The Mental Health Benefits of Making Your Bed

benefits of making your bed

Verywell / Catherine Song

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.

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.

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%.

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.

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

While many of these possible benefits are based on popular wisdom, there is some evidence from various studies to help to support these claims.

What the Research Says

While there isn't much research specifically studying the effects of making your bed, there is a solid body of evidence showing a clear link between living and working in an organized, clutter-free environment and having improved focus, goal-setting skills, productivity, and lower levels of stress. In essence, the assumption is that a tidy house (or workspace), makes for a tidy mind.

Those with messier homes, especially to the extreme of hoarding, are known to have poorer executive function and more issues with emotional regulation, stress, and mental health.

Additionally, studies show that clutter impairs information processing—this finding becomes relevant if we make the assumption that those who live in a more clutter-filled environment are also less likely to make the bed.

Interestingly, studies show that, particularly for older people, living in a tidy environment improves or retains brain function and enhances general quality of life. Researchers also contend that the opposite is true—that having a messy living space can negatively affect a person's well-being. It's not a big leap to extend this thinking to the impact of making your bed.

According to another study on personal and household hygiene, people who are more tidy and organized tend to have better impulse control and are more conscientious, orderly, and goal-oriented. Those who cleaned up also paid more attention to manners and following social norms—and were most often women who made their tidying consistent by including it in their daily routine.

There is also evidence that physical environments (and their relative orderliness) impact our ability to learn and interact with others as well as our general sense of well-being. In fact, researchers have found that disorganization has a negative influence on our brains, such as our ability to focus.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Even more compelling, studies show that those who make their bed are more likely to report getting the rest they need.

Possible Drawbacks

While there seem to be many potential benefits, are there any possible negatives to making the bed? Some people associate an unmade bed with a freer spirit, suggesting a possible link to creativity—and one study claims a made bed is less hygienic.

Creativity

Studies have shown that a messier desk may be correlated to enhanced creative thinking—maybe the same is true for keeping the bed undone. The flip side is that researchers also found that those with a tidy desk (which may relate to a tidy bed) made healthier choices and were more prone toward convention, tradition, and generosity.

Interestingly, these effects were created simply by bringing a person into the room with the messy or clean desk. So, the assumption is that by simply leaving your environment messy you may get more of your creative juices flowing, while straightening up may lead to more focus, orderly thinking.

Hygiene

An older study, from 2001, contends that a made bed is more likely to breed germs, while an unmade bed discourages them by letting air and sun stifle an otherwise potentially dark, damp breeding ground. While the study feels a bit tongue-in-cheek, its authors call making the bed an "unprecedented health risk."

It is true that people sweat quite a bit while they sleep as well as shed skin cells, both of which account for the potential "breeding ground" environment of the bed mentioned in the study. However, a simple solution may be to simply change the sheets a bit more often.

To Make or Not to Make

Ultimately, it's not the end of the world if you don't make your bed and it's unlikely to radically change your life if you do. However, as reviewed above, there do seem to be discernible benefits for many people who choose to adopt this morning ritual, particularly in the realms of mental health, productivity, and sleep habits.

However, if you suspect that a messier bed or room may be more conducive to your creative endeavors (or if you simply want to test if you notice any difference in how you feel with an unmade bed), then it might be worthwhile to skip making your bed for a particular time.

One possibility is to keep a journal that tracks how you feel after either making or not making your bed over a period of a few weeks. Then, once your review this information, you can decide if the morning habit is right for you. You can always switch back to either method.

Tips for Making Your Bed

If you want to institute bed-making into your morning, it's more likely to become a daily habit if you incorporate it into your routine. It may take more conscious effort at the start but after you reliably make it for a week or two, it will likely become reflexive, like buckling a seatbelt or brushing your teeth.

Studies show that having reliable routines are key to many aspects of life, including physical and mental health. Building a habit like bed-making into your day can help to establish a healthy schedule, the benefits of which may spill over into many aspects of life, such as executive function, emotional regulation, productivity, and sleep—in other words, many of the potential benefits noted above.

  • Link the activity to something you already do. So if you always brush your teeth each morning, try following that with making your bed.
  • Aim to do it right then—it only takes a minute. If you put it off, thinking you'll come back later, you may easily forget. You may be tempted to skip it because you're likely to be tired and/or in a rush.
  • Post a note or set a reminder on your phone. This can be helpful if you tend to forget.
  • Keep yourself accountable by working with your partner, if you have one, other family members, or roommates. Strategies include divvying who makes the bed by switching off each morning or assigning one person to take on this task and having the other person taking on a related task, such as changing the sheets once a week. Another option would be to make the bed together or to have whomever gets out last be in charge of tidying up the bed.
  • Remember that the process can be as simple as pulling up the covers.

A Word From Verywell

Whether or not you make the bed is a personal decision. There's no right or wrong here so do what makes you feel good—and if that's a messy bed, embrace that and don't feel bad about it.

However, anecdotal and research-based evidence points to a link between tidying up and a clearer mind, improved mental health, and a better night's sleep, so consider trying it if you have any concerns in those areas.

Additionally, smoothing the sheets is also an easy way to start your day off with a quick sense of accomplishment. So, it might be worth doing just to be able to scratch it off your day's to-do list. Who doesn't like a win first thing in the morning? Even better, making your bed is likely to make crawling back into bed even more enticing each night, too.

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12 Sources
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