What’s essential for feeling good, thinking clearly, being creative, getting along in relationships and staying healthy? It’s not a pill and it’s not on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s simply good sleep.
And yet, many people put sleep last in this 24/7 electrified world with its dizzying array of choices vying for our time: work, family obligations, Facebook, socializing, online shopping, reading, working out etc… Sometimes, though, it’s simply our jobs that interfere, especially those who work night shifts.
Regardless of why, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes insufficient sleep as a public health epidemic and has found more than a third of adults reported sleeping less than the minimum recommended amount of 7 hours. (The National Sleep Foundation says adults should get between 7-9 hours each night.)
According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, Americans currently average 6.8 of sleep at night, down by more than an hour from 1942. That’s significant. Today, four out of 10 Americans nightly sleep less than the recommended amount, while 70 years ago, just 11 percent did.
We recognize the importance of good sleep. That’s why our CEO, Sam, was asked to speak on a panel – Designing for a Good Night’s Sleep – at Dwell Magazine’s Dwell on Design event in New York City this weekend. He will discuss why it’s important to have a dark, quiet bedroom and ways of designing for sleep.
Light stimulates a neural path to areas of the brain that regulate hormones, body temperatures and other functions that make us feel tired or wide awake. Natural and artificial light affect our circadian rhythm or “body clock” which lets us know when it’s time to sleep and regulates other physiological processes. Light also affects sleep by suppressing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
So watching TV or answering emails right before bed gives your body a big dose of blue light and can make it harder to sleep. Bright street lights or commercial lights that stay on all night and shine in bedroom windows can have the same effect.
Noise has huge implications for people’s health, but only in recent years have people started to realize noise exposure can cause more than hearing loss. Experts are beginning to realize sustained and chronic exposure is leading to cardiovascular disease.
During sleep, a person’s cardiovascular system doesn’t get used to noise, according to Rick Neitzel at the University of Michigan. Blood pressure rises and heart rate increases with noise level even though the person is unconscious. And this in turn leads to sleep fragmentation. Quiet bedrooms help people get the deep sustained sleep they need.
Below are some concrete, effective steps involved in designing for a good night’s sleep:
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible. Remove computers, televisions and cellphones from the room and then block as much outside lights as possible. Effective options include:
- Indow Sleep Panels, which block 100 percent of the light and more than 50 percent of the noise.
- Blackout shades, blackout curtains or blackout window covers.
- Consider installing f.lux on computers, which will program your computer to match the warm light of evening instead of emitting blue light that sends “wake up!” signals to your body. Another option is to wear orange safety goggles at night to block the blue light of television and computer screens.
- Create a quiet bedroom. Also, understand that noise behaves a lot like drafts.
- Indow Acoustic Grade inserts block more than 70 percent of outside noise coming through single-pane windows.
- Soundproof windows.
- Wall insulation can help with noise traveling between walls (know that fiberglass is better than foam.)
- Solid core doors with a sealed sweep along the bottom edge can help control door noise.
- Acoustical panels. Spare, modern interiors are beautiful but that exposed brick and hardwood flooring can amplify indoor noise. Acoustic wall panels can quiet a room and you can have them screen printed to look like art.
- Textiles like heavy drapes, rugs and pillows also help to absorb sound and improve a bedroom’s acoustics.