Our Natural Rhythms
A mere 21% of adults in the UK get the recommended 8 hours of shut eye a night. Sleep is both vital for our bodies to recharge and is essential to regulating our circadian rhythms; the physical, mental, and behavioural shifts we go through in a 24-hour period.
Working as our body’s internal clock, these natural processes respond primarily to light and dark. Meaning our sleep-wake cycle is incredibly sensitive to changes in natural daylight, making even an hour’s difference potentially impactful to your slumber.
A lack of sleep is incredibly detrimental to our mental and physical wellbeing, impacting everything from our mental health to our immune systems.
Creating a Bedroom Retreat
Our bedrooms play an integral part in facilitating a restful night’s sleep. Designing a room which encourages and supports our recommended eight hours is essential to our wellbeing. Biophilic Design considers all the senses when creating a restorative space, using natural elements to help aid in sleep and recuperation. Below we have put together a few tips to help you design a night-time retreat.
Curate a Visual Sanctuary
The bedroom is often a place to not only go and sleep, but to seek refuge from the worries which we carry with us in our day-to-day lives. As such, we designed the bedroom-set at our Westfield London pop-up to feel noticeably different from the surrounding space.
With sight being out most dominant sense – we perceive 80% of the built environment through our eyes – colour plays a really important role in how we feel in a space. The ecological valence theory explains our innate attraction to natural colours. Warmer tones, such as sunflower yellow, often have an energising affect, while cooler tones are more likely to instil a feeling of calm.
By using a darker colour palette, coupled with nature-inspired patterns and a selection of sleep-supportive planting, we created a feeling of retreat. Visual clutter, which has been shown to increase levels of cortisol and stress (the enemy of sleep!), were minimised, while the bed – in all its tactile glory – formed the focal point of the room, to cultivate a sense of calm.
Simulate Natural Light
With our sleep-wake cycles incredibly sensitive to changes in natural daylight, and as colder months set in and the hours of daylight greatly diminish, many of us will be commuting to and from work in the dark.
While we know that artificial light, be that from our phones or household fixtures, can negatively impact our sleep-wake cycle by throwing our Circadian Rhythm off balance, there are ways of using artificial light that can actually improve our sleep.
To highlight the importance of light on our sleep and wellbeing, we included a Lumie bodyclock in our Westfield room-set. A nifty alarm clock which doubles as a natural light simulator – automatically adapting its tone to replicate sunset and sunrise as you wind down to sleep, and as you wake up. There is also the option of introducing a circadian lighting system to your overhead lights, and we are seeing an increasing number of companies introducing products which offer natural light rendering.
Invest in the Right Bed
There is a lot to consider when selecting a bed, from the frame to the mattress to the bed sheets – each play a key part in providing quality shut-eye. While personal preference is a defining factor when it comes to choosing a bed that is ‘just right’ for you, there are some important things to be aware of.
Wood is one of nature’s most versatile materials and, aside from its obvious aesthetic appeal, research has also found that it has the power to impact us physically – reducing both stress and heart rates in those exposed to it. This is particularly important as stress greatly impacts our sleep, and a lack of sleep increases stress. It is a vicious cycle; as stress levels go up our chances of restoration start to dwindle, and when our restoration is compromised our stress levels spike!
Alongside a sturdy frame, the fabric of your mattress and bed sheets are also important factors when it comes to supporting health and comfortability in the bedroom. Picking out textures which feel good on our skin and allow our bodies to regulate night-time temperature mean we are less likely to stir during sleep cycles. Cotton and linen are the go-to when it comes to breathable natural bed sheet fabrics, and mattresses with natural materials (like wool) allow air flow, with the added bonus of being naturally antibacterial.
Don't Underestimate the Power of Sleep!
It's easy to discount the impact that poor sleep has on us, and understandably so when it’s stacked up against other, seemingly larger, worries. But a chronic lack of sleep can contribute or cause to numerous health problems. In fact, in the aforementioned 22-yearlong study, those who slept five hours or less had a 30% greater chance of multiple ailments than those who slept seven hours.
Many of us will experience some amount of sleep disruption in our lives, whether that is due to turning the clocks back, personal stress, or other disturbances outside our control such as light and noise pollution. What is in our control, is the opportunity to create a household environment which maximises our chances of a good night’s sleep. As research shows us, a few extra hours kip could make all the difference to our health and wellbeing.