This article was originally published by Van Winkle's, the website dedicated to better sleep and wakefulness.
Got clutter? You also may have a higher risk for sleep problems.
A new study from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, found that those at risk for hoarding are more likely to have serious complaints about sleep. The new findings were presented at Sleep 2015, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.
"Hoarders typically have problems with decision-making and executive function; poor sleep is known to compromise cognition generally, so if hoarders have cluttered/unusable bedrooms… Stress may increase as sleep quality worsens," says lead author Pamela Thacher, assistant professor of psychology at St. Lawrence University.
I’m not a hoarder, I’m just not a neat freak.
Even if you’re not a candidate for the popular Bravo show, if your bedroom is a mess, your sleep could be suffering. According to Michael Breus, Ph.D., aka the Sleep Doctor, “When you walk into a room, what your eye sees can actually determine whether or not you're going to have an easy time falling asleep.”
That pile of laundry at the foot of your bed? That ransacked disaster zone you call your closet? That stash of random papers and unopened mail flung on your night table? They could be giving you a case of the red meanies. That’s why the first thing Breus advises patients with sleep complaints — sounding a bit parental — is, “Clean up your bedroom.”
I like to think that messiness is next to godliness.
Well, you’re wrong. In fact, de-cluttering expert Christa O’Leary, author of Home and Harmony, agrees that messiness leads to stress. “Your bed and bedroom should be a sanctuary where you’re able to rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit,” she says. A cluttered room will weigh on you consciously, or unconsciously, and prevent you from fully recharging overnight.
Here’s what it will do:
- Bombard our minds with excessive stimuli, causing our senses to work overtime
- Make it more difficult to relax, physically and mentally
- Create feelings of guilt and frustration, and inhibit creativity and productivity by taking up space in our head
- Make us anxious
While you may feel acclimated to the mess, your brain actually interprets it as a chore that needs to be tackled, which makes it jumpy. “We might ignore the clutter on a conscious level because it’s been there for so long, but on an unconscious level the brain wants to complete the task,” you know, clean the place up, O’Leary adds.
So what’s the plan?
Help in the de-cluttering department isn’t hard to come by these days, with hundreds of self-styled experts. The “It girl” in the de-cluttering world, Japanese consultant Marie Kondo, may be the most sought after. Her bestselling guide, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has racked up millions of sales. Kondo has apparently come to the rescue of countless people around the globe with her now-famous KonMari method. She also has a three-month client wait list.
Bottom-lining her approach to de-acquisitioning: Just ask of each item, “Does this bring me joy?” If it doesn’t, get rid of it. (Sorry, this doesn't work with unpaid bills.)
What if I just shove everything under the bed?
Out of sight does not mean out of mind. According to feng shui consultant and author Jayme Barrett, “Clutter under the bed has its own energy, which can disturb sleep — especially if it's work-related clutter... It can impede moving forward in life.”
She likes to tell the story of one client, an insomniac dentist, who stored patients' X-rays under her bed. “As soon as the X-rays were moved out, sleep returned,” Barrett says.
-- Suzanne Gerber