Style & Shopping

Here’s Everything You Need for the Dorm Bed of Your Dreams

updated Mar 27, 2024
Dorm Therapy received compensation for this post, which was written and edited independently by our editorial team.
Wooden nightstand and wooden bed with simple decor and accent colors
Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Apartment Therapy

There are two universal truths about sleep in college: The first is that if you want to be able to juggle academics, extracurriculars, and a social life, getting good sleep is absolutely paramount. The second, which stands in direct opposition to the first, is that sleep isn’t always the easiest to come by in a college dorm.

I mean, those twin XL beds aren’t exactly ideal — the mattresses are usually thin and stiff, storage space is sparse, and there’s very little personality to make a student feel at home. But after spending the past three years working to perfect my tiny, multifunctional sleeping situation (aka my dorm bed), I’ve learned it’s possible to not only make your dorm bed comfortable; but to also do so in style. Selecting your ideal bedding, optimizing storage, and picking out accessories that speak to you will help make your bed feel like your dorm room’s most sacred space. And I’m here to show you how to do it.

Below, check out all the must-have (and nice-to-have) items every dorm bed should have, along with some product recommendations for each category. The bed of your dreams awaits!

1. A Mattress Protector

A mattress protector will not only protect you from any possible germs left behind from previous owners, but it will also protect your mattress from any spills and stains you may leave behind. (And don’t worry — schools clean their dorm furniture in between residents; you can check with your building’s staff for more information about their cleaning policies.)

You’ll be happy to learn that not only is Purple’s mattress protector water- and stain-resistant, but that its flexible fabric is also supremely comfortable and crinkle-free. It also protects against dander and dust mites, and if you do spill something on it, you can just throw the protector in the washer!

This thick mattress protector is designed for maximum breathability. Not only that, but it’s waterproof, which protects your mattress (and your security deposit) from any potential spills and stains.

2. Twin XL Sheets

Sheets are the baseline element of your college bedding, so be sure to pick out a set you love. You can choose between a variety of fabrics, including cotton, linen, flannel, synthetic, and more.

You don’t always need to buy expensive sheets to have a cozy bed. These affordable microfiber sheets from Target come in various colors and patterns to suit your aesthetic. The set includes a flat sheet, a fitted sheet, and a matching pillowcase.

If you’re into solid-colored bed sheets, this cotton blend set is a great choice for you. You’ll get a flat sheet, a fitted sheet, and a pillowcase, which you can pair with a comforter that complements it well.

3. A Comforter

Whether you’re into thick, fluffy comforters or thinner, quilt-like options, you’ll want something that’s cozy enough to keep you comfortable, yet durable enough to make it through multiple dorms. 

Add some texture to your room with this faux fur comforter. The thickness is great, especially for colder climates — or roommates who love to blast the air conditioner.

If you’re looking for a comforter to bring a touch of glam into your room, the geometric metallic design on this comforter set is a great option. Not only does this set include a comforter, but it also comes with a standard sham and two throw pillows to create a cohesive aesthetic.

4. Pillows

Give yourself the comfort and support you deserve to get the sleep you need!

If you’ve ever heard ads for this brand on your favorite podcast, please know I think it’s worth the hype. The pillow comes in two sizes (standard and king), and you can choose one of three levels of firmness: soft, medium, or firm.

You’ve got to love a two-pack! The brand describes this set as “hotel-quality,” and it comes in soft, medium, or firm levels.

5. Throw Pillows

One often-overlooked aspect of bedding is the decorative pillow. Yes, regular pillows are important for comfort during sleep, but throw pillows are all about style, so you can pick out the colors, sizes, textures, and shapes that showcase your personal taste.

This knot pillow not only adds a soft texture with its plush, sherpa-textured shell, but the shape will also provide an interesting contrast to your standard rectangular or square-shaped pillows. You can find it in various colors.

If you prefer a traditionally shaped pillow but crave not-so-basic designs, this one offers the best of both worlds. The woven pattern and playful pom-poms add a pop of fun to your bed.

6. Throw Blankets

Just like throw pillows, decorative throw blankets are important for your room’s overall aesthetic. But it’s not just about looks; throws are practical to have if you get cold but aren’t completely ready to get into bed yet.

