Sleeping with the Enemy: How a Cluttered Room Wages War on Your Zzz's

Sleeping with the Enemy: How a Cluttered Room Wages War on Your Zzz's

While we are aware of the more common healthy sleep habits such as avoiding screens in the 30 min before bed, surprisingly few of us are aware that the state of our immediate environment, particularly our bedrooms, can significantly affect the quality of our sleep.


While a pile of clothes on a chair, the bag we dumped on the floor when we got home or the empty coffee cup sitting on the bedside table might seem harmless, these all contribute to visual clutter. Studies have found that individuals with cluttered bedrooms reported more difficulties in initiating and maintaining sleep. Our brains crave order and a cluttered or messy room serves as a constant source of distractions and overstimulation which reduces our ability to relax and fall asleep.


We know when we are stressed we our sleep is affected but did you know that numerous studies have highlighted the relationship between clutter and increased stress levels. A recent study by The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found higher levels of cortisol (commonly known as the stress hormone) in people who described their homes as cluttered. Not only does cortisol plays a vital role in our sleep/wake cycles but links have been found between elevated cortisol levels and insomnia. Thankfully we know that improving our environment improves our sleep with a study published in the journal Sleep Health finding that individuals with well-organised bedrooms experience better sleep efficiency and overall sleep quality. 


Top Tips to Improve Your Environment and Improve Your Sleep

Curate Your Clutter

I’m not here to tell you the only answer is to become a minimalist or that you have to get rid of all your possessions and live like a monk. I have a bookcase full of books, a countless kitchen appliances (I use most of them) and a wardrobe full of clothes that I am not willing to part, luckily, you don't have to be a minimalist to reduce visual clutter and have a calming home. The way we display our items can either increase or reduce visual clutter. By organising our things in groups of like items and ordering them by size or colour we create simple patterns which has a calming affect. Utilising containers, baskets and tubs is another really easy way of creating a harmonious look without having to get rid of things you love. 


Tidy Space, Tidy Mind

Regular small tasks will help keep your room tidy and prevent it becoming a huge, overwhelming task. A simple rule I follow is that if it will take less than 2 minutes, I have to do it now, for example, rather than kicking off my shoes and leaving them on the floor, I put them straight away in my wardrobe. You hardly notice these small tasks when you spread them out over the course of a week, but if you left it all to do on the weekend it can feel like a huge job.


One In, One Out

To prevent over-cluttering I practise the one in, one out rule. If I want a new dress I have to donate or sell another dress that is in good condition or be replacing one that is beyond repair. I find this rule is really helpful because it prevents me making those impulse purchases which is great for keeping my wardrobe organised and has also done wonders for my bank balance! Clothes shopping is my weakness but this rule works great for whatever your is, be it makeup, books, shoes, vinyl records, coffee mugs or even house plants. The best thing about it is that you don’t feel deprived as you can still buy something if you really want or need it.


A Placeful Solution

Every one of us has experienced the stress of losing something like your keys, wallet or phone and know first hand the stress that this causes. By having clearly defined places for these objects, we are much less likely to lose things and therefore reduce the stress and associated spike in cortisol. This also reduces visual clutter as your items aren’t strewn across the place, they are ordered and organised and in a defined place.


Journal of Sleep Research - "The Associations of Bedroom Characteristics and Bedding Systems with Sleep Quality for Residents in Long-Term Care Facilities"
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin - "The Dark Side of Home: Assessing Possession 'Clutter' on Subjective Well-Being" 
Vgontzas A.N., et al. - "Chronic insomnia is associated with nyctohemeral activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: clinical implications."
 National Sleep Foundation - "Create a Sleep-Friendly Bedroom Environment"
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