It’s not only Mom who says “Make your bed!”
Your mom spent your entire childhood telling you to make your bed. It turns out, you really should have listened. Though parents rarely offer their kids a better explanation than “because I said so,” some high-profile bed-makers — as well as data — are coming forward with all sorts of evidence to support this tidy habit.
The make-your-bed camp includes such names as best-selling self-improvement authors Gretchen Rubin (“The Happiness Project”) and Charles Duhigg (“The Power of Habit”) and retired four-star Admiral William McRaven — the man who oversaw the operation that brought down Osama bin Laden.
In a widely viewed 2014 commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin, McRaven cites making your bed as a top life lesson from SEAL training:
“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another,” he says. “By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”
And that’s just one (very impressive) man’s experience. Here’s why others are so big on smoothing out those sheets.
A made bed, A better you
Authors Rubin and Duhigg base their pro-bed-making stances on interviews, their own life experiences and a 2009 survey conducted by the former website, Hunch.com. The survey of more than 60,000 people tied bed-making to habits like sticking to a budget and exercise, as well as earning power and happiness. Wouldn’t we all like a boost in those departments?
And how about sleeping better? A 2011 American Sleep Foundation survey of 1,500 adults found 44 percent of people who make their beds say they sleep well, compared to 37 percent of people who don’t.
Neither of these surveys claim to be hard science. But they certainly suggest that the instincts of parents through the decades have been right on. Shannon Locker, a New Jersey photographer and mother of two, calls herself a convert and no doubt speaks for many.
“Making the bed means no matter what, I get at least one thing done for the day,” she says. “It gives my psyche the pretense of productivity.”
A better home
Plus, there are the practical advantages of a made bed. The tidy surface provides a level platform for storing items (like all of those throw pillows you’ve somehow accumulated) and performing tasks. At night, it’s indisputably more pleasant to slide in among smooth sheets.
And doesn’t it just feel better to walk into a room with a made bed? In some cases, it makes or breaks the look of your entire living space.
“When I lived in New York I made my bed because I slept on a sleep-out sofa and literally couldn’t walk across the room otherwise,” says teacher and editor Elizabeth Encarnacion, who has graduated to sleeping in a queen-size bed in Philadelphia. “Now I do it partially so my room looks neat, and partially because it’s more comfortable to sit on when it’s made.”
A better use of time?
Of course, not everyone is on Mom’s team. Those who opt to leave the covers down often cite time as their main reason. Penn State University Professor Anne Hoag has quantified time saved by not making her bed — almost 1,000 hours. “That’s more than 40 days during which I may have learned another language, fallen in love, knit eight-to-12 sweaters, written a dissertation, or enjoyed some epic hikes,” she says.
Other people argue it’s nonsense to do a task that will only be undone a few hours later. A third reason, perhaps surprisingly, is hygiene — specifically the possibility that a well-made bed makes a more cozy boudoir for dust mites.
Unlike when your parents called the shots, the decision is yours, every day. But before walking away from your rumpled sheets tomorrow, consider whether or not your entire life could get a boost from taking a few seconds to tidy them up. And then call your mom to let her know. She’ll be so proud.
Written by Martha Freeman
Want to learn more healthy habits of sleep? Check out:
- Do Plants in the Bedroom Help You Sleep?
- Stop Hitting the Snooze Button!
- The 7 Worst Foods and Drink that Disrupt Sleep