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Creating a Sanctuary for Sleep || Part 1: Colour & Light

Sleep. I find it ironic that I should be writing a post about sleep. You see, sleep and I, we don’t have the best relationship. We never have. But perhaps that’s all the more reason why I can write a post about sleep, or rather, about creating a sleep sanctuary in your home, because believe me when I say I tried it, I’ve tried it.

First, as is the case with every room in your house, set your intention for the space. What is it’s purpose? What do you want it to achieve? When you intentionally design a space within your home or office, you do so with deliberate consideration or your needs and desires. It is okay, to break away from your home’s traditional footprint and change things to suit your current season of life. For example, our current home was built in the eighties and includes a formal dining room. We have no use for a formal dining and so this space currently serves as a play area for our young children, later it may become a shared study area or something entirely different again. Your bedroom is a sacred space. I don’t mean that in the sense you need to create an alter and dedicate a place for worship and prayer (although, feel free to do this if this idea lights you up). It’s sacred in the sense that is should, for adults, be reserved for sleeping, sex and self care. Do you want to create a space that’s calm and grounded or perhaps you’re keen to inject a bit more romance into the bedroom whatever the intention you decide to set for your bedroom, one thing for certain it should not hinder your ability to sleep. Rather it should promote it. For children, I always try to create a space that promotes sleep at night yet encourages calm, creative play during the day. Children need a space to call their own, to retreat to and in most houses, this is their bedroom so play should definitely be a consideration for its use. This balance seems paradoxical though it is entirely possible to achieve.

I’m a sensory designer. This means, I like to consider all the senses when designing any space and the bedroom is no exception. Over the next few weeks, I’ll take a look at different sensory elements for you to consider in order to create a sleep sanctuary in your home starting today with colour and light.

For someone like me, sleep is complex. It doesn’t come easy and I like to make sure I have a few things in place so that it does. For someone like my husband, sleep is natural. He is very, very good at sleeping. But one thing is for certain, for everyone on the planet, good sleeper or not, light plays a very pivotal role in the effectiveness of your sleep and the reason is simple. You need a dark space to sleep in so your body is able to produce melatonin. According to Harvard Health, the hormone melatonin that influences circadian rhythms, works to regulate your sleep cycle and your immune system. Exposure to light at night time can disrupt melatonin production in a variety of ways and Harvard cite, “Some studies suggest a link between exposure to light at night, such as working the night shift, to some types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.”  In densely populated areas, street, building and residential lighting all contribute to light pollution. In a perfect world, we can all enjoy the romantic idea of falling asleep with the windows open and being able to wake with the sun. However, the light pollution of densely populated areas means that sleeping without window coverings will affect our bodies ability to produce melatonin and wreck havoc on our sleep cycles and contribute to a variety of health problems. Block out blinds or curtains are the most effective way to prevent light entering your bedroom throughout the night and will have a profoundly positive impact on your quality of sleep. If you’ve got your heart set on sheers or light filtering curtains, I suggest placing them over a block out blind. Venetians and shutters, will prevent most light entering the room, though they will not provide total darkness.

Increased exposure to our artificial lighting at home and at work at nighttime, can also impact our health. However, I’m not going to suggest you sit in the dark and can happily acknowledge that sometimes, we need to have a light on throughout the night. Children, for example, may prefer to sleep with the comfort of a night light. In this case, the best light to aid sleep is red light and avoid blue light wherever possible, this includes LED night lights. “While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light at night does so more powerfully…Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin,” Harvard Health. Salt lamps can be purchased as small night lights and provide a soft red light and have the added benefit of purifying the air. LEDs produce more blue light than older style incandescent lights so if you have LEDs at home, they are a great choice in terms of their environmental impact, try to turn them off 2 to 3 hours before going to bed.

It goes without saying that there are certain colours that are better promoters of sleep. Pale blue is a fantastic colour for sleep as it is associated with feelings of calm and tranquility and helps to slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure which aids sleep. Pale pink has a similar effect on the body and has been shown to lower aggression allowing for a relaxed state of sleep. It is in fact, one of the best colours to promote sleep. Green is another great choice to encourage sleeping, it is a cool colour and, like blue, is associated with feelings of calm. It is also linked to the heart chakra and can help promote feelings of romance. Whites and neutral palettes are conducive of sleep, but try to avoid too much white as we humans, have a tendency to attribute negative feelings toward all white interiors as they’re too clinical for comfort.

Colours to avoid in the bedroom are the primary colours – blue in bright, bold hues, red and yellow are not good promotors of sleep. Vibrant colours are stimulating, encourage creativity and stimulate brain activity so therefore not helpful for spaces where sleep is the primary intention. This includes purple and orange. Orange hues aid and stimulate digestion and are best avoided in the bedroom.

Creating a sanctuary for sleep with consideration of colour and light is just the tip of the iceberg. Next week, I’ll continue the consequences of blue light with regard to our technology use and also explore the touch and olfactory senses. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about intentional design or want help to create your own sleep sanctuary please contact me here

 

Source: Harvard Health, 2017. Blue Light Has a Dark Side. Available: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side. Accessed 20 July 2018.

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