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What is a Nightstand?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A nightstand or bedside table is a common piece of furniture in most bedrooms of today. It’s usually a small table, and may have a drawer, cabinet, a combination of drawers and cabinets, or be a very simple table. This little table is definitely convenient, and from its inception has always been so. The early bedside tables were designed to hold chamber pots, long before the advent of indoor bathrooms. These might be placed in a cabinet below the tabletop. It’s fairly obvious you wouldn’t want to smell a chamber pot all night long, but they did provide the convenience of not having to use outhouses in the middle of the night, particularly in the bitter cold.

Fortunately for most people who desire an odorless sleep, this use of the nightstand is now outdated, and we can thank those who invented the indoor toilet for making this particular use obscure. Instead, the bedside table has become a useful repository for a variety of things. You might have a small lamp, a book, an alarm clock, a glass of water, your glasses, a telephone, or any number of things on the table top of a nightstand. Those tables with drawers or cabinets would allow you to hold a few more things: medication, hairpins, a flashlight, and whatever else you think you might need at night.

The nightstand can be made from a variety of materials. Wood or pressboard wood are some of the most common choices. Price range is significant. You can buy highly expensive elaborately carved or detailed affairs that will cost over $1000 US Dollars (USD), or simple new pressboard types for about $50 USD. It’s sometimes more economical to purchase nightstands as part of a bedroom set, especially if you want your bedroom furniture to match in color and design. On the other hand, some people reason that about the only time they see their bedroom is when it’s dark, and they don’t mind unmatched pieces. In this case, if you really want to save money, try looking for used pieces. They’re often easy to find at bargain prices, even occasionally free on sites like craigslist.

Another alternative if you’re striving for economy is the plastic set of stacked drawers. These may be on rollers, or may simply sit on the floor. Drawers provide you with lots of places to hold things — they can even be sock or underwear drawers if you choose. A set of three large drawers, which you can normally get on sale for about $20 USD, is generally stable enough to hold a lamp and alarm clock. People may prefer this type of nightstand for children, since it’s durable, and is easily and inexpensively replaced if broken.

If you’re a restless sleeper, you should probably make sure your stand is an inch or two lower than the height of your bed. If it’s higher, and directly up against the topside of the bed, you risk running your head into it. If you do want a nightstand slightly higher than your bed, look for those with rounded instead or sharp corners so as not to accidentally smack your head or any other part of your body on a corner, which could be a painful event.

You should also make sure the nightstand is not too deep, particularly if you jump out of bed in the morning without looking before you leap. A deep stand might mean you’ll collide with it, which would almost certainly mean minor injury. Do however, measure anything you plan to put on a bedside table before setting out shopping. If you have a lamp with a fairly broad base, you’ll need to judge nightstand width accordingly so the lamp is stably set on the stand.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon179504 — On May 24, 2011

The nightstand for holding a chamber pot is called a commode. It may also hold a wash basin.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor,...
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