Identifying colors is one of the first skills a child learns. However, the broad concept of color is a lot deeper than it may appear at first glance. The psychology of color reaches into a wide variety of different parts of life, and the effects of color are not wholly understood. But, what colors make you sleep better at night? That’s what we’re here to find out!
Some believe that colors like dark blue, green, red, orange, and pink have different effects on the brain, from passivity to arousal to calming. This is part of why, for instance, specific colors are better for certain kinds of businesses to have on display.
One other primary application pertains to the science of sleep. Many experts in the field agree that color can have a direct and often measurable effect on sleep habits. Certain sleep-inducing colors can help you get better sleep and, just as important, it’s also crucial to know what color keeps you awake.
These color properties can be applied in many ways. You can purchase colored sheets accordingly, and the color of your bedroom walls is also important to consider. It doesn’t stop there, however. The color of the lights in your home and your bedroom can also have a significant effect on your sleep schedules.
In this guide, we’ll look at the science of color psychology and its applications when it comes to sleeping better and longer.
How Can Colors Help You Sleep?
Specific colors are associated with different thoughts or feelings from your everyday life. It’s difficult to know if these feelings and their relations to colors are hard-wired into human brains, conditioned, or some combination of the two. But, there are many examples out there of colors making people feel certain ways.
Yellow can create happiness. Orange can act as a muscle relaxant. Silver can seem like moonlight and signal the body that it’s night-time, and pink can bring about positivity and relaxation. Conversely, red makes your heart beat faster, and purple can energize the mind and body. Brown can make you feel gloomy, and grey can contribute to a feeling of isolation.
All of this essentially adds up to the fact that colors can have many unintentional effects on people, their moods, and the ways they go about their days. The colors around you can affect you in ways that may initially seem unthinkable. Research and anecdotal evidence suggests that these effects are anything but unthinkable.
In fact, many people report feeling similarly about the same colors, indicating that these feelings may not be entirely mental but rather something naturally instilled in all people. But, it isn’t outside the realm of possibilities that people are conditioned to feel similarly about the same colors. Either way, the effect is the same: some colors help you relax, and wind down for sleep, better than others.
What’s The Best Color To Help You Sleep?
It stands to reason that since we can measure how much color affects mood in tests, then there must be one color that’s better than the rest. There is one single color that many agree is perhaps the best for sleep, and that color is blue. The reason can be traced to human biology.
Blue is the best of the colors conducive to sleep because of the makeup and natural construction of the eye. Specialized receptors located in the eyes’ retina, called ganglion cells, are susceptible to the color blue.
Ganglion cells have a specific function that affects the body’s sleep schedule. They send information to the part of the human brain that regulates the body’s daily rhythm. That doesn’t just pertain to sleep, by the way; this part of the brain controls the body’s entire 24-hour schedule.
The brain happens to associate the color blue with feelings of calm. Blue helps reduce the body’s blood pressure and heart rate. These effects are beneficial to the body as a whole, but they specifically help with sleep. According to a survey by Travelodge, people who sleep in a blue bedroom get the most sleep, at 7 hours and 52 minutes.
Which Colors Help You Sleep Better?
However, color-sleep benefits aren’t limited to blue. Other colors can have positive effects on sleep, though not all professionals necessarily agree on all of them. Testing is inconclusive as to whether each color benefits people in the same way.
All that can be said for sure is that people react in different ways to color. This is because we all have our own memories and associations related to different colors. That’s important, so remember that for later.
Certain colors can have noted positive effects on sleep habits. According to the same Travelodge survey, blue was closely followed by:
- Yellow (an average of 7 hours and 40 minutes)
- Green (an average of 7 hours and 36 minutes)
- Silver (an average of 7 hours and 33 minutes)
- Orange (an average of 7 hours and 28 minutes).
But why are these colors so effective?
Yellow is the color of sunshine- but you already knew that. Since it’s one of the happiest colors, it can help you get into a positive frame of mind before bed. You may have heard things about yellow rooms: that they make people feel anxious or irritated, or that they make babies cry more.