If you’re a minimalist, this lightweight, solid-colored handwoven fringe throw, which comes in five different colors, will be your new fave. Although this blanket is on the pricier side, it’ll likely last you all four years of school and beyond.

Whenever I look at this blanket, I envision jumping into a large swath of clouds. The material is ruched to create the fluffy, “full” feel that will instantly give your room a warm and cozy vibe.

7. A Mattress Topper

Dorm beds aren’t exactly known for their comfort, so you may need an extra layer of cushion in order to get a good night’s sleep.

Mattress toppers can be quite pricey, but this one from Target is a cost-effective option. It’s made of memory foam, which can help relieve pressure at different points on the body, resulting in a softer, more comfortable place to sleep. 

Temperature regulation can be difficult in a dorm room, especially if you don’t have access to your own thermostat. That means you’ll likely need to find alternative ways to cool yourself off at some point in the semester, so having a mattress topper like this one, which has cooling gel and aloe, can be a huge help.

8. Under-Bed Storage

In order to maximize your storage space while staying organized, you can (and should) utilize the area below your bed — which will also help keep clutter out of sight.

This rolling wire cart will help you keep things organized while providing easy access to items you might need on a regular basis. Use it to store extra linens, clothing, and more.

This stackable box will store pretty much anything you need to store, while the clear polypropylene material makes it easy to view everything inside so you can grab and go with ease.

9. A Real Alarm Clock

Unless you want to be like me, the student who accidentally slept through her Spanish final, I highly recommend you invest in a real alarm clock. Sure, you could use your phone, but what if you forget to charge it overnight? Also, while you probably sleep with your phone in bed right next to you, you can keep your alarm clock on your desk or dresser, meaning you’ll have to get out of bed to turn it off, which will ensure you actually wake up.

If an obnoxious, blaring noise doesn’t do it for you, this alarm clock uses adjustable light to make you feel like you’re rising with the sun.

This mini clock will get the job done without taking up too much space in your room. Rather than jamming any buttons, you have to flip it upside-down to turn it off, which will help wake your body up and get you ready to start the day.

10. Bed Risers

These simple yet effective products are low-key one of the most important things to buy for your dorm room. With a variety of options to match your aesthetic and desired bed height, bed risers are a cost-effective way to maximize your under-bed space.

These risers offer a flexible storage solution, as they come in two different heights (four 3.8-inch risers and four 5.8-inch risers) and they can be used individually or stacked on top of one another.

If you’re looking for a tall riser set, this 8-inch option from Wayfair is for you. Not only are these risers durable, but they’ll also add a sleek, stylish look to your room.

11. Bedside Storage

Who has the space for a nightstand? Not me! Thankfully, there are plenty of smaller, space-saving options to store items like your phone or jewelry before falling asleep.

If you’re looking for a minimal, sleek style, this caddy is a must-have, eliminating the need to get out of bed to access important items, as all of your basics — phone, water bottle, books, and more — can be stored in their own little compartments. 

This bedside shelf has all the basics and more built into one compact unit. Not only are there two rearrangeable hooks, but there’s also a compartment to put other small belongings, such as your glasses or snacks — and there’s a cup holder! This bedside shelf also includes a slot to pull a cord through, so you can charge your phone overnight while it stays within arm’s reach.

12. A Headboard

Although headboards aren’t a necessity, they do have a ton of benefits beyond just looking cute. They can help maximize the stability of your bed by providing a backboard for you to set up your pillows (or Squishmallow collection). Plus, these offer great sound barriers between your head and whatever’s going on in the room next door.

This headboard is unique, as it will cover an entire corner of your wall. It comes in a range of materials and neutral colors. You can mount it on the wall or use adhesive velcro.

Not only does this handmade headboard offer easy installation (just place the legs on the floor behind your bed!), but it’s also an affordable way to capture the boho aesthetic.

Nyjah Harris


Nyjah is a lover of sunsets, blueberry muffins, and shopping trips. If you can’t find her in the romance section of the bookstore, check your nearest Starbucks. Alongside writing and content creation, Nyjah is also a violinist who’s a little bit too obsessed with the composer Felix Mendelssohn.

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SchoolOld Dominion University '25
FavesStarbucks’ pink drink, romance novels, sunsets, orchestra
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