The health benefits of natural light and space in the home
Our homes have a considerable impact on almost every aspect of our lives, from the way we sleep to the way we interact with each other. Here is how a well-designed home with plenty of space and natural light can be linked to the mental, social, and physical health of its occupants…
These days, it is well known that the concept of health and wellbeing is not limited to how many portions of fruit we might eat in a day. It can cover social and psychological factors, in addition to our physical health and our genetics.
Our environment has a highly influential role to play in our health and wellbeing, and this starts at home where we spend most of our lives. Our homes can bring us great joy, being the main place in which we cook, eat, entertain, sleep, and relax. Good health can be encouraged by creating a home where you and your family can feel calm, rested, content, and confident while strengthening connections to those in your social groups and wider community.
Studies have shown that even changing just one factor at home, such as improving the levels of natural light or increasing the amount of open space, can have an immediate effect on mental wellbeing and physical health.
Celebrating space in the home
The space and layout of your rooms have a huge effect on your health and wellbeing, influencing everything from the amount of physical movement you do from day to day, to the food that you are able to prepare for yourself in your kitchen. Even a home’s ceiling height can have an influence; studies show that when people are in a building with higher ceilings, they are better at creative thinking and are more engaged at social gatherings.
Homes should have different spaces for different activities, with a diversity of settings that are designed for cooking, talking, playing, relaxing, and working. A healthy home will include additional rooms that are quiet and restful, giving you an environment for focused work, privacy, meditation, reading, or other tranquil activities that promote a stress-free life.
Humans are social creatures and we need interaction with others to feel happy. Spacious and airy living rooms provide stimulating environments that allow for stress-free social engagement and play, helping you, your friends, and family to feel more connected with each other and therefore benefitting your wellbeing. Open and clutter-free kitchens and dining rooms promote family dinners and healthy eating. Eating together as a family on a regular basis rather than eating in front of the TV creates stronger relationships, develops social skills, gives children a better routine, and promotes healthier, nutritionally balanced food.
As a family grows, their requirements change and homes with more space are more adaptable and able to accommodate new needs. Whether it is because the kids are getting bigger or you decided to get a new dog, having extra room and circulation routes can make it easier to change your lifestyle or rearrange your home’s layout as a response. Finally, having space for plenty of storage will help to promote stress-free and functional living, making it easier to keep your house clean and free from allergens.
Focusing on natural light
Natural light helps to keep our ‘circadian rhythms’ in check, which helps to promote healthy sleep patterns. Like all other animals that are active during the day, us humans are naturally tuned in with the changes in light outside. Sensors in our eyes can detect the difference between morning sunlight and afternoon sunlight, which in turn has an effect on the levels of our melatonin and serotonin hormones which work together to control our inner body clock.
A well regulated and normal circadian rhythm is linked to good mental health and wellbeing, and the health benefits of having a good sleeping routine are well documented, contributing to everything from managing a healthy weight to our immune systems. Even in offices and healthcare facilities, natural light has been shown to reduce sick leave and improve recovery times of long-term patients.
Sunlight can play a great role in lifting our spirits and making us feel happier. It is common for the onset of winter to make us feel a little gloomy and lethargic, and for the first signs of spring to give us a little bounce in our step. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recognised type of depression that affects 3% of the population and is largely caused by the changing seasons. About 20% of the people in the UK experience mild symptoms of SAD, which are usually passed off as the ‘winter blues’. It is believed to be triggered by the lack of sunlight in winter, and light therapy is one of the most effective and popular treatments for SAD.
Make an impact with a garden room or orangery
You can’t have natural light in your home without windows and glazing, and large windows that maximise on the sunshine coming into your home also means that you are taking advantage of the views out of your home, looking out on the property’s surrounding environment. Encouraging the connection to an external green space, or surrounding community promotes a sense of wellbeing.
Having a transparent area in the home, such as an orangery or garden room, combines the multiple benefits of both light and space for you and your family to benefit from. A bright and spacious room with a high proportion of glazing can enhance your wellbeing, both physically and psychologically.
With wide, high windows and roof lanterns, a glazed extension will let plenty of natural light into your home, enabling sunlight to stream in at all times of the day and eliminating the need for electrical lighting during daylight hours. A connection to the outside garden and surrounding nature helps to promote a sense of wellbeing for everyone in the family, offering expansive views to younger children who might not ordinarily be tall enough to look out of standard windows.
As always with our health, balance and moderation are key. Unfortunately, some glazed extensions can run the risk of overheating, so this is where good design is essential to keep the room feeling comfortable and inviting all year round. Natural ventilation in the form of roof vents encourages cross ventilation in the room without drafts, encouraging warm air to rise up and out of the room. The use of glazing with a solar glare coating will help to reflect solar heat off the glass and away from the room inside, preventing overheating. It is vital to ensure that the kind of coating used does not offset the benefits gained from sunlight, so the kind we use is called SN70/35, a very neutral glass which lets in a very high level of visible natural light while reflecting 65% of the solar heat, reducing glare and UV.