Design a Blissful Bedroom
By Annie B. Bond
Author of: Home
Enlightenment: Practical, Earth-Friendly Advice
for Creating a Nurturing, Healthy, and Toxin-Free
Home and Lifestyle
After reading a snippet about feng shui in a teen
magazine, my daughter entered her bedroom with the
dictum she had read in mind: Keep only what you
love. She systematically removed everything she
didn't love! The result is a gem of a room -- all
her own and perfect in every way for her unique
Ask yourself: What do you love? What do you want
to keep in your bedroom? What brings you a sense
of calm? Which fabrics feel good to you? How do
you want to decorate?
Including earth's elements in the bedroom environment
enhances the space considerably. Do you like to
sleep with fresh air? There is a joke in my family
that my mother can't sleep unless she has a gale-force
wind blowing through her bedroom. She could never
sleep with closed windows. For many of us, stuffy
rooms don't feel as good as rooms full of fresh
air, so provide as much fresh air as you can and
as the weather permits.
The earth element in the bedroom is a key component
of restful sleep. I like having all natural bedding
that comes from the land and not from a factory,
and I want my bed to rest on a wooden floor. It
makes me feel like I am grounded when I sleep. The
emotional watery element of dreams and intuition
has a place in the bedroom too, and dream journals
help to foster a connection to this world. And fire,
of course, represents passion, light, and heat.
Be sure to have all four elements included in your
bedroom for the most peaceful rest and restorative
Pleasing the Senses
The general premise of the bedroom is that you want
as little in it as possible, and you want what you
have there to be natural and clean. Renovate or
paint only when you can have the windows open for
enough time to fully air out the room from paint
and chemical smells, and sleep elsewhere in the
meantime. You'll spend one-third of your life in
your bedroom, so focus your attention on making
the room pleasurable.
Smell: What you smell when you sleep really
matters. It makes the difference between rest and
restlessness. Most synthetic chemicals intrude on
your sleep by stimulating the central nervous system,
often interrupting your rest with tension and agitation.
It's better to have a tranquil sleep with soothing
smells, such as fresh air from an open window or
pure air from a clean, simply furnished room accented
with natural materials.
Smells to avoid in the bedroom can include synthetic
mattresses; carpet, paint, or stain; cleaning products
such as furniture polish; clothes that have been
dry-cleaned; moth balls; and anything else with
a strong smell. Synthetic smells from mattresses
can be subtle, but they can have a powerful impact
with their blend of fire retardants, stain-resistant
solvents, and pesticides.
Dry-cleaned clothes can be a serious hazard in
the bedroom. The cleaning solvents used can waft
through your bedroom, exposing you to powerful neurotoxins
while you sleep. My advice is to purchase natural-fiber
clothing that doesn't require dry-cleaning, of course.
That may not always be possible though, so switch
to having your clothes wet cleaned, or hang the
newly dry-cleaned clothes outside for a few days
before bringing them into a bedroom closet. If you'd
like to be especially vigilant, never bring dry-cleaned
clothes into a bedroom; hang them, instead, in a
closet far away from the sleeping areas. I personally
never dry-clean anything; the solvents are terrible
for the earth, for those who work in dry-cleaning
establishments, and for humans and pets.
Even the natural materials in your bedroom are
best if they are as inert as possible. For example,
fresh pine has a smell that could interfere with
restful sleep, as can a houseplant if the soil is
a bit mildewed or waterlogged. Smells that interfere
with a relaxing sleep may seem so commonplace that
you may not think about them, like the fragrance
from a perfume bottle or the scented detergent that
lingers on your sheets. It's best to wash laundry
with an unscented detergent. The less you smell
when you sleep, the better.
Some smells in the bedroom don't originate there.
For example, fumes in the air may be a result of
pesticides used elsewhere or may mean your oil burner
needs tuning. Take the appropriate steps to avoid
or clear away sources of pollution.
Sound: Natural noises are welcome to many
of us. Going to sleep in August with the racket
of crickets or waking up at dawn to the call of
a wood thrush is something that's comforting to
me, but it may bother you. The bird song before
dawn in the summer in New York's Hudson Valley is
enough to wake the dead, and many complain about
it. One family I know has fans in each room so the
entire family can drown out nature. "It sounds
like a jet engine going through the house,"
the father of four noted to me. Each to their own
choices! Even fans whirling or sirens and traffic
in New York City can be harmonious if it is what
you like and are used to.
I feel that you should turn off technological noise
(white noise) when you go to sleep. White noise
is any random noise that contains an equal amount
of energy per frequency band and is generated by
computers, TVs, and even white noisemakers. In simple
terms, you could identify white noise as a drone
or hum. Turn off the TV or the computer if either
is in your bedroom. White noise can entrain your
own rhythms, and that is not what you would want
for deep, restful, healing sleep.
I like surrounding my sleeping environment with
as much natural sound as I can manage. An indoor
water fountain is one way to add harmonious, soothing,
natural sounds to your nights. Water falling is
a medley of tone colors and natural harmonies, and
it can keep out unwelcome sounds, such as traffic
and pedestrian noise. Compare that with a computer
droning incessantly with no variation in tone or
The sound of your alarm clock is often the first
sound you hear in the morning. I have been looking
for a mellow-sounding alarm clock -- something that
will wake me up with crashing ocean waves or quiet
music; instead, I have one that sounds as if the
fire alarm is going off. A pleasant-sounding alarm
clock can help start off your day with more equilibrium.