Unfortunately, those are rumors and have no basis in fact. Studies suggest that yellow puts people in a much happier mood, even going so far as to help people with depression or seasonal affective disorder. Some people wear yellow-tinted glasses to help with the condition. It’s also a warm color, which will make your room look smaller and cozier.
Everything said above about yellow applies to orange, too. Orange is even warmer than yellow, which means that it will make your room look quite small indeed if all of the walls are painted the same color. Just like yellow, though, it would be best to use a paler orange that’s less ‘in your face’ and more welcoming.
Silver is a very cool color, which means that it’s relaxing. It’s the color of moonlight, and so makes us naturally feel sleepy. Lighter, cool colors like silver have been shown to lower the heart rate and blood pressure.
Pink, like yellow, is a relentlessly happy color. Depending on the hue, it’s also a very warm color, like red. However, since it’s so bright, it’s best to incorporate pink as an accent rather than paint your walls a shade of bubblegum.
Green is often associated with nature, making it a good choice to put around your bed if that feeling helps you sleep. You could paint your room or use green furnishings. Or you could surround yourself with plants. Plants are good for refreshing the air indoors and can help you fight depression. If that helped you sleep, green would be a good choice.
Which Colors Make It Harder To Sleep?
Speaking of colors that discourage sleep, there are colors that you should avoid when considering what color to paint your bedroom or buy your sheets in. These are colors that either lower the mood or make you too excitable to sleep.
As previously mentioned, red is probably the last color you want to paint your room if you wish to encourage a sleep-friendly environment. Red raises the blood pressure and heart rate, so while it may look appealing at first glance, it is indeed not the best choice for a person looking to make his or her nights more restful. Brown and grey are also not desirable colors, as the feelings they can evoke are certainly not conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Purple is considered by some to be an in-between color of sorts. Some experts associate purple with concepts like wisdom, mysticism, and creativity (three things that green is often associated with, in fact), all of which may be linked to better sleep. However, if you don’t like purple, then you won’t feel comfortable.
One study notes that purple can be a stimulant for the mind and imagination and an energizer of the body. There are also claims that purple can lead to more nightmares. None of these claims make purple sound conducive to a good night’s rest. For this reason, purple might not be one of the best bedroom colors for sleep. Another survey agreed with this finding; it reports that purple came in last when ranked against other colors concerning how long people slept.
How To Use Colors To Help Sleep Better
So, the question remains: how can you use colors to help you sleep better? You have all sorts of options. Some are more effective than others, and some might be viable for you, whereas others aren’t. That’s why we’ve included many options on the list so that there’s a little something for everyone. Let’s take a look.
A Quick Guide to Redecorating Your Bedroom
The most obvious option is to repaint your walls. Most bedrooms are a nice, neutral color like white. If you only recently bought your house, or you rent a house or an apartment, then the odds are that the previous owner/landlord chose white because it’s a color that everyone can agree on. Nobody dislikes white, whereas bright green bedrooms aren’t for everyone.
Your walls are a canvas. You can choose to paint them any color you like from the list of sleep-inducing colors above. Alternatively, choose a color that you love. Picking a color that helps you relax is just as important as selecting one that works in a study. However, there are many rules when it comes to repainting your walls, which will help you get the best out of your colors.
- If you want to feel warmer, use a warm color. According to many studies, they quite literally make you feel warmer in a room. The reverse goes for cool colors.
- Light colors make a wall seem further away, whereas dark colors make a wall seem further away. If your bedroom is on the smaller side, then, a light color would be better. If your room is too airy, you could make it less ‘big’ by painting the far wall a dark accent color.
When repainting your walls isn’t an option, you may choose to redecorate. You could stick up some posters in your desired color. Or, if you would like something a little nicer, pick a wall hanging/tapestry. This is an excellent idea if you want to use a relatively bright color since they work better as accents.
If you’re going to redecorate, you can’t just think of your bedroom. After all, you spend plenty of time in your living room before bed. So, if your living room isn’t helping you wind down, that’s going to get you in the wrong mindset for sleep. On the other hand, you don’t want to make your living room too relaxing: it should be a great place to spend time with friends and family. So, how do you compromise?
