Toyin-Ann Yerifor Explains Optimizing Your Home to Improve Circadian Rhythm

Though most of us open our blinds in the morning or flick on our kitchen light when we get home from work without giving it another thought, we may fail to realize how important it is to our daily lives. In fact, light is essential to the proper functioning of our bodies. Not only can light, or lack thereof, impact mental health, but it can also impact the body’s circadian rhythm. For those that don’t know, circadian rhythm refers to your body’s internal clock, this clock regulates your daily sleep-wake cycle. Failing to expose yourself to the right sources of light at the proper times of day can interrupt your circadian rhythm and throw off your sleep cycle. Toyin-Ann Yerifor knows better than anyone how much the design of a home impacts circadian rhythm. She is an Architectural Consultant based in Calgary who holds a Master’s Degree in Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies from UEL, London. She also has an MBA (Distinction) from the University of Northampton and is a Project Director and Design Lead who has successfully completed many complex global projects. Toyin-Ann Yerifor has graciously offered her expert insight into the five ways that you can optimize the design of your home to improve circadian rhythm. 

Prioritize Exposure to Natural Light

According to Toyin-Ann Yerifor, natural daylight is the best way of improving your circadian rhythm. Maximizing exposure to natural light is essential for regulating your rhythm as daylight itself has an inherent rhythmic quality. Frequently used rooms, such as bedrooms, kitchens, or family rooms, should receive ample daylight. Yerifor cites the example of a family room, which should ideally receive direct sunlight for a minimum of two hours each day. In terms of design elements that can be implemented to maximize exposure to daylight, Yerifor recommends windows with high head heights as this increases the amount of sky in view, which results in better daylight distribution in the room. For a similar reason, ceiling heights should also be raised to maximize the effect of the natural light in the room. Further, Toyin-Ann Yerifor asserts that rooms frequently used in the morning, such as the bedroom or the kitchen, should take advantage of the morning’s natural light. To do this, windows should be oriented to face the light as this will help stimulate the circadian rhythm. 


Supplement with Electric Lights

Although natural light is generally preferred in the design world, electric lights can be an extremely effective tool when it comes to improving one’s circadian rhythm. Nowadays, we understand which specific colors are used in electric light sources, which means it’s possible to customize your lighting to your circadian rhythm. Toyin-Ann Yerifor states that there are lights that mimic the sun’s effects, which are especially useful for those living in dark spaces. These lights subtly and gradually change colors throughout the day, which will help your body adjust to its natural rhythm. 


Utilize Blue Lights in the Morning and Red Lights in the Evening

Toyin-Ann Yerifor asserts that the color of the light matters. Specifically, blue lights are the best when it comes to regulating your internal clock. Similar to a cup of coffee in the morning, blue lights make us feel more alert and help reduce our body’s natural levels of melatonin. Meanwhile, warmer-hued lights such as red lights, do just the opposite. Red lights actually increase our body’s melatonin levels in order to prepare for rest. Thus, Yerifor recommends using blue lights in the morning and red lights in the evening.


Bedrooms Should Have Blackout Options

Toyin-Ann Yerifor claims that it’s not just daylight that is important when it comes to circadian rhythm. Darkness is essential in the evenings to let your body know it’s time to go to sleep. That is why bedrooms should have highly effective blackout options. This is especially important for people who live in densely populated urban areas where even at night, there is still plenty of light pollution. Blackout design options include thermal shutters with louvres or blinds. Ultimately it comes down to being able to control the amount of natural light in a room. Windows should be adjustable so residents can choose to block out all light in the evening if they wish.


Consider the Materials in the Room

Lastly, Toyin-Ann Yerifor asserts that in order to optimize the design of your home to improve circadian rhythm, the materials used in a room must be taken into account. She goes on to explain that everything around you is a light filter. Every single time light reflects off a different object, its color and intensity is altered. Thus, materials used in a room should better reflect the sun and the sky in order to minimize the amount that the light is changed when it bounces off a surface. For example, using blue-tinted glass for a window would turn the light in a room blueish in color. As mentioned above, blue lights are ideal for waking your body up and regulating your circadian rhythm.


Toyin-Ann Yerifor’s Final Thoughts

Each of the above tactics are proven ways to help an individual achieve an optimal circadian rhythm. If you actively attempt to practice these techniques, you should be able to achieve your desired rhythm. For those who live in areas where the sun sets early in the winter, Toyin-Ann Yerifor strongly recommends the use of lighting that mimics the sun’s effects. As mentioned, the use of blue light will keep you awake, so keep that in mind and shut off your electronics before going to bed. This will help you to sleep and mitigate the grogginess you might be experiencing in the mornings.