Home. Spending much time there lately? Don’t let being home stress you out. Home should be a place of refuge. Your own private sanctuary. Transform any house into a stress-less sanctuary without stressing the planet. Here’s how.
LEDs, CFLs, white lights, blue lights, light before bedtime. It’s enough to stress anyone out. Chill. Let’s shine some light on lighting.
Light and mood have a well-established relationship. That’s why candlelight dinners are romantic and fluorescent light dinners aren’t so much. But there’s real science behind lighting.
Researchers from the University of Granada in Spain discovered that people recover faster from the stress of an argument or meeting a deadline under blue light than white light. But isn’t blue light supposed to be bad?
Well, it depends on the light.
Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) stimulate gasses to interact with a phosphor coating and create light. This is much more energy efficient than those old incandescent bulbs.
But, those curlicue, spiral type bulbs (single envelope bulbs) can leak UV radiation. A better option is the double envelope CFL that looks like a traditional bulb. It doesn’t leak UV.
And don’t stress over the mercury in CFLs either. According to the EPA, there’s only about 4 milligrams of mercury in a CFL bulb. It would take 100 CFLs to equal the mercury in an old thermometer.
They do emit blue light, but it drops off after about 5 feet, so keep them out of the bedroom sanctuary or at least 5 feet from the bed. See? Stress eliminated.
Light emitting diodes are replacing CFLs as energy efficient lighting. A Department of Energy study concluded that LEDs have a smaller environmental impact than CFLs.
But when it comes to de-stressing you’ve got to be careful here. At 5,000 to 6,500 Kelvins (a measure of the temperature of light) LEDs can kick out enough light to make you feel invigorated. Rev up too much and you won’t relax.
LEDs also emit a significant amount of blue light so you need to avoid them at bedtime. For the best sleep, avoid LEDs at least an hour before bedtime.
The Best Light
The best light for less stress is natural light. That’s right, the sun. Let the sun shine in your windows and skylights and avoid the use of artificial light as much as possible in the daytime. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the use of red light in the bedroom and reading by a red light if you read before you go to bed.
One way to control lighting is with recessed lighting for task lights in the kitchen.
In this kitchen, natural light is augmented with under cabinet, recessed lighting to put light exactly where you need it. You’ll see better and feel better.
For living areas and stress-free zones in your sanctuary, use warm white lights or dimmer switches to dial light back to the 2,700 to 3,300 Kelvin zone.
Now that we’ve created the right light for de-stressing without stressing out the planet, let’s move on to temperature.
The perfect ambient temperature is essential to a stress-less sanctuary. It’s hard to be Zen when you’re drenched in sweat or shivering with cold.
But defining that perfect temperature is a subject of hot debate (pun intended). In Standards for Thermal Comfort: Indoor Air Temperature Standards for the 21st Century, authors Humphrey, Nichols et al make it clear that “optimum temperature” is highly subjective and any regular temperature you set acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Crazy as it seems, you will dress for comfort at the temperature you maintain. So, if you keep the thermostat set at 72°F you will dress to be comfortable at that temperature.
Now in most parts of the US, you need some form of heating or air conditioning to control the indoor environment. In South Florida, you may run the air conditioner most of the year and never turn on the heat. On the other hand, in North Maine, you may run the heat for many months and lack air conditioning.
So what are the most eco-friendly alternatives for maintaining a comfortable temperature? Once again, it depends on where you live.
Maybe you can throw open those windows, let in the natural light, and use ceiling fans to augment air movement. But, if you need to heat or cool your air, for a good part of the US, a heat pump is the most energy efficient alternative.
In a nutshell, heat pumps extract heat from the air and move it where you want it. In the summer they move heat outside and, in the winter, they move heat from the ground inside. If you live where it stays above 30°F, a natural gas-powered heat pump is your most eco-friendly alternative.
No matter how hot it gets, the heat pump can keep your house cool. And you only need one unit for AC and heat, not a separate furnace and air conditioner. By the way, if you have a heated pool or spa in your backyard sanctuary, a heat pump is the most energy efficient way to maintain your desired water temperature.
The second most eco-friendly alternative for temperature control is a natural-gas powered furnace or air conditioner.
Keep It Cool at Night
No matter how you control your indoor temperature, make sure it’s lower in the evening than in the day. The National Sleep Foundation, those guys that recommend the red light bulb in the bedroom, also recommend a bedroom temperature of 65°F for optimum sleeping. I know, it sounds insane, but try it. You just might like it. For the coolest sleep they also recommend:
- Cotton pajamas and sheets
- The right pillow for your sleep position
- The right level of mattress firmness for your weight and sleeping position
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed
- Limiting screen time an hour or two before bed.
Now that the light and air temperature are perfect, take a look down. Sanctuaries need the right flooring. As in the right color, the right surface, the right impact on the planet.
Blues, greys and whites are the most soothing, relaxing, and stress-less colors. They promote feelings of serenity and calm. That’s just the feeling you want in a home sanctuary.
Want a warmer tone? Well, when grey and beige got married, they had a kid named Greige. And Greige is a popular and soothing color for flooring.
Luckily, all of these colors are found in bamboo flooring. Bamboo is the perfect stress-less flooring.
The flooring surface matters just as much as the color.
Research in Norway, Japan, Canada and Austria shows that just being around wood reduces your stress. Wood drops blood pressure and pulse. Talk about calming!
Hard flooring also helps you have a healthier home. Not only is it easier to clean, you won’t stress over the dust mites and other allergens hiding in carpets.
Soothing and Sustainable
But, how can you relax when your flooring choice is destroying hardwood forests? You select bamboo. There are bamboo species that grow 36 inches in 24 hours. And while solid bamboo is as hard as oak, the plant itself is a grass and not a tree. It renews in 5 years. Let’s see an acorn do that!
So, to create your stress-less sanctuary without stressing Earth’s resources
- use sunlight when possible
- pick artificial lighting carefully
- maintain proper temperature with energy efficient heat pumps
- install bamboo flooring
You’ll feel better and your home will look and feel better. That’s important. You’re going to be spending some serious time there.