12 college dorm essentials to catch the perfect zzz's
You can only pull so many all-nighters.
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Moving into a college dorm is an exciting—but stressful—time, and there's lots of essentials to track down before the first week of school in August or September.
Sure, a shower caddy is great. But what about all the stuff to get a good night’s sleep? For example, colleges usually rely on twin XL mattresses—meaning it’s likely that none of your old bedding will fit a dorm bed.
Not to worry. I’m the sleep writer here at Reviewed, and though it’s been a while since I’ve lived in a dorm, I still remember stumbling into college not knowing that I’d need a comforter come winter. And after testing the best mattresses in a box for more than a year, I've learned a thing or two about making the most of your sleep situation.
Here's a list of a dozen products to pack so that you can breathe easy and sleep well from the night you first arrive.
1. Twin XL sheets to fit a standard college mattress
A dorm room should feel like a home away from home—don’t let the wrong size sheets get in the way of a smooth move-in. Twin XLs are a different game, designed to accommodate taller folks. These mattresses measure 80 inches long (compared to a regular twin’s 75 inches).
For better or worse, the different dimensions mean new bedding. Fortunately we’ve tested a bunch of the best bed sheets that are available in twin XL. The Brooklinen Luxe Core sheet set is our clear favorite, with smooth, comfortable cotton that’s a joy to sleep on. Plus, with a handful of colors, anyone can find a set that works for their dorm room aesthetic. At just over $100, they’re more expensive, but we think they’re well worth the price and will likely last several semesters.
2. An egg crate to help mask a lumpy mattress
Dorm beds aren’t exactly known for being luxurious, but a thin foam egg crate can give a much needed layer of cushion.
The Best Price egg crate is a well-reviewed and popular option on Amazon, and it's available in twin XL. Choose from 2-, 3-, and 4-inch depths, and even various infusions, such as lavender, aloe, and a charcoal-infused option that purports to provide better odor control.
Of course, spending a bit more opens other doors. A full-on mattress topper could also be a great choice to provide even more comfort.
3. The best weighted blanket we’ve tried
When I began using a weighted blanket, my sleep dramatically changed, as it distributes pressure to help you feel calm and secure. Folks who swear by them often tout their soothing abilities, and sometimes compare the sensation to a hug.
Our favorite weighted blanket is the Original Gravity Blanket, which comes with an ultra-soft cover that our tester loved. The design, however, is where it really sings, with perfectly distributed weight that doesn’t shift or fall off in the middle of the night. The Gravity Blanket comes in three sizes—15, 20, and 25 pounds—and the company recommends purchasing one that’s close to 10% of your body weight.
4. A comforter for colder nights
On move-in day, you’ll likely work up a sweat lugging boxes up flights of stairs. But in a matter of weeks, a comforter is likely inevitable and having everything upon arrival can be a massive relief when adjusting to so many changes. You won’t be scrambling to buy something the first night of fall that feels cold, and if you’re unlucky, trying to hitch a late-night ride with a roommate to Bed Bath and Beyond (yep, I’m speaking from experience).
In our testing of the best comforters, the Linenspa down alternative comforter was unbeatable. It’s filled with a warm, fluffy blend and encased in a soft microfiber cover that’s pleasant to the touch. Plus, you really can’t go wrong with a low price. While the company doesn’t offer a twin XL, the regular twin is 86 inches long, making it just big enough for a regular twin or twin XL bed.
5. The perfect pillow for any and every sleep position
In our quest to find the best bed pillow, we tested nearly 20 options. Though many of them were good, few beat the Coop Home Goods Original and Eden pillows. Both have adjustable shredded foam fill—meaning the stuffing can be tweaked based on preference.
The Original is great for anyone who prefers a pillow with a firmer sensation, whereas the Eden was a dream for me (as a stomach sleeper who needs next to nothing to rest my head on). Even for folks who tend to move about in the night, the Coop Home Goods pillows fit the bill.
- Get the Coop Home Goods Original Pillow on Amazon for $59.99
- Get the Coop Home Goods Eden Pillow on Amazon for $79.99
6. A fan to circulate air on warm nights
When there’s no central air conditioning to be found, box fans are a surefire, low-electricity option to stay cool. When I moved to Boston, I bought the Holmes box fan from Target for less than $20. It has three speeds, and years later it hasn’t failed me even on the hottest nights.
If a box fan isn’t what you’re after, we tested and loved the Vornado 660. It churns out an impressive amount of air and comes in a variety of sizes for dorm rooms small and large.
7. A sound machine to drone out noise
A sound machine could be a boon for those with roommates or noisy neighbors. The devices provide a consistent low-level of background noise that drowns out peers stumbling home from late-night parties and people driving through the parking lot at odd hours.
We love the Adaptive Sound + Sleep Sound Machine, which, according to our tester, did a great job at blocking out rogue disturbances. Plus, it has plenty of options with 10 sounds to choose from.
8. Earplugs to mask noisy roommates
Good earplugs are small and easy to pack—and will go a long way when roommates and nightly disruptions are abound.
For a tiny piece of foam, it can be harder than you’d think to find just the right pair. In our testing, the Hearos Xtreme came out on top. They’re comfortable and, most importantly, provide unparalleled sound-blocking abilities. You’ll thank us when you learn your roommate snores.
9. A sleep mask to block extra light
While earplugs can help, so can sleep masks are another—even if a roommate hustles out the door for an early morning class.
We tested a number of sleep masks, and our favorite is the Nidra Deep Rest Eye Mask. Its adjustable strap allows for a perfect fit, plus domed spaces rest above the eyes to avoid the sensation of fabric smooshed against your face.
10. An alarm to get to morning classes on time
With late nights studying and early morning classes, college can be a grind. While phones have built-in alarms, it’s not necessarily the best sleep hygiene to keep a it nearby overnight. (That’s why there are special phone settings that aim to help you sleep better.)
We’ve just begun testing alarm clocks, and after our initial research, we found a couple contenders for different preferences and needs. According to reviewers, the AmazonBasics alarm clock is a stellar option with a dimmable display and a backup battery in case the power goes out. The only consistent complaint: It doesn’t have volume control, so the buzzer is loud.
For a more gentle wake-up, look at clocks like the Loftie, which not only has different alarm settings, but also built-in meditation and sound bath features that make it an ultimate relaxation tool.
11. A mattress protector to provide an extra buffer
As a college student, I always got peace of mind by using a thick mattress protector to provide an additional buffer on a bed that’d been used by other students. While it probably doesn’t make any actual difference, I’ve learned that when it comes to sleeping well, feeling at ease is key. Plus, allergy sufferers can benefit from a layer of protection from dust mites and dust that often lurk beneath the surface.
The Tempur-Pedic mattress protector is a great water-resistant option that works on mattresses between 8 and 16 inches tall—so even if you add a 3-inch egg crate, this will fit, too. Reviewers love that it stays put and claim it provides quality and comfort.
12. A meditation app subscription to cope with stress
College isn’t all sunshine and unicorns—there will likely be cramming sessions before midterms. But stress is hard on sleep, and it’s good to have a reliable and on-tap way to wind down when schoolwork picks up.
We tested the most popular meditation apps, and Headspace has got plenty of content—a lot of which is sleep specific. Consider a subscription sooner rather than later. Getting a mindfulness practice in place will be helpful before you're in the weeds and you really need a way to destress.
Plus, Headspace has an incredible student discount. Plans are just $9.99 per year instead of $70—you can’t tell me you won’t spend that much on coffee and snacks.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.