are crammed with everything from coffee makers, gym equipment, TVs, DVD players and computers to dog beds.

He wonders why they need the other 2,000 square feet in the house, when they live in about 200 square feet of a bedroom where they have everything they need. (Would the good doctor be shocked to learn that some of us even combine our bedrooms with an in-home office? In addition to everything else he complains of, my admittedly large bedroom also contains a roll-top desk, file cabinets, copy and fax machines.)

People are so "connected" these days, they keep their Smartphones by the bed, beeping a constant feed of information that can disrupt sleep. Even a clock can be a distraction. Turn it around or put in a drawer, he says.

Basically, his advice would be to get rid of the electronic and all other distractions in the bedroom and concentrate on what he sees as the only two legitimate uses for that room: sleep and sex. (Not necessarily in that order.)

More of his advice for turning the bedroom into a restful environment:

Cut the lights: Unlike primitive people, who went to sleep when the sun set and rose with the sunrise, modern man's invention of artificial light has shortened the time he spends in bed. To reduce the light from outside, such as street lamps, bedroom windows should have dark curtains or shades. Even those tiny LED lights on your electronic gadgets can be a distraction, and should be covered or hidden.

Keep it cool: Optimum temperature for sleeping is in the low 60s. A cooler bedroom slows down your metabolism, helping you to experience a deeper sleep.

Color: Studies have shown that the best colors for a bedroom are either blue or green. (Here's something I didn't know: blue is the best color for inducing sleep hormones. We have "sleep hormones?")

Bedding: Although buying a mattress is a highly individual choice, you should test them for at least fifteen minutes in your favorite position right there in the store. (I don't know about you, but I would feel a little foolish doing that.) Pillows are also a matter of taste, but they, too, should be thoroughly tested. Friends of mine swear by those foam pillows that conform to the shape of your head and "remember" it. (I'm not sure how this works, but I'm willing to concede the point.)

White noise: Those machines that make a soothing, comforting noise like waves on a beach (if you find that comforting) can be effective at blocking out street noises and allowing you to sleep. And they are better and more effective than earplugs, which some people find uncomfortable. (I have found that a floor fan works just as well as a white noise machine, and is less expensive if you already have one around the house.)

Feng Shui: If you believe in this ancient Chinese art, the bedroom may be a good place to put it to use. There are several general rules for furniture placement, such as having the bed face the door, but not directly across from it. The theory here is that no one can sneak up on you and surprise you while you sleep, which gives you a certain amount of subliminal security.

Ban the beasts: The doctor even counsels making the family pets sleep elsewhere, if they have been accustomed to sleeping with you. (Now I think he's gone too far. If Fido and Fluffy have staked out territories on either side of your feet while you sleep, they are not going to take kindly to being shut out of the bedroom at this point. They are sure to make their outrage known, and how are you going to sleep, while they howl and yowl in protest?)