10 ways to make a dorm bed more comfortable

Just like magic ✨

White dorm bed on blue background
(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

Going to college is one of the most exciting times of your life and moving into a dorm is a big part of this experience. Dorm life is a lot of fun. From meeting new people to making friends and going to parties—it’s something you shouldn’t miss out on if you’re going away to school. 

On the other hand, dorms themselves are not exactly luxurious places to live. However, these sparse spaces are easy to make comfortable and are ripe with opportunities to express your sense of style, according to Allison Spampanato, the senior vice president of product design and development for Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teen. “A dorm is a blank slate for decorating," she says.

But function is just as important as form, especially when it comes to dorm beds. After all, a dorm isn’t a hotel, so it's your job to make this space your home away from home. If you find the mattress waiting for you on move-in day is lumpy, rock solid, or awful in some other way, here are 10 things you can do to make a dorm bed more comfortable.

1. A mattress topper

While you might be used to a nice mattress at home, it’s unlikely your college-issued one will be anywhere near as comfortable. Fortunately, a mattress topper can be an easy solution to this problem. There are several different types available, including pillow top and memory foam, so be sure to choose whatever material you find the most comfortable. 

2. A mattress protector

There’s no way of telling how old a dorm mattress is or what happened on the mattress before you moved into the room, so investing in a quality mattress protector is key. In addition to giving the bed a “clean slate” of sorts, mattress protectors also protect the bed from dust mites, moisture, and bed bugs. 

3. Good sheets

Even if you are on a budget, quality bedding is the one thing worth the splurge. While most college beds are twin XL, it’s important to double-check before buying anything. Websites like Target, Walmart, Pottery Barn Teen, and Amazon are all great places to look for twin XL sheets (as these sheets are slightly longer than standard twin sizes). You might also want to consider bedding in a bag sets, as these will come with everything you need to make a comfy bed.

4. A high-quality comforter

College can be stressful with a capital S. Therefore there's nothing nicer than having a fluffy comforter waiting for you in bed to help you decompress. A colorful or patterned comforter also helps to decorate the room. 

Pro tip: Be sure to choose a comforter as opposed to a duvet because putting on a duvet can be a little bit difficult within the confines of a dorm room or if your bed is lofted. 

5. Quality pillows

It’s hard to get shut-eye on flat or lumpy pillows, so it’s crucial to find the best pillow for your sleep style. Whether you prefer down, down alternative, or another material, there are so many different types of pillows out there. While this might be something you want to try out in person, buying online is certainly more convenient. We've reviewed plenty and there are numerous shoppers who've left their take on pillows they've tried, so dive deep into these hot takes before hitting "Add to Cart."

Adding a few decorative throw pillows can also help make your dorm bed more comfortable and stylish. 

6. A headboard

Spampanato tells me, “Dorm bed frames are usually very basic, so you can transform your sleep space into a comfortable spot to lounge by adding a dorm-approved headboard in an upholstered fabric or faux leather that can be secured to the wall with adhesive backing.”

While a headboard isn’t 100% necessary, it instantly elevates the entire dorm room. A soft headboard also makes it much easier to sit up in bed and work. If you buy a nice one, you can also use it when you move out of your dorm into an apartment or house. 

7. A nightstand or bedside table

This doesn't necessarily affect your bed directly, but it does make sleeping and your nighttime routine much more comfy. While most colleges will provide basic furniture such as bed frames and desks, they might not provide a side table or nightstand for keeping things like your phone, a lamp, or a bottle of water. It’s best to go with a nightstand that has at least one or two drawers so you can also use it for extra storage, such as this handy wheeled one from Dormify.

8. Ear plugs

Remember, just because you have a test tomorrow morning at 8:30 am doesn’t mean that everyone else does too. Dorms are rarely quiet places to live, so using a pair of earplugs can help drown out everything from parties to your roommate’s loud music to whatever is happening on the other side of the wall.  

9. An eye mask

Dorm lighting is notoriously harsh and if your roommate is studying or writing a paper late at night, they might need to keep those strong overhead lights on. Don’t let that interfere with your sleep. Having an eye mask on hand — like this highly-rated silk pick from Amazon — is a simple solution to this problem.

10. A white noise machine

College has its stressful moments, which can make falling asleep very challenging. Instead of watching a movie on your phone or putting on music, opt for a sound machine instead. Whether you prefer white noise, water, or ambient music, these sounds can help soothe and relax you into slumber.

Amanda Lauren

Hi, I’m Amanda Lauren. I’m a design expert and interior stylist who writes for Real Homes, Forbes, Real Simple among other publications. I live in Los Angeles in the historic neighborhood of Hancock Park with my husband, and two dogs, Lulu and Milo. We also have a baby coming in spring 2023. I’m a big believer in finding beautiful things at all price points. There are so many places to find affordable things, you just have to look for them. If you don't find it at first, look harder!