There are a few ways. First of all, you don’t need to change the design from the ground up. What you should do is make sure your lighting is working for you. Do you work somewhere with fluorescent lighting? Hopefully, you don’t have it at home, but the same idea applies: some lighting will help you get to sleep, and other types of lighting won’t.
So first off, have a lamp with a beautiful, warm white light to help you relax in your living room. You would also benefit from having a warm-color throw that can get you in a sleepy mood while you’re watching TV. Little touches like that can make all the difference.
Sheets for Your Bed
Buying new sheets is a simple and easy way to add color to a room. Since your sheets are the last thing you see at night, and the first thing you see in the morning too, they can make a big difference to your sleep.
- Pick sheets that are one of the sleep-inducive colors above
- Pick sheets that match or complement the other colors in the room
- Pick sheets with a simple pattern, or preferably plain color
You’re definitely going to find dark sheets better to sleep in. Almost everyone has bright, white sheets, but they’re not a good choice. The more white there is in your room, the harder you’ll find it to get to sleep.
You can also take the opportunity to buy sheets that are of higher quality. Having luxurious, high-quality sheets also helps you get to sleep. That way, you get a great double-effect. The best color sheets for sleep are ones that tick both of these boxes.
A new comforter might also be in order. Again, pick one that’s the right color for your room. You don’t want it to clash, because you want to create a nice, soothing environment. You also want it to match the sheets you bought, for the same reason.
Buying a new comforter is an excellent opportunity to match the color. But it could also help you sleep more deeply in other ways, too. Picking a comforter isn’t simple, though. Not only do you have to make sure that the color is right, but also that the comforter itself is right for you.
Think about whether:
- You often wake up feeling too cold
- You usually wake up overly hot
- You kick your comforter away during the night
- The material is the right texture for you
- You can quickly clean your comforter
Aside from color, any one of these factors may also be keeping you awake at night.
Curtains and Blinds
Curtains and blinds are really important. Of course, they stop the sun from waking you up in the morning. But they don’t block out light completely, and they color the light that they let in. So if you have bright red curtains, the color of the light coming through turns red. The same goes for blinds.
The reason why that’s so important is due to sleep cycles. You aren’t in a deep sleep all night. You typically go through two phases of deep sleep, with a small gap in between. By the time the sun is shining through your curtains, your body is half awake, getting ready for the day. Even though you aren’t experiencing vision, your eyes are still picking up on the light shining through. So make sure that it’s the right color, and you can wake up feeling positive and well-rested.
Night lights aren’t just for little ones. It might seem silly at first, but buying a night light could be your best bet. It’s a shortcut: you might not even to redecorate your room or buy new sheets. You have a few different options when it comes to your night light.
You could pick a basic white light. If you do, it’s imperative that you choose a warm white light. If you didn’t know, there are three kinds of white light: cold, daylight, and warm. Colder white light is bluer, warm white light is redder, and daylight is in between. Cold blue lights stop you from being able to get to sleep, so don’t pick those. Warm light is the best color light for sleep.
A white night light is good if you’ve already decorated your room. It would highlight the blues, greens, or oranges that you pick to decorate with. Of course, pick a nightlight that’s either quite dim or is adjustable so that you can get to sleep with it on.
Your second option is to pick a night light that isn’t white but comes in a color. A dim blue light is fine, so long as it’s not the kind of white/blue color of a smartphone screen. But you could pick any color you like from the section above.
You could also buy a sleep mask. Sleep masks are meant for blocking out light, so you wouldn’t see your room if you’ve decorated it. However, if your room doesn’t look very welcoming or conducive to sleep, this is your easiest option.
You could also pick a sleep mask in a particular color. You won’t be able to see the color with it on, at least not at night. However, you may be able to see the color in the morning, when the sun shines through your window. Picking a nice soothing color ensures that you wake up feeling relaxed. That’s just as important as soothing yourself before sleep.
Using color to help you get to sleep is as easy as changing a light bulb. It doesn’t have to mean redecorating completely. Your best choice is to pick a couple of simple options from the list above and see how they affect you. Start off by buying a nightlight, for example. If it works for you, try another tip, and if the color does help you sleep better, then it might be time to get the paintbrushes out.