Many American adults do not get the recommended seven to eight hours per night of sleep. What can you do if you have trouble falling or staying asleep? Here are a few good basic steps to getting a better night’s sleep.
- Install blackout drapes to block outdoor light sources (like streetlights and passing cars) at night for a more restful sleep.
- Move or cover light-pollution sources within the bedroom when possible, such as nightlights, hall lights, clocks and baby monitors.
- Turn off the television, computer and other screens at least an hour before bed. These light sources can make falling asleep difficult.
- Invest in a comfortable mattress and bedding made of natural fibers such as cotton, wool and linen.
Adding a houseplant or two is an easy way to make the air inside your home cleaner. Some of the plants that work most effectively at cleaning the air include Boston fern, shown here, spider plant, English ivy, snake plant and peace lily. Some plants (like peace lily) are toxic to humans and pets, so be sure to check that you’re buying a pet-safe plant. Want to go beyond the pot? Consider adding a living wall of fresh green plants.
Whether you have asthma or allergies or you are concerned about air pollution (or smoke from wildfires), adding an air purifier to your home is a good way to reduce pollutants and allergens. Be sure the air purifier you choose has a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, and pay attention to the room size stated on the unit. If you have a larger space, you may need to use multiple units to get the air clean.
We’ve been told that sitting for long periods is not good for our health. But standing for long periods also may cause problems, according to research published in the journal Ergonomics. So what should you do? Split the difference with a bilevel work setup. Having a standing desk paired with a traditional desk and chair means you can alternate between standing and sitting as the mood strikes.
There’s no doubt that heavy-duty cleaners get the job done. But for light daily cleaning, it’s not really necessary to bring out the serious chemicals. And since most natural cleaning recipes can be made using just a few simple, inexpensive ingredients — like distilled water, white vinegar, Castile soap and baking soda — you’ll breathe easier and probably save a little cash.
A few easy cleaning solutions to try:
- All-purpose cleaner: Fill a spray bottle with a mixture of vinegar and water at a 1:1 ratio and use a microfiber cloth to clean. This works on windows, mirrors, bathtubs, tiled floors and more.
- Marble, granite and quartz cleaner: Fill a 24- to 32-ounce spray bottle with water; add 4 to 5 ounces of rubbing alcohol, six drops of Castile soap and several drops of your favorite essential oil, such as lavender or rosemary.
- Stainless steel polish: After cleaning the surface with an all-purpose cleaner (see above), spray it lightly with coconut oil cooking spray. Rub in the oil with a clean dish towel or paper towel.
If you’ve been using the same water filtration pitcher for years, it may be time to upgrade. Undersink water filtration systems tend to work more effectively, thanks to the added pressure forcing water through the filtration system — and since they filter while being used, there’s no need to remember to refill a pitcher. Beyond your drinking water, you may also want to consider a filter that attaches to your shower head, especially if excessive chlorine in your water bothers your skin.
From big decisions, like opting for nontoxic cabinetry, to smaller ones, like providing easy access to fresh herbs and produce, the way you approach your kitchen can have a big impact on your health. Here are a few options for giving your kitchen a health-conscious makeover:
- If you’re remodeling, opt for cabinetry that is formaldehyde-free and has a low- or zero-volatile-organic-compound (VOC) finish, and flooring made from a healthy material like cork, FSC-certified wood, reclaimed wood or linoleum.
- Grow herbs in a windowsill container garden, and keep fresh produce in a tempting bowl on the counter.
- Store healthy bulk goods in clear glass containers where you’ll remember to cook with them.
Getting enough sunlight during the day is an essential part of staying healthy — and avoiding vitamin D deficiency, which can be a problem if you spend a lot of time indoors. Boosting natural light in your home through windows and skylights is a good way to ensure you’re getting enough.
At night, it’s equally important to make sure your bedroom is truly dark. Exposure to excessive light at night (including screen use) can disrupt sleep, according to the American Medical Association. Block the light with good bedroom shades and shut off electronic devices an hour before bedtime.
Whether you use it to practice yoga, meditate or simply steal a few moments of quiet, a dedicated relaxation zone is something everyone can use. Here are a few ideas for carving out a space of your own.
- Choose a spot as far from the busy center of your home as possible. This could mean your quiet spot is in the attic, a corner of your bedroom or even the master bath.
- Keep your relaxation space minimalist and uncluttered. Bring in only what you require: a comfy seat or mat for the floor, soft lighting and perhaps music and a healthy green plant.
- If you share your home with others, think about creating a sign or signal you can use to let people know you’d like a bit of undisturbed time in your space.
In his new book The Art of Simple Living, author and Zen monk Shunmyo Masuno shares how small adjustments can enhance our happiness and tranquillity. One suggestion is to create a spot where you can experience communion with nature. This might take the shape of an elaborate and carefully tended Zen garden, a container garden and burbling fountain on an apartment balcony, or a few potted plants on a window ledge with a seat positioned so you can enjoy the view. The size is not important — what is important is allowing yourself the time and mental space to simply be there.