You’ve probably heard that bad sleep is bad for your health. Actually, good sleep is the foundation of good health, high productivity, good relationships, and your ability to manage stress. Good design in your bedroom and your home can make sure it’s not only beautiful and functional, but is also set up to support your best sleep possible. Why is sleep such a big deal? The only time your body gets chance to repair itself and replenish its supply of energy, hormones, and neurotransmitters is when you are asleep. A healthy adult needs an average of about eight hours and fifteen minutes of uninterrupted sleep to be his or her best. Of course, if you’re sick, stressed, or recovering from an injury you need more than the average. Studies have shown that when you don’t get enough sleep, or your sleep is disturbed, your body goes into a state of stress and triggers the fight or flight response. This can lead to things like depression, decreased cognitive function, and physical illness. When you don’t sleep properly you could actually be more impaired than someone who’s over the legal limit for alcohol consumption. By the way, when you’re not sleeping properly, it’s practically impossible for you to lose weight or build muscle efficiently. Local designer, Ellen Walker, shares her own personal experience with us from a little while ago: “We recently had some trees removed from our backyard. A few days after that, I noticed that I was more tired, rundown, and even a little bit more irritable. Then I realized that the trees were blocking out a lot of the moonlight and early-morning sunlight that now come into our bedroom. My sleep was affected by making a design choice in our backyard landscaping. So it only makes sense that the design inside of our bedrooms also has a huge influence over the quality and quantity of the sleep we get.” What’s the deal with light? Your body is adapted to having its best and most restful sleep in the dark. When your body senses light, it gets a physiological signal that it’s time for your brain to start working and your body to wake up. Things like streetlights, alarm clocks, TVs, and screens from your cell phone, tablet, or computer all affect your sleep in a negative way. Walker suggests ideas like black-out blinds on your windows; even the right window treatments can stop unwanted light from getting into your bedroom. “Choosing the right lighting fixtures and bulbs also makes it difference,” says the designer. “Lights that are skewed toward the blue part of the spectrum,” (like LED bulbs), “changes your brain function and signals you to wake up as opposed to go to sleep. It also throws off your circadian rhythm or body clock forcing your body to always be playing catch-up and for you to feel groggy.” Does noise play a part? Noise also plays an important part in the quality of sleep you get night. Your conscious mind may get used to traffic noise or the neighbour’s dog barking, but your unconscious mind and your body are always aware of these disturbances. You might not know you wake up, but your body’s sleep is disrupted by noise. Some ideas Walker gives us for a proper design of our bedrooms to help greatly reduce the effect of unwanted noise on sleep includes window treatments, which can be designed and insulated for sound and sound attenuation; art and bedding, which can help dampen unwanted noise; soundproofing, which you can do right in your own home and bedroom; and even a separate sleeping area, which may be helpful if your partner snores. These little things seem like they’re not a big deal, but they really are because even though you’re not consciously aware of this stuff, your physiology does pick up the barking noise, the plane flying overhead, the kids playing in the street, or the snow removal at night now and it does disturb your sleep, so you don’t get that deep, heavy sleep you need to reach that point of rejuvenation. (By the way, things like snoring, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome, affect not only the person with the diagnosis, but also anyone who sleeps with that person.) What about things like furniture placement and other design elements? Do they make a difference? “Bedrooms with high ceilings can feel unsettling,” says Walker. “This can be solved with a canopy bed or false ceiling. You feel more safe and secure when you have a feeling of containment. You also want to place your bed with your head away from a window or door. Again, this enhances your feeling of security, makes you feel calm, and helps you to get better quality sleep. Other elements like having natural textures, soothing colors, and scenes of nature also improve the quality of your sleep.” The effect that these design elements have on your sleep may surprise you, but your body and your mind are subtly affected by all of these factors. Just because you don’t consciously notice them doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Even things like temperature (around 20°C or 68°F is optimal) or the scents in your bedroom have an effect on your sleep. Having said that, consider Walker’s ideas: installing an automatic for thermostat to make sure that your bedroom is at the optimal temperature for you to get your best rest and have scents in your bedroom like lavender or jasmine to help you sleep better at night—can also increase your concentration and alertness the following day. Remember: even things that seem really subtle can have a significant effect on your sleep as well as your health and productivity—even in the following days. So as we start off this New Year let’s make it a restful one—by design.
Health, Love, Happiness, Success Dr. Ganz Ferrance
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