How Many Recessed Lights in the Bedroom? Finding the Perfect Balance

You’ve decided to add recessed lights to your bedroom. This is a great choice for many rooms, as recessed lights are stylish, subtle, and modern. They don’t take up much space, which can make a room appear bigger, and their ‘wall washing’ effect can hide shadows and defects on your bedroom walls.

Recessed lights started to increase in popularity in the early 2000s and the trend has only gathered pace as LEDs and smart lighting have become more common in our homes. I’ve advised hundreds of customers on their recessed lighting needs, and I’ve found that most people struggle with one big decision: How many recessed lights are right for the room? 

Too few lights will leave your bedroom looking dark and gloomy, while too many lights will be wasteful and could result in a space that looks more like a lighthouse than a relaxing bedroom!

Today, I’m going to share insights from more than two decades spent working with recessed lighting and help you find the perfect balance for your bedroom.

How Many Recessed Lights Should You Have In A Bedroom?

The first thing to note when considering how many recessed lights to install in a bedroom is that you probably don’t need as many lights as you would have in a lounge or dining room. It’s a matter of personal preference, but most people find that they need less illumination in the bedroom compared to a living space.

In my experience, there are three key factors to think about before choosing how many recessed lights to install in a bedroom. They are:

  1. The size of the room
  2. The spacing of the lights
  3. The shape of the room

We’ll look at each of these considerations in detail to work out how many recessed lights are right for your bedroom.

1. Consider the size of the room

The most important factor in determining how many recessed lights you need is the size of the room. The bigger the room, the more lights you will need. 

The first step to working out the right number of lights is therefore to measure the area of the room or, at the very least, estimate it reasonably accurately. It’s easiest to measure the floor of the room, rather than the ceiling, as the difference between the two will be negligible in most bedrooms.

If your room is square or rectangular then you should be able to calculate its area easily. Simply measure the length and the width and multiply the two numbers together. A room that is 10ft long by 8ft wide measures 80 square feet.

If your room is a more complex shape then you may need to add areas together. For example, an L-shaped room may be made up of one rectangle that is 80 square feet and a second rectangle that is 20 square feet, giving a total area of 100 square feet.

If your room is a more unusual shape then it may be easiest to estimate its area rather than calculate an exact number. You can do this by measuring as large a rectangle as possible and either taking this as your approximate area or adding a bit to account for unusual angles and alcoves.

My Rule of Thumb Based On Room Size

For a bedroom, I would recommend 35 lumens per square foot. So a 100 square foot room would require 3500 lumens of lighting. If you are using 800-lumen lights, that means you would need 4.375 lights. In other words, 4 or 5 recessed lights.

2. Plan your light spacing

The size of your bedroom will give you a good idea of how many lights you need. However, you’ll still need to work out how to space the lights around the ceiling.

Spacing your recessed lights correctly is important in order to create a visually appealing pattern and ensure consistent light coverage across the whole room.

The key factors to consider when deciding on your recessed light spacing are distance from the walls, distance between lights, and creating a symmetrical, well-balanced pattern.

My Rule of Thumb For Recessed Light Spacing

To work out how far apart your recessed lights should be, simply divide the height of the ceiling by two. For example, if your ceiling is 8ft high then you want approximately 4ft between each recessed light fitting.

Next, you should plan to leave twice as much space in between the lights as you leave between the lights and the wall.

For example, let’s consider a 12ft x 9ft room, with a ceiling height of 8ft. 

The first rule of thumb means you want approximately 4ft between the lights.

The second rule of thumb means you want approximately 2ft between the lights and the walls.

The diagram below shows how we have achieved this along the length of the room. There are two squares (each representing 1ft) between the lights and the walls and four squares between each light.

Looking vertically, we haven’t been able to stick exactly to the first rule, as there is only 3ft between the lights. However, we have stuck to the second rule, as there is 1.5ft between the lights and the walls.

We can then consider our lumens per area from earlier. Remember – for a bedroom, I recommend about 35 lumens per square foot.

If each of these lights is 800 lumens then we would have 7,200 lumens in this room. The room is 108 square feet (12ft x 9ft), so that means we currently have 67 lumens per square foot. That’s more than we want, so we can either reduce the lumens of each bulb, or the number of lights.

