Gaining weight? Not feeling well? Call your architect!

No, really. Design matters and lighting is key!

Design with Light Part 1: Circadian Rhythm and Your Health

We average 90% of our time in buildings. Designs that consider your well-being actually contribute to you staying healthy. There are many factors that can affect these feelings and here’s a big one – light.

Light – natural and artificial is a key category of WELL-certified architecture. Why? Good lighting makes us feel good.   Science-based studies show that natural lighting helps children learn better in school and patients recover faster in hospitals.  Workers concentrate better in window-filled offices.  At home, we gravitate to the spaces with good natural lighting.  Dogs know – notice how they always manage to find a sliver of sunlight to lay down in?

What is it about light that has such a basic yet profound effect on our wellbeing? Our natural 24 hour clock, or our circadian rhythm – is one of the most important systems affecting our health and, since we as a species grew legs and walked out of the sea, it has been deeply influenced by the most basic measure of time ever to exist – daylight. As we evolved, our bodies developed a reliance on these cues to tell us when to rest and when to be active.  Studies show links between healthy circadian rhythms and

  1. healthy cardiovascular health
  2. hormonal activity
  3. weight control
  4. improved immune system efficiency
  5. improved mental health
  6. learning
  7. digestion

Conversely, when our circadian rhythm is disrupted, we can experience numerous health issues like:

  1. weight gain
  2. anxiety
  3. insomnia
  4. dementia.

Doctors often look for treatments in the pharmaceutical arena when they might consider prescribing an architect to review the lighting!


Design with Light Part 2: Designs to Improve Health

1. Improve Sleep: Turn off Screens and Dim Bathroom Lighting:

At night, we sabotage our instinctual rhythm by keeping the lights (and screens!) on for far too long – but what’s even worse? Our routines prior to turning in take place in the bathroom – where we often have the brightest lights in the house.  We’re not just trimming nose hair, gargling mouthwash and taking selfies in the mirror – we’re giving our brains the cue that it’s time to be awake.  Parents take note: research has shown again and again that light at night is associated with mood and anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and depression in adolescents.  In older folks, circadian disruptions can contribute to dementia.

Turn up the Daylight and turn Down The Night Lights:

To consistently get the best sleep, we need bright daylight in the morning hours especially, and darkened hours in the evening. This is important because, as we all know, research consistently reaffirms that sleep is key to physical and mental health.

So what can you do? First off, get yourself into the light during the day and out of the light at night!

Use An Architect to Design for your Light-health:

For my residential clients, I strive to orient the layout so that, in the winter months, the south light can pour into the house. Where possible, I organize spaces based on daily activity –

  • morning spaces face east to wake you and your circadian rhythm up,
  • active areas in the south of the house where the most sun will pour in during winter months
  • evening activity dinner, relaxing zones focused towards the west, to experience the setting sun, settling you in for a great night of sleep.

If you can work with an architect who understands these principles, your body will thank you for following the sun (and so will the dog!).

How to Fix Your House:

If you live in a house that isn’t facing south and doesn’t have great natural lighting, call an architect to help you correct this problem and do whatever you can to brighten things up.   I know, I know, easier said than done.  If a construction project isn’t in the gameplan, take a look at where you spend your time and where you have some good natural light and see if rearranging furniture can help – take a look at the dog, and go there!   Then, use electric lighting in a way that benefits you the most.

  • Choose daylight-simulating lightbulbs in places you spend the morning,
  • Use warm-dimmers so you can switch your bright lights to dim before bed.
  • Dim your bathroom!
  • Take a look at whether there is light pollution at night – is there a glaring streetlight outside of your window? If so, black-out shades may be needed in your bedroom.
  • Turn off the TV in the bedroom

Overall, be aware of the need to have bright light in the morning and dim the lights at night – turn off the television in the bedroom and get a good night’s sleep.  If you are able to work in a WELL-certified building, you can be assured that those involved in the design and construction have your well-being in mind. If not, encourage your company to look into WELL certification, which may positively alter some aspects of the design in your workspace.  Light is one of the 10 WELL concepts because it is key to your well-being.

Architects with WELL certification are focused on well-being.

Design matters!

Visit Sail Architects to learn more.


Warm Sleep-Aid LED fixtures.

Warm Bulbs“>Smart Light Bulbs

For automatic dimmers, @lutron has the casetawireless switch that can work for things like windows shades and lighting.

Lutron Caseta“>Lutron Caseta

Or Try these Smart Dimmer“>Smart Switches

For a little fun addition to your house you can purchase my Design Matters Pillow Here:

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