These Are the Best and Worst Bedroom Paint Colors for Sleep, According to Experts
More than 35% of Americans fall short on sleep (getting an average of less than seven hours per night), according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While that may seem like an efficient way to sprint through life, this habit is certainly not doing our health any favors. Research shows that sleep deficiencies can increase risk for a whole host of health challenges, including but not limited to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and kidney disease. And that's not all: Several studies hint that averaging five hours or less sleep per night can increase risk for mortality by 15% compared to well-rested peers.
But saying "Hey, sleep more, will you?!" is far easier said than done. What you eat can play a major role in the quality of your zzz's, as can getting enough physical activity and creating restful routines. (Check out four more ways to get a better night of sleep, according to a sleep expert.) As you consider how much you sleep, it's important to note that where you do so can make a big difference, too.
"Creating a soothing and calming bedroom environment is a key piece of sleep hygiene," explains Logan Foley, a certified sleep science coach and the managing editor for the Sleep Foundation in Seattle. "Your bedroom should induce sleepiness and should also play a part in keeping you asleep. This can include layout, design, sound and even smell."
It also includes cleanliness, adds Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D., a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University in New York City: "When a bedroom is very cluttered it can cause overstimulation and make it difficult to fall asleep. Too much technology, accessories or bright colors can actually disrupt sleep cycles and lower the amount of hours you receive in REM sleep."
Since the most permanent factor of those sleep-harming details Hafeez mentions is the color, we're diving into that topic here. Read on to learn more about the best and worst paint colors to promote easier, more restful sleep.
The 4 Best Bedroom Paint Colors for Sleep
If you're having trouble sleeping, it certainly can't hurt to take stock of your surroundings, Hafeez suggests. "When picking a color for your room, choose a color that makes you feel calm and at ease. Decorate your room with simple accessories and try to keep bright electronics away. Your room should make you feel safe and comfortable."
Before we dive in, Carleara Weiss, Ph.D., a sleep science advisor at Aeroflow Healthcare's Sleep division, has an important note: "Most studies on bedroom colors for sleep are based on surveys examining individuals' preferences and correlating their responses to the number of hours they sleep per night. However, according to color therapy—not sleep science—specific colors are more likely to promote relaxation."
More research is needed to confirm their direct impact on zzz's, but based on current knowledge, these are among the best bedroom paint colors for sleep.
Those with blue bedrooms sleep longer, on average, than those who get their shut-eye in rooms with different shades, according to the Sleep Foundation. In addition to the color blue being neutral and calming, the receptors in our retinas called ganglion cells are most sensitive to blue. These cells communicate with the portion of the brain that controls the body's circadian rhythm.
"When these cells recognize the color blue, they send a signal to your brain to lower your heart rate, calming you and making it easier to fall asleep," Foley says.
Weiss' bedroom is light blue, a very soft and neutral shade that approximates to white. She says the resulting vibe is "Calming, relaxing and cozy. To be honest, I choose blue because it is my favorite color. I did not overthink the meaning of it; I just kept in mind that neutral colors are often best to create a cozy environment. In fact, I have different shades of blue around the house, varying from very light to vibrant, depending on the room."
She's onto something with that light blue; in fact, any pastel color like light blue, light pink, ivory or light green can feel serene.
"Pastel colors are among the best colors for sleep because they actually reduce stress on your nervous system—allowing you to fall asleep faster," Hafeez says. "My bedroom is a mint pale green. I find it calming. I have a photo of birds over my bed and trees outside the window so I can wake up to the 'outdoors.'"
She also has a woodsy pale green dresser adorned with dried flowers from her fiancé, plus light-blocking curtains (such as these blackout curtains from West Elm, $99). "I like it to be pitch-dark at night," Hafeez says.
As for Foley, she sticks with peaceful off-white—a neutral tone that exudes relaxed, clean and polished vibes and may actually help your sleep haven feel bigger.
"I also have a blue accent wall, and many of my bedroom accents, like pillows, are blue. I try to focus on the most calming colors for my bedroom, as I know that sleep is one of the most important things we do every day," she adds.
Consider shades of green, too, especially on the lighter or earthier end of the spectrum (think sage or mint rather than chartreuse, Kelly or neon green). "These are also good choices for your bedroom walls as all have been shown to be calming and promote rest," Foley says. They can also lend natural vibes, which tend to be especially centering for people who enjoy spending time outdoors.
The 4 Worst Bedroom Paint Colors for Sleep
Colors that are mentally stimulating are the worst choices for bedroom walls, Foley says.
"According to principles of color therapy, the worst colors for sleep are those associated with high energy and activity," explains Weiss. All three experts we spoke with confirm that these are the worst bedroom paint colors for sleep:
- Red. "A bright color like red can raise your heart rate and cause you to become more alert," Hafeez says.
- Purple. Similarly, colors with red undertones, like bright purple, trigger the same issues. "Purple and red are both very energizing colors, which can cause an increase in brain activity and heart rate," Foley says.
- Black. Although it's dark like night, an all-black room can feel intense. Try to steer clear of black bedroom paint, especially if you are impacted by symptoms of depression, as it can promote feelings of sadness, Hafeez explains.
- Brown. While beige can feel simple and warm, darker shades of brown have been shown to promote a feeling of restlessness, Foley says.
5 Bonus Bedroom Sleep Hygiene Tips
Now that you're well-versed in color therapy, keep in mind these best practices for a more rejuvenating night of sleep—no matter which bedroom paint color you choose.
- Turn out the lights. Keep technology out of your bedroom and aim to block all external light. "The biological clock in our brain recognizes the light in the environment as an indication of daytime," Weiss says. "Darkness cues the body to 'shut down,' while light reduces the natural production of melatonin," a potent sleep-promoting hormone.
- Aim for muted. Lighter, more muted or pastel versions of your paint color—as well as any accessories like comforters, reading chairs and pillows—are most relaxing. And muting the sound is crucial, too. "Our brain tends to respond to noise with alertness as part of our survival instinct. The exception is white noise or sounds for relaxation and meditation that are designed to promote sleep," Weiss says. (Seeking a serene soundtrack? Try something like this Hatch Restore Smart Sleep Assistant with Sound Machine and Sunrise Alarm Clock; buy it: $129.99, Bed Bath and Beyond)
- Skip statement walls. Rather than adding that trendy pop of color, say, with a hot pink wall across from your headboard, save that for another room and keep all four walls the same shade.
- Go for flat paint. Instead of glossy or eggshell, which can reflect any light, opt for a flat paint style.
- Cool it. Literally, Weiss suggests. "The body temperature naturally drops to initiate and maintain sleep, so it's harder to fall asleep and stay asleep in a warm bedroom." (P.S. Here's the best temperature to keep your house for a better night's sleep!)