In the previous articles of Vivid Invest’s Health Blueprint series we covered how to ensure clean indoor air and how to choose the most effective water filtration system for your home. In this article you will learn how to eradicate noise and light pollution to turn your home into a sanctuary where sleep and relaxation are naturally and effortlessly achieved. We provide tips on choosing the right lighting for your home, designing a bedroom to optimize sleep and design elements like Biophilia that help you de-stress.
How to choose the right lighting for your home
Like plants, humans thrive when there is an abundance of natural light. We are programmed to follow the circadian rhythm, our internal body clock. The circadian rhythm is an internal cycle, that regulates the sleep-wake sequence and repeats every 24-hours. It is mainly synchronized by light. This is why the quality, type and timing of light exposure can have a profound impact on your health. Long-term disruption or de-synchronization of the circadian rhythm has been linked to depression, diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic disorders. Modern lighting often disrupts our circadian rhythm. We should be exposed to bright, blue-spectrum sunlight in the morning and warmer light in the evening. Instead we are constantly exposed to electric light and blue light (e.g. via our smartphones). That is one reason why Apple introduced the dark mode. It reduces the amount of blue light you come into contact with to help you sleep better.
- Maximize natural light and ventilation: This can be achieved by realigning and enlarging windows where possible, installing ceiling and exhaust fans. For windows, we suggest choosing UV-protected double or triple glazing windows.
- Circadian Lighting: Install energy-efficient lighting fixtures and controls that enable indoor light to mimic outdoor natural light. Your lighting system should mirror the color and brightness of sunlight over the course of a day. Lighting in your bathroom and bedroom should have different settings for the morning and evening. In the morning, the light should be bright with a greater amount of blue color and in the evening, it should be warmer and lead you towards sleep. If a circadian mood lighting system is cost-prohibitive, try a natural sleep & wake up alarm clock lamp like the Philips SmartSleep range. They enable a gentle wake-up by mimicking a natural sunrise and make you feel less out of sync in the morning. We also recommend a bathroom mirror with integrated lighting that gives you the extra ‘wake up nudge’ in the mornings.
How to design a bedroom to optimize sleep?
According to a 2016 healthy living survey, Hong Kongers on average only get 6.5 hours sleep a day and 2.8 million of us suffer from insomnia. In America, the Center for Disease Control called sleep problems a public health epidemic, responsible for billions of dollars lost in economic productivity, fatal accidents caused by sleep deprivation, a rise in obesity and sleep apnea. Sleep is crucial for your memory, learning performance, recovery, and overall health. We spend more time sleeping than we do eating and exercising combined. Therefore, your bedroom should be a refuge that promotes total renewal, relaxation, and good sleep.
- No electronic devices: Ban electronic devices, like TVs, smartphones, computers, and tablets from your bedroom. The blue light they are emitting disturbs sleep and leads to the suppression of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that signals the body that it is time to go to sleep. Your bedroom should be your refuge and sanctuary. Buy a traditional alarm clock and do not use your phone to wake you up.
- Air purification: Ensure that the air you breath when you are asleep is clean and fresh. We strongly suggest installing an air purifier in your bedrooms. Follow the recommendations in our previous blog post about 6 ways to improve indoor air quality and reduce allergens in your home. The article also contains our air purifier recommendation.
- Blackout shades: Install black-out shades to eliminate light pollution. We should sleep in total darkness because any exposure to light inhibits the sleep hormone Melatonin. Closing your eyes alone does not help because your skin can detect artificial light. The Hong Kong night sky is 1000 times brighter than it would be without artificial light. Our urban light pollution can even create a mini jetlag. Consider wearing a sleep mask.
- Eradicate noise: Double or triple glazed windows, sound absorbing lamps and acoustic panels can be effective in soundproofing your bedroom. Other alternatives are earplugs or white noise machines that also do a good job blocking out any random noise.
