5 items you should never keep on your bedside table, according to sleep experts

Struggling to sleep? After checking off the usual culprits it’s worth having a look at the items stored on your bedside table

Navy blue bedroom
(Image credit: Future PLC)

There are many items not to store on your bedside table, although these are unlikely to be the first thing you think of when looking at ways for how to sleep better (a question ironically keeping many of us awake at night). 

You’re far more likely to search our guides to the best mattresses or be endlessly scrolling through TikTok for answers. But sometimes the simplest answer can be found if you switch your focus to your surroundings.

Studies have shown people sleep better when their bedroom is optimised for light and noise levels, temperature, and comfort. And since sleep quality and duration are closely tied to other aspects of human health, a bedroom that promotes sleep can also improve how you feel while you’re awake.

And that’s where we come full circle to the unassuming bedside table. You might not think about it but having your bedside table ideas fully optimised for your wellbeing is crucial for a good night’s sleep.

 5 items not to store on your bedside table 

We asked the experts to outline the items to keep off your bedside table, along with the things you should keep there instead and some handy storage tips to keep your bedside table clutter-free.

1. A clock

A yellow lamp with pink shade on a bedside table in front of a blue and white wallpapered wall.

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mary Wadsworth)

Many of you might think a clock is a controversial one to start with. After all, how will you know what time it is when you wake? Well, it’s for this reason that sleep expert at Trouble Sleeping and author of Navigating Sleeplessness, Lindsay Browning, recommends you leave your clock off the bedside table.

'When people check what time it is when they wake up in the middle of the night that is often the worst thing they could do,' says Lindsay. 'When someone looks at the clock to check what time it is, they will start doing mental calculations as to how much sleep they have had so far or how long it is until morning, and start calculating how little sleep they will have had before in the morning. 

'This can often lead to increased anxiety and will make it even harder to fall back to sleep again. Therefore, it’s a great idea to not have a clock that you can see from your bed, especially not one on the bedside table.'

2. Phone Charger

Bedroom with navy blue panelled feature wall, bed with blue decorative cushions, and wooden dresser table

(Image credit: Future PLC/Douglas Gibb)

This will be tough for some of you just because so many of us put our phones in charge by the side of our bed before we sleep. But doing this leaves ourselves open to unwanted distractions – a big no-no when it comes to sleep.

'If you keep your phone or tablet next to the bed, then you may be tempted to use it just before going to sleep, or in the middle of the night if you wake up,' explains Lindsay. 

'Using a phone or tablet in bed is [also] not a good idea for sleep because the bright light emitted from such devices can reduce the production of melatonin, your sleep hormone. Plus, if you use a phone or tablet in bed, you may get so distracted by watching TikTok videos or scrolling through social media that you forget to go to sleep, meaning you won’t get as much sleep as you need to be happy and healthy.'

3. General Clutter

White bedroom with elongated grey headboard, modern wall lights and woven ceiling light

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

'General clutter should also be a no no,' says presenter, DIY interiors expert, and home coach, Georgina Burnett.

'Loose change, odd earrings, [and] receipts are often just dumped on the side, but this clutter can keep the mind alert, when it should be winding down.'

Sian Pelleschi, president of the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (APDO) and founder of decluttering service Sorted! agrees, and recommends keeping bedside table items to an absolute minimum if you struggle to sleep.

'If they take up most of the tabletop they’ll quickly look overcrowded which can impact on your brain by having to process so much. However, work to what you feel comfortable with. Everyone has their level of what they consider to be comfortable or clutter.'

4. Humidifier

Neutral bedroom with styled shelf above headboard

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

In order to help minimise sound it’s best to leave any motor-generated items well away from the bedside table (unless it’s a medically related device, like a CPAP machine). 

One example that many of us might keep on our bedside table is a humidifier. But there’s a safety concern to consider as these contain boiling water. If the humidifier is on your bedside table, it could easily be knocked over, spelling disaster for much more than your beauty sleep.

Humidifiers can certainly help people when it comes to sleep (especially those with sleep apnea), but studies have shown that high humidity can promote the growth of allergens, which might have an adverse effect. As with anything medical related it’s worth consulting your doctor to see whether a CPAP humidifier is the right option for you.

5. Candles

Bedroom with wall panelling, artwork, armchair and wall light

(Image credit: Future PLC)

'Some strong scents can be unpleasant and disrupt a calming bedtime environment,' says sleep expert and founder of Owl + Lark, Hafiz Shariff, 'so it’s worth taking the time to remove a candle or other strong-scented fragrances to another part of the home before bed.'

Now, this is a debated topic, especially as candles and sleep scents can be a key part of a wind-down routine. We would argue that it comes down to the right calming scent.

Rosemary, for example, has been shown to have a stimulating effect on the brain – not what you need when you’re counting sheep. Many scents have been shown to have a calming and positive effect on sleep though. Lavender is the number one sleep scent and has been associated with improved sleep in multiple research studies, including in some people with insomnia.


What should be stored in bedside tables?

'If you have a nighttime skincare routine, it's a good idea to store your potions in your bedside drawer so that they are within reach,' says Georgina. 'I always advise people to keep a small notebook and pen in their bedside drawer so that if they can't sleep at night they can write down their worries. Once these are down in black and white they are easier to put into perspective.

It's also important to keep any sleep aids you use close to hand. 

'Sleep sprays, headache remedies, ear plugs, eyemasks can be kept in the bedside drawer so they aren't creating clutter on top but you don't have to get out of bed when you need them,' says Georgina.

What do you put on top of a bedside table?

'Having a book on your bedside table is a great way to relax and unwind in preparation for sleep,' says Sian. 'Soft lighting can help create a lovely calm and atmospheric mood to help wind down so having a lamp either on or just above your bedside is a great way of being able to turn off the main bedroom lights.'

If you do use an alarm for the morning, an alarm clock (without the time showing) rather that your phone can be a useful alternative to stop you going down the rabbit hole of scrolling on socials. Think about storage to sit on top of your bedside table as well. 

'One of the best ways to keep your bedside tidy is to adopt a minimalist approach,' says Sian. 'I’m not saying become a minimalist, as most of us aren’t that way inclined, but certainly reduce what you have next to your bed. If you do need to have items on your bedside, consider containing them so that they don’t sprawl out of control – this also helps to maintain how many and what kind of items you have here as there are only so many that will fit in a small basket.

'Make it a daily habit to check what you have and possibly do a mini tidy up or declutter of items that seem to have worked their way onto or into the table.'

Bedroom with oak shelf hung at picture rail height on leather straps, over a double bed with green headboard with blush striped wallpaper

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Wreford)

What does feng shui say about bedside tables?

Feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of arranging objects and space in an environment to achieve harmony and balance (feng means wind in Chinese, and shui means water), also has some handy tips and tricks to help optimise your bedside table for wellbeing.

Firstly, opt for a bedside table with rounded edges instead of square ones to ensure that the chi flows smoothly around you while you sleep, and if you share your bed with a partner and have two bedside tables, ensure they match to enhance the stability of your relationships.

Clutter is also a firm no no according to feng shui principles. So, if it’s not a book and a bedside lamp, seriously consider whether it needs to be next to you when you sleep.

Richard Jones

Richard is a writer, editor and content strategist, who has bylines with The Telegraph, The Independent, and The Evening Standard, as well as work with brands such as Marks & Spencer, Reiss, and Huel. He takes pride in his ability to craft engaging reads on pretty much any topic imaginable, while specialising in health and wellness content. He's especially interested in sleep, and how important it is for overall health.