In this case, I would recommend changing the layout to the below.

Horizontally, we have 4ft between each light and 2ft between the lights and the east and west walls.

Vertically, we have 3ft between each light and 3ft between the lights and the north and south walls. We’ve therefore bent our spacing rule a little bit here, but remember it is only a guide.

We now have six lights in our 108ft area. If each light was 800 lumens then we would have 4,800 lumens in the room, which is 44 lumens per square foot. This is much closer to our target figure of 35 lumens per square foot!

Deciding on the number of recessed lights for your bedroom isn’t an exact science and you will probably have to go through a process like this to adjust your lighting configuration and work out a sensible number of lights for your space.

3. Look at the shape of the room

Having considered the size of your bedroom and the spacing of your recessed lights, you should have a good idea of the number of lights you need. However, there is still one more variable that could cause you to tweak the number slightly, and that’s the shape of the room.

Does your room have alcoves? Are there angled corners? Or maybe the ceiling slopes in places? 

Unique characteristics like this could cause you to adjust the number of lights you need. For example, the rules of thumb above may suggest you need four lights in your bedroom, but you might decide you want an additional light in each of the two alcoves. And that’s fine! Not everything can be calculated by a formula, and ultimately it is your room to light how you want to.

If you do decide to add additional lights then I suggest going back to the lumen rule to check it makes sense. Are you way above 35 lumens? If so – and assuming you don’t want to reduce the number of lights – then you may want to buy a dimmer bulb or make sure your lights are fitted with a dimmer switch to avoid the room being too bright.

Other Factors To Consider When Choosing Recessed Lights For The Bedroom

Hopefully, my advice will have helped you to feel much more confident about calculating the number of recessed lights for your bedroom.

The size and shape of the room and the spacing of the lights are by far the most important factors, and if you follow my rules of thumb then you can’t go far wrong.

However, there are some other minor considerations that you may want to think about when choosing your recessed lights or tweaking the number that you choose to install in your bedroom.

  • Size: Recessed lights come in 4-inch, 5-inch, and 6-inch sizes as standard. If you have a lot of lights then you may want to choose a smaller size. Whereas if you have just a few lights in a large room then the 6-inch fitting may be best for your space.
  • Brightness: As well as thinking about the number of lights, you should also think about the number of lumens in the room and from each bulb. I recommend choosing lights that are compatible with a dimmer switch to give you more flexibility in choosing how bright your bedroom is.
  • Color temperature: A warm light is generally considered more relaxing than a bright white light. I recommend looking for bulbs in the range of 2750K to 3750K to make your bedroom feel cozy and help your body prepare for sleep.
  • Efficiency: Choosing an efficient bulb – most likely an LED bulb – is good for the environment and for your wallet! 
  • Style and Decor: Do recessed lights fit the style of your room? How will recessed lights complement or contrast with other lighting in the room, such as bedside table lamps?
  • Installation and Maintenance: How will you install your recessed lights and will it be easy to reach them to change the bulbs when needed? 
  • Cost: Remember, each recessed light will cost you money for the fitting, the bulb, installation, and the electricity that it uses. If budget is a concern then it’s best to avoid having more lights than is strictly necessary. 

Final Thoughts on Recessed Bedroom Lighting

I understand that choosing how many recessed lights to install in your bedroom can be daunting. The last thing you want to do is spend lots of money on nice light fittings and an electrician to install them, then find that they look badly arranged or the room is far brighter or dimmer than you intended.

However, with a bit of planning, some basic maths, a little bit of judgment, and perhaps some professional advice from your electrician, it really isn’t difficult to choose a sensible number of lights for any space.

My top tips to take away from this article are:

  1. Aim for approximately 35 lumens per square foot of your bedroom.
  2. Arrange your lights in an evenly spaced, symmetrical pattern.
  3. The distance between your lights should be roughly half the height of your bedroom ceiling.
  4. The distance between the lights and the walls should be roughly half the distance between the lights.
  5. Bend these rules if you have to. They are just a guide, and it’s your bedroom after all!

Good luck!

John Bayly

John Bayly

John has dedicated his career to the lighting industry. Starting out as an interior designer with a specialism in lighting, he went on to found his own commercial lighting business. He now shares his expertise and passion for all things lighting with readers of