Updated: May 28, 2021
Have our homes ever been more lived in than in this past year? Most of us have been home, well, pretty much all the time for a long while. Even if you’ve been doing plenty of regular cleaning, you might be feeling extra in need of a good, deep, spring clean in your heavily trafficked home.
Bedrooms get overlooked sometimes, when it comes to both daily cleaning and periodic deep clean throughs. You wash your sheets…but when was the last time you cleaned the blinds in your bedroom, or washed your pillows?
This isn’t about having an Instagram-perfect bedroom. A combination of light, daily freshening up and periodic deep cleaning will have a big impact on how easily you fall asleep and your sleep quality throughout the night.
Getting rid of accumulations of dirt, dust, germs, and debris helps avoid irritating allergies, which are highly disruptive to nightly sleep. Even for people without allergies, a clean bedroom protects against sleep-disrupting irritations to skin and to breathing during sleep.
A bedroom that accumulates dirt, germs, and odor—not only from environmental dust and debris but also from our own sweat and the skin cells we shed at night—will attract insects, including the dreaded bed bugs, which I wrote about recently.
A clean bedroom is radically more inviting, a place you’ll look forward to retreating at the end of a long day. A messy, cluttered bedroom, on the other hand, can be a real source of stress. Remember, stress—of any kind—elevates cortisol. To fall asleep with ease and to sleep soundly throughout the night, we need cortisol levels to follow their natural nightly rhythm and remain low at bedtime.
Taking care of your bedroom environment doesn’t have to be a huge production every day. Tackle some of the more labor-intensive tasks periodically (including washing your mattress, which I’ll talk about in a minute) and do other, lighter cleaning routinely, and you’ll have a bedroom that is consistently welcoming and relaxing, and promotes deeper, more restful and healthful sleep.
Here are 10 tips for getting your bedroom really clean for sleep—and keeping it that way.
- Take out what you don’t need
This step is a fast-track to a more restful, soothing sleep space—and it also makes all the tips that follow a lot easier and less time consuming. Bedrooms are for sleep and sex. That’s it. Bedrooms get filled with clutter, and virtually none of it is essential for sleep. Clutter in our bedrooms is anxiety producing (aka cortisol spiking). And clutter contributes to more dirt, as those crowded surfaces are also traps for dirt and dust. Before you do anything else, relocate all nonessential items out of your bedroom, and store as much of what you choose to keep in drawers and closets. Keep your in-bedroom storage manageable—don’t overstuff your dresser or your closet, or you’ll wind up with piles stacking up again in your sleeping area.
- Open your windows and door
Get some fresh, oxygen-rich air into your sleeping space by regularly opening your windows. Improving ventilation and airflow in your bedroom will reduce carbon dioxide accumulation and improve the quality of the air you breathe at night. A 2017 study from the Netherlands found that opening a window or a bedroom door reduced carbon dioxide levels significantly and was linked to substantial improvements to sleep quality among study participants, who fell asleep more quickly, slept longer, experienced deeper sleep, and had fewer nighttime awakenings when they slept in well-ventilated rooms. It’s not always feasible to sleep with a window open, whether because of the impact of temperature or noise on your sleep. But you can make a daily practice of airing out your bedroom with some fresh air during the day. And sleeping with a bedroom door open also improves ventilation and reduces carbon dioxide, as this study demonstrated.
- Start high and clean top to bottom
This is a tried-and-true rule of cleaning, and it’s especially important for your bedroom. When tackling a deep, full cleaning of your sleep space, begin at the top of your room and work down from there. Before you start, drape a large sheet over your bed to protect pillows and mattresses from collecting dust that falls. Vacuum and wipe down ceilings. If you’ve got a ceiling fan in your bedroom, be sure to clean that also. (Good Housekeeping has some helpful tutorials for tackling these high spaces that we often neglect.) Wipe down any high moldings and light fixtures and then move to the walls and doors/doorways. Tackle surfaces next, including dressers, tables, chairs, headboards, lamps, and nightstands, before cleaning baseboards and floor.
How often should you do a full, top-to-bottom clean like this? I recommend once a season, every three months or so. Trust me, it sounds like a lot of work but once you get into the flow you will look forward to it. (Or maybe that’s my OCD kicking in? Trust me, this seasonal deep clean is worth your time.)
