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Achieve Better Home and Hospital Design by Focusing on Occupant Sleep

When it comes to architectural design, most emphasis is placed on what happens within buildings while occupants are awake, active and being productive as they engage in their wide range of daily human behaviors. But as an architect, you must step back and ask yourself what makes all of this activity and behavior possible for your occupants? What helps them to maintain their proper amount of focus and energy while also being creative and productive as they engage in their daily activities — even down to a physiological level.

Well, a critical and important factor which helps humans to perform optimally is none other than sleep. And where is this mostly carried out? In homes, in hospitals, in hotels and even less obvious places like boarding schools.

While achieving good design in all of these places is important in terms of helping occupants with their everyday wakeful tasks and activities, it is also important for you to know that REM sleep during the night is critically important for your occupants to achieve in order to help make not only their overall health better, but also to maximize their function and outlook for the next day like creativity, productivity and so on.

Quote from Science Daily article entitled Memory Researchers Explain Latest Findings on Improving the Mind:

“REM sleep is important for pulling together all the information we process on a daily basis and turning it into memories we can use later,” said Mednick. “This helps us to understand more about the benefits of sleep and to help people maximize their sleep schedules for optimal productivity in memory retrieval.”

How Might You Design for a Better Night’s Sleep?

When you think about adaptive architecture, you need to engage in the narrative and processes that make up your occupants’ daily lives — and then, within your design you need to not only account for their routine schedules, but also allow for variations within those schedules. Just as proper lighting is important within your design to harmonize with your occupants circadian rhythm, the olfactory, aural and touch senses can also be used within architectural design to help get your occupants to that deeper level of REM sleep during the night.

For starters, as an architect you may need to look at what obstacles are preventing your occupants from sleep and then get rid of those. Within a hospital, for instance, it is reported that good sleep is very difficult for patients to achieve because of the rolling carts in the hallways and the opening and closing of room doors during nightly patient checks. By just finding solutions for these seemingly simple problems, you as an architect can greatly contribute to helping those patients heal faster and better by simply giving them a better quality of rest during the night.

Within a hotel, we see a lot more option in terms of comfort than might typically exist within a hospital design. Within a hotel room an occupant might experience nice lighting to help them read a good book before bed, a well-placed television in case they need a distraction before sleeping, darkening curtains and filtering room shades to help prevent street light (or early morning light) from streaming into the room and waking the occupant up. And also, part of getting a good night’s sleep might be in the preparation — at some hotels, they provide nice robes, slippers or a “good night” snack simply to create a relaxation kind of mood.

As an architect, you should take the time to get to know your future building occupants — knowing not only what they do during the day, but also what they need to do to prepare for the night, and to achieve a good and restful night of sleep. Do not waste this incredible way to leverage your design talents. For, what good is the most amazing architectural design that can help your occupant be highly proactive during the day, if they are just too tired to make good use of it because a poor design helped them to get a restless night of sleep. Don’t let your design fall short.

Image Credit: © bedzine | Flickr

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