Colors That Do and Don’t Help You Sleep
The bedroom environment plays an important role in preparing the body for sleep. In addition to keeping the bedroom dark, quiet, and cool (1), some experts believe that choosing certain colors for your bedroom may also affect sleep quality.
Emerging research indicates there may be certain patterns in how different colors affect mood and energy levels. A study that compared interior room colors (2) found that rooms painted in warm colors, such as reds, were rated as exciting and stimulating, while those painted in cool colors, such as blues, were rated as spacious and restful.
While acknowledging that people can favor different colors depending on their personal experiences, some researchers theorize that our reaction to each color might be partly due to their wavelengths (3). Red, for example, has the longest wavelength and requires more adjustments from the eye, while greens and blues have shorter wavelengths that the eye may perceive as more restful.
We take a closer look at which colors are best rated for sleep, and how to optimize your bedroom’s color palette.
Best Bedroom Colors for Sleep
Studies suggest that cool color shades (4) should be used in an environment meant for lowered physiological activity, such as a bedroom. Blue and green are generally said to promote sleep or restful feelings, and most people prefer a white ceiling (5) as this makes the room feel more spacious.
Most experts agree that shades of blue are best for relaxation. One study found that participants in a blue room were more likely to have brain waves characteristic of a drowsy or sleepy state (6). Some researchers believe the color blue may lower blood pressure, promoting relaxation that is conducive to sleep (7).
A Travelodge survey (8) of 2,000 British homes found that sleepers with the color blue in their bedroom received nearly eight hours of sleep each night, more than people with any other color scheme. It is not clear exactly why the color blue has such a calming effect, but it may be because it is prevalent in nature, making it easy to conjure images of a blue sky, blue water, and other tranquil scenes.
Green is also one of the best colors for sleep. The color green has a short wavelength, like blue, and it is believed to have many of the same effects on mood. Green is similarly prevalent in nature and is often perceived as calming. If you prefer to avoid painting the walls of your bedroom green, consider adding some green plants, which have the added benefits of improving air quality and helping reduce stress (9).
Worst Room Colors for Sleep
While cool hues may promote relaxation, the opposite end of the color spectrum is said to be energizing and enhance arousal, which may not be ideal when trying to sleep. Red, purple, brown, and gray may be some of the worst room colors for a relaxing environment, although people may find these colors less stimulating when they are painted in lighter, more muted shades. Yellow can also be stimulating, although some people might not mind having this color in the bedroom as it makes the room feel brighter and tends to provoke feelings of well-being.
Researchers tend to agree that red is the least relaxing bedroom color. As opposed to cool colors like blue and green that lower blood pressure, red is stimulating and may provoke the fight-or-flight response. One study found that people exerted more physical force (10) during a task when exposed to the color red compared to gray or blue.
Purple is said to promote creativity. When used in a bedroom, some theorize that purple could lead to nightmares, with corresponding negative effects for sleep quality. The Travelodge survey found that people who sleep in purple bedrooms obtain less than six hours of sleep per night on average.
Brown and Gray
Brown and gray are often considered boring or depressing colors for a bedroom. A questionnaire given to 490 college students revealed that brown, orange, and gray were the least favorite colors for a room in general. The Travelodge survey found that sleepers in brown and gray bedrooms obtain just over six hours of sleep per night on average.
Before painting your bedroom, it may help to think about how a particular color makes you feel. Personal preference for a room color may be affected by a number of factors, such as age, gender, and cultural associations.
For example, a study that surveyed the color preferences of college students found that although blue and green were broadly preferred to yellow and red, students had also developed a subjective preference for the color of their residence. If blue or green are not right for you, opt for another color that makes you feel calm and relaxed.
Does Paint Finish Matter?
In addition to the right paint color, the paint finish can also play a role. Although there is not much research on the subject, most people seem to agree that a flat or matte, non-reflective finish is best for the bedroom. A glossier finish may cause more light to reflect around the room and could be distracting for a sleep environment.
What Color Light Is Best for Sleep?
It is best to use warm lighting in the bedroom, especially near bedtime. Blue light, such as the light found in LED lights (11), blocks the release of sleep hormones and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. This is true even when the lights are relatively dim (12). Yellow, orange, or red-tinted lighting may be best, although any light in warmer hues is likely appropriate. One study found that participants fell asleep faster in a room with lighting in their preferred color (13).
+ 13 Sources
- 1. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/emres/longhourstraining/environment.html
- 2. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21667759/
- 3. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2158244014525423
- 4. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.optlastec.2005.06.040
- 5. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30210407/
- 6. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1002/col.20476
- 7. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30969667/
- 8. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://www.travelodge.co.uk/press-centre/press-releases/SECRET-GOOD-NIGHT%E2%80%99S-SLUMBER-SLEEP-BLUE-BEDROOM
- 9. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30387059/
- 10. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21500913/
- 11. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21164152/
- 12. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31433569/
- 13. Accessed on September 14, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29065627/
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