- Don’t forget the windows.
Open or closed, windows and their accessories collect dust and dirt. Clean window glass, keep screens free of dust and debris, and wipe down sills and molding regularly. Don’t forget about curtains and shades! Wash or dust and wipe down, depending on what you’re using to cover your windows.
- Remember the forgotten spots!
The number one forgotten spot? Under the bed. A bonanza of dust and debris collect here. Baseboards and corners, especially areas covered by furniture, are other frequently neglected areas to target on a regular basis. It’s often the inconvenience of digging into these spaces that keeps us from cleaning them as often as we should. The places you don’t really want to go? Go there.
This one is probably new for most of you. Our mattresses collect environmental debris and germs, as well as the dirt, sweat, skin cells, and micro-organisms that come from our bodies. Over time, mattresses can get smelly, too. The idea of cleaning and deodorizing a mattress is really appealing, but how do you do this? I recently found a great tutorial over at Well + Good for cleaning your mattress using simple, natural products you probably already have at home. Here are the basic steps:
- Put ½ cup of baking soda in a bowl
- Add up to 20 drops of a sleep-promoting essential oil to the baking soda. Lavender is a great choice, and so is jasmine.
- Sprinkle the mixture over your mattress and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Vacuum the mixture from your mattress
- Air dry your mattress with a fan
I recommend using a mattress protector to help minimize dirt and odor accumulation between cleanings. Here is my comprehensive guide to choosing the best mattress to meet your sleep needs. And here is a brand-new guide to hypoallergenic mattresses and pillows, if you or your bed partner have allergies.
You launder your pillowcases, of course, but when was the last time your pillows got a good cleaning? Sweat, dirt, skin cells accumulate on pillows, the place where we spend thousands of hours a year resting our heads. You’ll sleep better and extend the life of your pillows if you wash them periodically. I recommend washing pillows every three months. At a certain point, a pillow needs to be replaced, rather than washed again. That point comes when a pillow is visibly stained with sweat, mold or mildew, or has an odor. Follow your pillow manufacturers’ instructions for washing and drying your pillows so as not to damage them. Pillow protectors will help keep your pillows fresher and cleaner in between washings. Here is all the information you need on how to pick the perfect pillow for you.
- Swap out your sheets weekly
Not much feels better at the end of a long day than sliding into a bed of clean, cool sheets. It’s a powerful invitation to rest. Changing sheets on a weekly basis minimizes the dirt and germs of the micro-environment of your bed; it’s the quickest, highest-impact way to improve your immediate sleep environment. I recommend washing sheets in warm or hot water, in line with the manufacturers’ instructions.
- Clean comforters, quilts and other bedding every month
How often you clean the top layers of your bedding depends a lot on your individual circumstances. If you sleep with a pet (or two or three), you’ll probably want to do this more often. Same goes if you have kids climbing into bed with their breakfast cereal. Once a month cleaning is a good range to start with—and when it feels like it’s time, that means it’s probably past time.
- Start a daily cleaning practice for your bedroom
Of course, you’re not going to do all of this work on a daily or even weekly basis. You don’t need to. De-cluttering your bedroom, keeping up with periodic deep cleaning, washing your bedding regularly all can leave you with just a few minutes’ worth of daily tidying in order to have a fresh bedroom every night, optimized for you to get your best rest. What does a daily cleaning practice for your bedroom look like?
Make your bed in the morning. Also in the morning, pull out any of the clutter or non-essential items you brought in with you the night before (glass of water on the nightstand, I’m looking at you). At some point before bed—but not right before bed, ideally—give surfaces, such as your nightstand and bureau, a quick dust or wipe down. Cleaning floors may be a daily practice for some, while others may opt to do this a few times a week; it depends on the traffic in and out of your bedroom.
Take 10 minutes to do the daily spot cleaning ( 4 hours before bed) that has the highest impact on your sleep space, and your bedroom will feel like the soothing, welcoming haven you can’t wait to retreat to. You’ll start your transition to sleep feeling more deeply relaxed and free to transition peacefully into sleep. And you’ll sleep better all night long.
Michael J. Breus, PhD, DABSM
The Sleep Doctor™
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