It is interesting to note that a number of European languages – all of them more or less related to English – call the room where we sleep the “sleep room” instead of the “bedroom” or “bedchamber”. In Swedish it’s the “sovrum”, in Dutch the “slaapkamer”, in German the “Schlafzimmer”, and the list continues.
When you think about it, it’s not very surprising that a room designed for the specific purpose of sleeping would be called the “sleep room”. So the interesting question is why this concept has not transferred into English, where we have used the word bedroom (or bedchamber) – i.e. the room in which we had our bed – since approximately 1600.
This may have resulted from the nobility’s practice of taking their beds with them when they toured the country: the bed was then erected in a suitable room in the house they were visiting, which thus became the “bed room” – or room with the bed it. When ordinary people were able to construct additional rooms to permanently house their beds, they too would be termed “bedrooms”.
But when you consider that every sleep specialist will tell you that the bedroom should be reserved for sleep, it might help get the message across if we too started calling the bedroom the “sleep room”. After all, it’s not your office, your games room, your cinema or your gym! It’s the place you sleep.
Dr. Neil Stanley
Dr Neil Stanley is an independent sleep expert who has been involved in research for over 35 years. After starting out at the R.A.F. Institute of Aviation Medicine, he moved on to the University of Surrey's Human Psychopharmacology Research Unit, where he was Director of Sleep Research. Today, he travels the world lecturing on various aspects of sleep to both healthcare professionals and the public at large.