The Art of Making Your Bed for Mental Health

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There are two types of people—those that make their bed and those that leave it undone each day. Many on each side have strong opinions about the relative merits of this morning ritual.

Some people would sooner leave the house naked than not make their bed. Others do it without even thinking about why—or even really realizing they are doing it.Some see the compulsion to tidy the bed as a sign of over-compliance or a lack of personality—and see the unmade bed as badge of honor.

Then, there are people who believe that whether or not you smooth the comforter or fluff the pillows makes no difference at all, beyond the tidiness of your room. Others still contend that this habit can make a world of difference, particularly for your mental health. Let's take a look at all these opinions and the research to support whether or not making your bed has an impact on your mental health.

The Ritual of Making the Bed

Does a streamlined bed really do more than just tidy up—and make your parents proud? Many people believe it does, including William H. McRaven, retired Navy four-star admiral and former chancellor of The University of Texas System. McRaven even wrote a book about the key mental health benefits of this ritual called "Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life... And Maybe the World."1

In the book, published in 2017, McRaven extols the idea that making your bed in the morning sets you up for success. His theory is that just by making your bed, you've accomplished at least that one thing. So, the simple act of tidying up your covers lets you begin your morning with a small success that, the theory goes, will encourage many more throughout the day.

Below, we look at other possible advantages of carving out a few extra minutes in your morning routine for this daily ritual. From better sleep, less stress, and a clearer, calmer outlook to a more organized mind, the potential mental health benefits of making your bed may surprise you.

Who Is Doing It?

Studies show that more people make their bed than don't.

In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation's Bedroom Poll, around 70% of Americans make their bed each morning.

Nearly half of respondents in the study also turn their covers down before slipping into bed as night as well.2

Researchers also found telling details about the type of people who are more likely to make the bed each morning. For example, those living in the West and Midwest are least likely to make their beds, while those who reside in the South and Northeast are more inclined to take on this daily task—with those on the East Coast doing so at a rate of around 80%.2

Age and lifestyle factors also seem to play a role in whether you ascribe to this bedroom ritual. The poll found that those over 40 and those living with romantic partners (married or not) are also more likely to tidy up the bed before moving on with their day.2

Why Should You Make the Bed?

Some people think making the bed is a waste of time—after all, you just crawl back in each night! However, for many, making the bed each morning is far more than a chore or about simply keeping your room neat.

Instead, it's a way to begin the morning in an organized manner and with a clean slate that helps to make the most of your day.

Making the bed is about setting an intention to do the little things that bring about an orderly, thoughtful, responsible, balanced, or successful life. In addition to providing a quick sense of daily accomplishment, some people find making the bed calming as well.

Possible Benefits

While the scientific research on the impact of making your bed is slim, there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence that points to substantial mental health benefits of this daily practice. These potential advantages include the following:

  • A feeling of accomplishment
  • A sense of calm
  • Better sleep
  • Enhanced organization
  • Improved focus
  • Relaxation
  • Stress reduction

Impact on Sleep

Another big reason to make the bed may be that it helps you sleep better at night. As around 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders and millions more experience less than adequate sleep, the merits of making the bed may not just be a matter of aesthetics, but one of public health.8

Poor sleep is also directly linked to poorer health outcomes, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and even death. Research shows sleep deprivation also has a negative impact on mood as well as the ability to problem solve and think and react quickly and creatively. So, if making the bed might improve sleep, there are lots of good health reasons it's worth trying.8

Just as a straightened bed seems to be a powerful signal (for some, at least) that it's time to start your day, a made bed may also be more pleasant to slip into at bedtime.

Studies show that sleep environment plays an important role in sleep and that poor "sleep hygiene" can have detrimental effects on a person's sleep.9

Sleep hygiene includes anything that might be distracting to a sleeper, such as noise, light, stress, and mess. So, a cluttered bedroom and undone bed could be hindering your sleep. To this end, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends eliminating any potential distractions from your bedroom to enhance sleep.8

Even more compelling, studies show that those who make their bed are more likely to report getting the rest they need.2National Sleep Foundation. Bedroom Poll. 2011.

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