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Insomnia, weight gain, failing memory: Could your design choices be to blame?

By From page A3 | February 27, 2014

“Insomnia, Weight Gain and Failing Memory” is Deborah Burnett’s topic when she speaks from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday as part of the University Farm Circle Speakers Series. The program will take place at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 27074 Patwin Road in West Davis. Admission is $10.

Burnett asks listeners to face the cold, hard truth: One-third of all Americans are obese and another third are overweight. Science is now pointing to the failure to sleep as a prime suspect. And the news here is even more startling as 70 percent of Americans — including children — are reporting three to five nights of restless or incomplete sleep every week.

Seeking to uncover all possible causes, mainstream scientific and medical researchers are joining forces with lighting and design professionals to look for possible environmental triggers of sleep problems. The trail is leading them home, literally.

“Who would have guessed that the way we design and light our spaces would be playing a pivotal role in human health concerns such as obesity, sleep, breast cancer and heart disease?” Burnett asks.

“But along with the scientific data comes a real-world challenge: How do we translate the scientific and medical knowledge into practical everyday application and still retain trend-worthy design appeal? The answer is simple — epigenetic design.”

Epigenetic design is an emerging evidence-based model of architectural and interior design that seeks to bridge the gap between science and design, Burnett says.

“This means that simple design elements and lifestyle choices such as the type of light bulbs you use, when you turn on the lights at night, and how much light you get during the day and the evening hours all determine how and when specific genes turn on or off throughout a 24-hour period,” she explains.

“Also contributing to genetic expression and the resulting physiological and neuroendocrine response is ordinary room temperatures in the places where we sleep each night, the time of day when we eat our meals, and the ‘dose’ or amount of light we receive from the time we get up in the morning to the time we go home from work. All play an important role in promoting sleep, initiating disease, getting us back to health and keeping our waistlines trim.”

Burnett will offer simple and, in most cases, no-cost design and lifestyle adjustments to help improve sleep. These include knowing when to turn on and off your lighting, what bulbs to select, when to turn room temperatures up and down, what colors to paint walls for improved sleep, or even what time to take a hot shower.

Enterprise staff

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