Even more fundamental to a home than kitchen or bath facilities is that it contains a place to sleep. The usual requirements for this place is that during sleeping hours it be dark, quiet, and cool, but there are exceptions even to these requirements. Small children may be afraid of the dark, lifelong city dwellers need noise to sleep soundly, and plenty of people find wintertime bedrooms too cold.
If I had to choose only one piece of furniture to live with I would want a bed, because I could use it for sleeping, relaxing, and working. When I was a student, I observed that many people would prefer to have a chest of drawers and sleep on the floor–so to each his own. You should choose your sleeping place to fit your fancy; high or low, soft or hard, and anything else you desire.
Most people like to sleep on a mattress and box springs. Mattresses used to be rotated as well as flipped to provide even wear, but it seems that most new mattresses are “non flip”, meaning that only one side is usable. These should still be rotated every three to six months for even wear. It is my observation that these non-flip mattresses simply wear out twice as fast as old, flippable ones.
You should have some kind of cover over your mattress, underneath your bottom sheet. This serves to absorb smells, oils, and moisture and protect the mattress from being soiled by them. There are very plain mattress covers available, with only a little padding, and deep luxurious ones wadded with goose down. There are heated ones and there are waterproof ones. You best know which kind you need. The mattress cover should be laundered at least twice a year; I wash mine quarterly.
What sheets to choose are a highly personal matter, but you will want at minimum a bottom sheet (either fitted or flat) and a pillowcase. Most people also want a top sheet to go between them and the blankets, though IKEA is making duvets with covers an increasingly popular replacement for both top sheet and blankets. If you use a duvet with cover instead of a top sheet, the duvet cover should be washed on the same schedule as your bottom sheet and pillowcase. Sheets with synthetic content tend to pill. Sheets with high thread counts tend to wear out faster than sheets with low content. “Sateen” weave sheets feel luxuriously soft but wear out more quickly than other weaves. “Percale” is another word for high thread count; before thread counts skyrocketed, it meant any sheet over 250 thread count. My own preference in sheets is an all-cotton sateen weave sheet with no anti-wrinkle treatments and a thread count around 300. Sheets need to be washed often; a popular schedule is once a week.
Blankets pile on top of the sheets to keep you warm at night. They range from “summer blankets” that are barely heavier than a sheet, to cotton blankets, wool blankets, acrylic blankets, and duvets filled with real or artificial down. I suggest that you choose blankets which can be laundered on a regular schedule (I do mine quarterly).
Pillows come in a wide range of soft, firm, synthetic filled, down filled, foam rubber… the choices are dizzying. Choose a pillow that makes you comfortable, including possibly none at all (I don’t always sleep on my stomach, but when I do I push the pillow aside). It is best if your pillow can be washed. To do this, prop two or three pillows around the inside of the wash tub making sure they are evenly spaced so they don’t through the machine out of alignment. Wash with hot water on the gentle cycle and run an extra spin cycle. Then dry at medium heat with tennis balls, repeating as necessary (two 60 minute cycles get my pillows dry) or let sit in bright sunlight until perfectly dry. Pillows that are left damp in the middle will mold and smell bad.
I have already discussed window treatments; you are most likely to want light-blocking ones in the bedroom.
It is best to have fresh air where you sleep, because you are spending hours and hours breathing in exactly the same spot overnight. A room without ventilation will have a sour smell after someone has slept in it all night. Even a ventilated room will improve with a good airing after you wake up in the morning; you can open a window and pull back your bed covers to let the mattress and blankets breathe while you get ready, then make the bed before you leave home.
Lastly, dust control is more important in the bedroom than anywhere else in the home, for the same reason good ventilation is desirable. Vacuum and dust around your bed as often as you can manage, your sinuses will thank you for it.
And that is an outline of what I have learned about places to sleep… it was so hard to write this and not directly quote Cheryl Mendelson’s chapter on sleeping places in Home Comforts. If you want motivation to dust your bedroom I strongly recommend reading the two chapters “The Cave of Nakedness” and “The Air In Your Castle.” Dust mites… yuck.