There's no doubt that our environment has a profound effect on our mood. As soon as we enter a space, a symphony of scents, sounds, and visuals spark our senses, prompting the brain to interpret and react to our surroundings. Given that our days start and end in one room, there's one big question to consider: How do our bedrooms influence our minds?
The way we choose to decorate our bedrooms isn't just aesthetic, says Jessica O'Reilly, PhD, sexologist, relationship therapist, and WeVibe ambassador. According to O'Reilly, the objects, scents, textures, and sounds in our rooms all influence intimacy, especially if we share the space with an S.O. Yes, positioning a phone charger on the nightstand could inhibit our sex lives, and choosing a new scent could help spark arousal. As it turns out, your bedroom could impact your sex life—here's how to make the most of it.
O'Reilly works with thousands of couples during her relationship retreats and says privacy is a common concern. "Couples often complain that they can't relax in their own bedrooms, as they fear that their kids will walk in at any moment," she says. Beyond installing a lock on your door, she recommends using sound to create a sense of privacy. "Purchase a white noise machine to drown out intrusive sounds and help you to relax."
Curating a playlist can also prompt intimacy. "The contagion hypothesis and associated research suggest that music sways our mood, as we tend to mimic what we hear in our environment," she explains. "Listening to your favorite music can produce similar emotional reactions as consuming fine food or even drugs. This is because music can activate the reward and motivations system of the brain resulting in chemical reactions including dopamine spikes."
"My husband and I struggled with 'technoference' in the bedroom for years, and it took us months to transition our bedroom to a tech-free zone, but it was well worth the effort in the end," says O'Reilly. Simply charging your phone on the nightstand can be a distraction, so she recommends keeping it completely out of the room. "I suggest that couples ban personal devices (e.g., cell phones, laptops, and tablets) from their bedroom, and if they live in a multilevel home, I strongly encourage them to limit these devices to the main floor exclusively," she says.
"Don't even let them creep up (or down) the stairs to your bedroom, as they detract from focus and intimacy even when they're in silent mode."
Declutter Your Top Drawer
Clutter doesn't just look bad, as it also has a psychological effect. A UCLA study found that women who live in a messy environment have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with anxiety, digestive problems, and more. If your bedroom needs tidying, O'Reilly recommends starting with your bedside drawer. "Replace receipts, to-do lists, and other random items that pile up over time with mints, lube, and your favorite toys. When the mood strikes, you don't want to go hunting for your essential accoutrements."
Decorate with Color
"Whether you opt for a throw pillow, a lightbulb, or lingerie draped over the bedpost, a pop of red has the potential to help reignite the spark. The color red is not only associated with love, passion, and sex, but research suggests that it enhances attraction regardless of gender," she says. "Psychological research suggests that red has the potential to heighten energy, increase heart rate, and intensify emotional response—all of which can be harnessed for sensual and intimate pleasure," she points out.
In one study, heterosexual women deemed men more attractive if their photograph was taken against a red background than white. "When heterosexual men participated in the same study (looking at photos of other men), the backdrop color had no bearing on attractiveness ratings—this suggests that the allure of the color red is connected to sexual attraction as opposed to merely the aesthetic," she says.
Rethink Photographs on Display
While you're decluttering, take a closer look at the photographs on display. "Wedding and family photos often find their way into your bedroom, but if you're no longer in touch with one of your bridesmaids or you're experiencing tension with a sibling or cousin, you may want to move their photo out of your bedroom," says O'Reilly. "Even photos of your kids and other loved ones can detract from sensuality and eroticism, so consider finding another spot to feature and enjoy them."
Choose Scents Wisely
Yes, there is a science to the scents you find appealing. "Human attraction is scent-driven and a range of research connects various scents with arousal and blood flow," she explains. "The aroma of peppermint, lavender, licorice, and even donuts can help to set the mood. What better way to heighten your olfactory response than via an aromatherapy diffuser and essential oil collection?"