Make Your Bed: It's a Small Act With Big Benefits
You’ve had a long day. Multiple appointments, an infusion to treat your metastatic breast cancer. Maybe the trip to the hospital takes two hours, one way. You’re exhausted, in pain, nauseated, and all you want to do is take a nap.
You get to your bedroom, finally, but it’s a big mess. The sheets aren’t clean. The pillows have been tossed willy-nilly. The comforter resembles the scary waves of a terrible mid-sea squall. The appearance of an unmade bed alone might be good enough reason to make it next time.
But think of it this way - an unmade bed may be the perfect metaphor for cancer anxiety. It’s a place you need to be (you have to be) and yet it’s not a place you want to be.
Unless, of course, you make your bed every day.
After all, a made bed is such an inviting place to collapse into after a day of tribulations. It’s truly a kindness you pay yourself in advance. It’s like the sheets are already warmed up for you! And if they’re clean, even better!
There are so many good reasons for making your bed the center of your sleep sanctuary while undergoing advanced breast cancer treatment.
Why make your bed?
What are the reasons to make your bed?
Doing something small like making one’s bed leads to a less stressful sleeping space (visually).1 This instills a sense of calm in a space where you absolutely need it. It also boosts your emotional health when, at the end of the day, your bed’s a welcoming space—not a chaotic one.2
Hygienic benefits of making your bed
Keeping a hygienic bed is critical for supporting your compromised immune system and fending off infection. Old pillows and mattresses harbor unhealthy microorganisms.
And clean sheets are not for nothing! A National Sleep Foundation poll found that people sleep better when their sheets smell fresh: 78 percent found they were happier to go to bed when the sheets were clean and 73 percent found they were more comfortable when the sheets gave off a fresh scent.3
If you routinely make your bed, you’ll more likely notice torn sheets that don’t stay on the bed, lumps in the mattress, or pillows that no longer support your neck.
A comfortable bed is a simple but necessary remedy to the exhausting and unpleasant insults of cancer treatment. If you’re uncomfortable, then you can’t relax, and if you can’t relax, you’ll probably lose out on quality sleep.
Sleep is not a luxury option for people with cancer.4 It’s more than okay to demand a quality sleeping space. Good sleep is critical to your treatment and recovery.
Practicing a single daily habit can be empowering.5 Admiral and Navy Seal William McRaven, the author of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life, said in a commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin that “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 will encourage you to do another task.”6
What if you just can’t make your bed?
Making a bed isn’t always easy. If you experience muscle weakness, joint or muscle pain, or dizziness, making a bed may not be possible. Try these options instead:
- Meet yourself halfway. Even just straightening and smoothing the top layers of bedding can make your bed more appealing later. Forgive yourself on extra-tough days.
- Ask for help. Maybe a family member can step in and make your bed. A child who can make a bed may appreciate this opportunity to find pride and purpose in this very important daily job.
- Hire help. Some cleaning companies provide services specifically to those undergoing cancer therapy, such as Cleaning for a Reason7. Ask your cancer clinic staff for recommendations locally.
- Clean and declutter instead (just one thing a day)
- Move dirty clothes to the laundry area
- Straighten (or remove) piles of books and papers if you’re finished reading them
- Put dirty dishes in the kitchen sink
- Toss leftover food wrappings
- Freshen faded bouquets of flowers
- Get help from others with jobs like vacuuming and dusting; these simple tasks can rejuvenate a space. Every little bit can go a long way to making your bedroom cleaner and more inviting.
It’s more than okay to demand a quality sleeping space. Sleep promotes healing, so you won’t want any barriers that prevent you from making your bedroom the sanctuary you deserve.
A made bed may be one of the most welcoming places we ever experience in life, healthy or not. The more you can make your bedroom a sanctuary, the more it can help provide you the mental and physical benefits you need to weather the challenges of cancer treatment.
Caregivers: Do you practice self-care?