- Mattress: Your mattress should be organic and not contain petroleum-based polyester, nylon, or polyurethane foam. These emit VOCs and can contain toxic flame retardants. Avoid memory foam and look for organic cotton, natural latex, wool, cashmere, bamboo, or silk. Wash your sheets once a week. If possible, use hot water (55-65 °C) and a hot dryer cycle to kill all germs. Vacuum your mattress every six months and rotate it head to toe every six months as well. Pillows can be a great breeding ground for fungi and dust mites. Wash them every three to six months using the gentle cycle on your machine, run the rinse cycle twice and put them in the dryer. Go for hypoallergenic and natural bedding.
- Flooring: Avoid carpet in the bedroom and go for hardwood flooring instead. Carpets harbor allergens, trap dust mites, pollen, and mold-spores.
- Temperature: Sleep in cool temperatures around 18-22 C. Imagine your bedroom as a cave. It should be cool, quiet and pitch dark. Like our circadian clock, our body temperatures follow a natural pattern of highs and lows during a 24-hour period as well. A person’s peak temperature occurs in the late afternoon and the lowest at around 5 a.m. The ability to shed heat and feel cool has a profound impact on how well you sleep. Studies have shown that cooler body temperatures lead to more deep sleep.
How to create a home environment that helps you de-stress?
A home should be optimized for comfort and aesthetics to engineer a happier state of mind.
- What is Biophilic Design? Biophilic Design aims to seamlessly integrate plants, natural building materials and natural colors into the built environment. It is well documented that Biophilic Design has a profound positive impact on your health and well-being:
- Faster recovery from illness: Studies have shown that patients recovering in hospital rooms with views of nature and/or live plants enjoyed shorter hospital stays and less medication than patients without.
- Reduced stress: People living and working in natural environments, characterized by open spaces, plants, and ample exposure to daylight experience less stress, fewer health problems, lower blood pressure, better mood, motivation & performance.
- Improved cognitive function: for example access to plant life is of critical importance to children and fosters healthy growth and brain development. Contact with nature has been shown to enhance performance of tasks that require a high level of concentration and good memory.
- How to apply Biophilic Design in your home?
- Introduce plants into your home, e.g. snake plants (easy to care for plus air purifying)
- Follow our earlier recommendations on choosing the right lighting for your home
- Use natural colors (earth tones) to create a calm and relaxed environment
- Pick natural materials like FSC certified hardwood, reeds, organic fibers, natural stone and natural colors for your walls, floors, surfaces, and furniture
- Focus on shapes and forms that can be found in the natural world this can extend to botanical motifs and patterns.
- Consider the installation of an aquarium and/or an ethanol fireplace.
If you would like to find out more about the underlying evidence and studies that prove the many health benefits of Biophilic Design, please check out the Sources section at the end of this article.
Our next article in the Vivid Invest Healthy Home Blueprint series will talk about personal performance and fitness. We will answer the question How your home can nudge you towards a healthier lifestyle? If you don’t want to miss out on any of our publications please make sure to subscribe to our newsletter.
We are always happy to hear about new solutions, products, technologies to create a healthier, cleaner indoor air environment.
If you have any suggestions for us please feel free to reach out to us.
- The International WELL Building Standard
- Delos: The Science Behind Healthy Homes: 25 factors that impact your home, 2020
- Bodin Danielsson, Christina. “The Office – An Explorative Study: Architectural Design’s Impact on Health, Job Satisfaction, and Well-Being”. Sweden Royal Institute of Technology School of Architecture and the Built Environment. 2010.
- Kellert S.R., Heerwagen J.H., Mador M.L. “Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life”. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2008
- Larsen, Larissa, Jeffrey Adams, Brian Deal. “Plants in the Workplace: the effects of plant density on productivity, attitudes, and perceptions.” Environment and Behaviour. May 1998.
- Kellert S.R., Heerwagen J.H., Mador M.L. “Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life.” John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2008
- Largo-Wight, Erin, PhD, W. William Chen, PhD, and Robert Weiler, PhD, MPH. “Healthy Workplaces: The Effects of Nature Contact at Work on Employee Stress and Health.” Public Health Reports. May – June 2011.
- Sleep-deprived and internet-mad, Hongkongers place last in healthy living survey of Asia, SCMP 9. May 2016
- How Hong Kong’s urban light pollution creates ‘mini jet lags’, SCMP 26 Oct 2014