A radio alarm clock that awakens me to the news
is not for me simply because the news is so often
sensationalist and geared toward provoking fear.
That's not a way that I want to start my day.
Sight: Our natural circadian body rhythm
is determined by the light of day and the dark of
night. Some people have trouble sleeping because
they don't receive enough natural light during the
day, and consequently, their systems don't turn
off at night. Others don't get enough true darkness
at night to fully activate their body rhythms, an
increasing problem for those who live in well-lit
cities like New York.
Managing these light issues, as well as coordinating
the light we receive with the sleep we need, is
something most of us have to think through at some
point. What parent of a young child hasn't contemplated
long and hard the value of window shades when their
young child wakes up with the first light of dawn?
When you invest in window treatments, find a type
that doesn't collect dust (like swags), and choose
a simple, clean look with materials that are easily
cleaned. Blinds are now made from untreated natural
products, such as natural grasses, bamboo, and woods,
and can be cleaned easily with a damp cloth. Natural-fiber
curtains may appeal to you. Just make sure your
window treatments don't have an odor. I live in
the country, without streetlights or surrounding
buildings, and I find that I get the sleep I need
regardless of the natural light. As a result, I
don't have any curtains at all because I don't need
them for privacy. This minimalist approach works
even for my teenage daughter.
Color is a treat for the eye, and the color of
your bedroom should feel restful and conducive to
harmony and quiet. The bedroom is also an intimate
room, and you want it to be pleasing. Blue is often
chosen for bedrooms and meditation rooms because
blue's cool energy is calming, restful, peaceful,
and spiritual. Blue helps inspire quiet meditation
and soothes you to sleep. Color therapy with blue
has been found to reduce blood pressure.
Green might be a good second choice for a bedroom
color because it is naturally restful (imagine the
landscape in early spring as the trees are budding).
It also has a vibrancy about it, so if you go with
green, make sure it is a light green. Some red touches
add sensuality, but don't overdo red in the bedroom
because it can be exhausting and too energizing.
I recommend white ceilings because they reflect
light and brighten any room.
Lighting has a few important purposes in the bedroom
-- for reading in bed, for finding clothes in a
closet, and for giving you a sense of safety and
security. I like sleeping in the deep dark, my daughter
likes to have her door open and the bathroom light
on to banish any images from her imagination, and
my elderly mother always needs a night light to
help her feel confident that she won't fall. While
light for sleeping is an individual matter, be sure
there is good lighting for reading in bed. Reading
before sleep is a genuine pleasure, and good lighting
lessens the strain on your eyes.
Touch: The amount of enjoyment we get from
our skin touching the covers is determined by the
sensual, soft feel of our bedding fabrics. Clean,
soft, and even silky sheets are as seductive against
the skin as anything man-made could ever be. Feather
beds -- cloudlike cushions that are placed on the
mattress under the bottom sheet -- are heavenly.
The ideal bedroom temperature for deep sleep is
between 55º and 68ºF. During the winter,
place hot water bottles in the bed before crawling
under the covers to make the bed a welcoming, cozy
place. My friend Pat places a hot water bottle in
her kids' beds when they're sick. To me, that one
small gesture shows how loving and nurturing a mother
Being cool in the summer is just as important as
being warm in the winter. Sleeping with moisture-absorbing
sheets in the summer helps to keep you from feeling
clammy from perspiration during the night. Light
flax linen is a particularly cool and inviting fabric
for summer, although it is expensive (try saving
money by finding used linen sheets at estate sales).
How important is your choice of fabric for bedding?
Very important! I recall reading about a study that
compared the heart rates of those sleeping under
wool versus polyester, and they reported that the
heart rate is lower when sleeping under wool. On
a scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being wonderful),
rate how you feel in the morning when you wake up.
Keep improving your bedroom environment until you
have a full 10.
Your Sixth Sense: Once you have accomplished
many of the tasks required to have a nontoxic and
uncluttered bedroom, take some time to sit in there
and absorb how it feels. Open your intuitive mind
to give you information about the room's comfort
Reprinted from: Home Enlightenment: Practical, Earth-Friendly
Advice for Creating a Nurturing, Healthy, and Toxin-Free
Home and Lifestyle by Annie B. Bond © 2005
Annie B. Bond. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc.,
Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold
or directly from the publisher by calling (800)
848-4735 or visit their website at www.rodalestore.com.
Annie B. Bond is considered an authoritative
voice on the natural lifestyle. In her work and
her books, she offers advice for creating a home
that is in harmony with the earth. Her insight and
wisdom are a result of her struggles with the aftereffects
of two chemical poisoning accidents that left her
unable to function in the world as she knew it.
Annie's experience with chemical sensitivity has
been a catalyst for change on two fronts -- in her
own life as she learned to create a healthy home
without toxins and in the lives of those whom she
inspires to eliminate synthetic chemicals, off-gassing
products, and indoor air pollution in their homes.
Her journey toward health led to her first bestseller,
and then to The
Green Kitchen Handbook
Basics for the Home.
Annie is also an intuitive energy healer and dowser.
She is the executive producer of Care2.com's Healthy
Living channel, editing six free e-newsletters that
are sent to 1.8 million subscribers; and she hosts
Annie's Healthy Living Network in Care2Connect,
where she also posts a blog. Annie is also a columnist
for Body+Soul magazine. Visit her Web site at www.homeenlightenment.com.