No Matter Where, Shading is Still Important
When talking about sleep, lighting plays a huge role: what color temperature it needs to be, where it should be positioned, what time it needs to go on. However, once the lights go off in the home, that isn’t the end of the story. For professionals looking to give clients, residents and guests a better night’s sleep, a room’s ability to provide shading when needed is just as important as its ability provide proper lighting.
Looking at a study recently done by Northwestern University, even a little bit of light exposure in the evening can be enough to agitate home occupants. The worst (or maybe best depending upon how you look at it) is that these disruptions are barely noticeable aside from their side effects, which include higher heart rates at night and increased insulin resistance in the morning.
The reason is that eyelids aren’t perfect light blockers, so even a little bit of extra light in a room in the evening can be enough to trigger photoreceptors in the eyes. External intrusions from streetlights or vehicle traffic can be all that it takes. In urban areas, these stimuli are also potentially joined by lights from other buildings or signage scattered throughout the city.
But even those in more rural areas are not free of disruption from external lighting. Anyone who has been outside during a full moon can attest to the amount of illumination that floods the landscape (enough for nature enthusiasts like myself to forgo a flashlight while walking through a forest). And if that extra-strength moonlight manages to make it inside a bedroom, the results can be disruptive.
A Perfect Fit Makes for a Perfect Night’s Sleep
Many don’t realize the joy and comfort that comes with perfectly fitted shades until the light comes streaming across one’s face at night. It’s a special touch only professionals can provide, and one that many people don’t know they need until they don’t have it. After all, how effective is a dam if there’s a gap at the edges of banks to let the water slip past?
While there are standard sizes for windows that many manufacturers adhere to, there is still no one-size fits all solution, especially when it comes to vertical blinds. Through extensions or custom fits, a professional can provide a tailored solution that will run flush to a window frame and create a perfect seal to keep all external light absent from a room.
Clients may not readily ask for custom-fit blinds in the bedroom, but, as it turns out, briefing clients on the potential health and wellness benefits of a solution has proven to be successful in other areas of wellness design. It’s often that the smaller elements slip through the cracks (much light errant light beams), and, when properly informed, clients have been found to be generally more receptive to these
When paired with motorized systems and home automation control, professionals can then take it to the next level, keeping the bad light out in the evening, while allowing sunlight to filter in the next morning for a more natural awakening. The utility of a professionally installed set of shades also cannot be understated, with further attention to the insulative properties of shading being able to contribute to the thermal comfort of the room as well.
Preparing for the Inevitable Interruption
It’s worth noting that all this effort is ultimately for naught if the disruptive light is coming from inside the room. For integrators working with residential clients on more wellness-focused solutions, especially in this scenario, it’s important to ensure that the extra technology being used doesn’t end up contributing to a poorer night’s sleep at the end of the day through additional display or operational lighting in the room. If the hand is visible 24-inches away from the face, there’s far too much ambient lighting in the room.
Though, when someone wakes up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and the room is perfectly dark, the question then becomes: how do they navigate the home? Ultimately, when designing a space specifically to cut out as much light as possible, special consideration needs to be given to either how navigable the space can be in the dark or what lighting is necessary to accommodate movement without disrupting melatonin production. In any given scenario, dim, low to the ground lights directed away from the eyes is recommended to provide ample visibility without disrupting sleep processes.