Getting good-quality sleep is the foundation of good health and well-being. Our body’s circadian rhythm regulates sleep, which is driven by the release of specific hormones at certain times of the day. In order to keep our circadian rhythm on track, it’s important to be in bright daylight or good-quality artificial light that simulates daylight for the first half of the day. It’s just as important to avoid light, especially light that simulates daylight or blue-colored light later in the day and especially after sunset.

What does this have to do with building and interior design? Most people spend the majority of their day in a workplace, and it’s layout will determine whether people have access to daylight. Desks should be located so people are near large windows in the first half of the day. Windows should have window coverings that have the ability to allow light in yet control glare when the light is bright and the ability to block bright light in the latter part of the day. This can be accomplished with manual adjustable blinds, a combination of sheer drapes and solid drapes, or, better yet, an automatic exterior shading system that adjusts with the level of sunlight.

Utilizing “hoteling” or unassigned desks where some desks are in bright locations and others in darker locations allow people to relocate as needed, although this may be impractical for those that have to store things at their desks. This has become more feasible as more and more people simply need a laptop to work. Storage lockers can be provided for people to store items.

Another terrific strategy is to provide shaded outdoor space for working on laptops. Even though shaded, the surrounding daylight is bright enough to support the circadian rhythm. I like finding that sweet spot where the direct sunlight can hit a portion of my body while my face and laptop are in the shade so I can soak in valuable Vitamin D while I work even though this necessitates adjusting my shade umbrella every 30 minutes. If the setting is nice, being outside has other benefits as well.

If it’s just not possible to have access to plenty of daylight in the first part of the day, there’s lighting which changes intensity levels throughout the day, mimicking the natural daily path of the sun, and supporting the body’s circadian rhythm. There are plenty of manufacturers which now make a component which works with almost any kind of lighting that accomplishes this.

For those those that work from home, are retired, or are stay-at-home dads or moms, the same principles apply, so simply consider where you spend the majority of your day, and implement the same strategies.

We spend 90% of our time indoors, so the spaces we inhabit have an enormous effect on our lives. Together, we can elevate human well-being to the forefront of building practices and reinvent buildings that are not only better for the planet, but for people as well.