Q: What's the ideal bedroom environment for optimum sleep?

The ideal bedroom environment is probably about as individual as the clothes we wear and the style in which we decorate our home. Having said all that, some basic principles do apply.

Although we rarely think about it, most of us spend a third or more of our lives in our bedroom. The environmental quality of that space therefore has real implications for our overall health and well being. As a respiratory specialist, in addition to a sleep doctor, I am constantly seeing patients who wonder why they get more colds than their friends, why their colds seem to last longer, and why they're always suffering from allergies. Dust, dust mites, insect droppings, and the like seriously impair the hygiene and cleanliness of our bedroom environment. These can all lead to allergies, sinus congestion, and endless bouts of upper respiratory irritation. There is little doubt in my mind that next to the kitchen, the bedroom should be the cleanest room in our homes.

Not everyone is bothered by allergies, and for those folks, the luxurious high thread count down comforters are great. But for individuals who suffer from asthma, allergic rhinitis, and sensitive skin, maintaining a hypoallergenic bedroom is paramount. Pillows and comforters should be made of synthetics and covered with hypoallergenic covers, as should the mattresses. For some people, air purifiers may also be very helpful. Make sure that any air purifier you purchase is HEPA certified.

Speaking of beds, patients will often ask me which mattress is best: soft or firm, spring or memory foam. This question is highly individual and actually depends more on how and in what positions one sleeps than on anything else. Anyone purchasing a mattress needs to put on some comfortable loose fitting clothes, and spend time in the mattress store. Bring a book, lay in the beds, read in the beds, spend time in them in the positions you actually sleep in. And don't be bashful about it. Stiffly lying on your back for 10 seconds in your tailored Italian suit is no way to "try on" a mattress.

Once you've got your bed, pillow, comforter, and hypoallergenic covers together, the fun can begin. Your bed and bedroom should be about comfort and relaxation. Your bedroom should be an invitation to slip away from the cares of the world. Although my idea of a soothing bedroom environment may be quite different from yours, think about what appeals to you: colors, fabrics, and styles. Fabrics should allow your skin to breathe.  Remember: this is where you want to slip away from it all—not where you want to itch and scratch the night away.


Roy Artal, M.D. F.C.C.P., is a board-certified sleep medicine specialist and medical director of Tower Sleep Medicine in Los Angeles. Raised in L.A., Dr. Artal received his undergraduate degree with honors from the University of Southern California (USC) in 1991, where he was the recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Undergraduate Achievement Award, and his medical degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine (UCLA) in 1995. Following medical school, Dr. Artal completed his Internal Medicine Residency training at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and his Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship training at the Cedars-Sinai-UCLA Combined Fellowship Program, serving as the Chief Fellow during his senior year. He is double board certified in sleep medicine by the American Board of Sleep Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine, is a Clinical Instructor of Medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and is the Medical Director of Tower Sleep Medicine, a sleep disorders center in Los Angeles. Dr. Artal has been in private practice in Southern California since 2001.