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Better bedroom ventilation = better sleep quality

Better bedroom ventilation = better sleep quality

Have you ever wondered why you’re not sleeping well?  We have quite a few suggestions for better sleep, but there’s one more (invisible) thing that can negate the others: CO2.  Sleeping in a stuffy bedroom does not enable quality sleep!  It turns out that you need “fresh air” even when you’re not conscious of it.  A new study shows that CO2 concentrations in the bedroom above 750 ppm affect your sleep and as a consequence, your cognitive performance is lower the next day.

In the 18-month study, 36 healthy college-age men and women volunteered to sleep for a week each in furnished bedrooms where their sleep was analyzed.  The levels of CO2 varied during the week: the first night was not included in the study (for adaptation), but then two nights each of three ventilation conditions were used to approximate CO2 levels of 750 ppm, 1,000 ppm and 1,300 ppm.  Sleep quality was monitored with wristband sleep trackers.  Salivary cortisol concentrations were measured upon waking also, as elevated cortisol levels correspond with decreasing sleep quality.  Overall, the researchers found that compared with ventilation causing an average CO2 concentration of 750 ppm (fresh air scenario), sleep quality was significantly reduced at the ventilation rates causing CO2 concentrations of 1,000 ppm and 1,300 ppm.  Sleep efficiency was reduced by 1.3 % and 1.8 % and time awake increased by 5.0 min and 7.8 min, respectively. Deep sleep duration decreased at the ventilation rate causing CO2 concentration of 1,300 ppm as compared to 750 ppm along with a significant increase in salivary cortisol after waking, which suggests increased stress and sympathetic activity. 

The takeaway from this study is to try and ventilate your bedroom with fresh air at night to simulate outdoor CO2 levels (450-500 outdoors is normal, up to 750ppm).  Obviously the best way to get fresh air is to open one or more windows, and windows don’t actually need to be fully open to achieve it.  By using a CO2 monitor near your bed, you can experiment to see how wide open 2the windows need to be.  If you live in a quiet suburb or country setting, it’s not too hard to install insect screens and do this.  However, there are lots of areas and circumstances that aren’t so simple!  We want to suggest some products and ways to help.

What if it’s too hot or humid or rainy outside to open my windows?  

  • In this case, the best solution is to install a window air conditioning unit that has a fresh air intake (not all of them do).  If you’re buying a new air conditioner, you may also want to look for one with inverter technology (it dehumidifies the air better and operates more efficiently) and upgraded air filter.  
  • If you have an existing window unit with no fresh air intake, you modify the weatherization around the unit (on the sides or bottom) to allow fresh air to “leak” into the room.  
  • If you have central air conditioning already, you should only need to open the windows about 1” to get enough fresh air to lower CO2 levels below 1000 ppm.
  • If you live in a quiet but rainy area, using a product like the Invisible Awning Rain Guard, $35-40, allows you to open your windows and ventilate, even during a storm.
  • If rain is the problem, here are two window fans that will help:

What if I live in an area with a lot of air pollution, like in a city or near busy roads?

While CO2 is not good for sleep, other types of air pollution like NOx (nitrous oxides) and particulates may be just as bad or worse, so we understand the need for outside air to be filtered.  Depending on the severity of your area, we have two products that can help:

  • The Window Ventilation Filter, $40-50, has an 11” height and reduces dust, dirt and was tested to remove 94% of ragweed pollen.  It also keeps out rain, snow and mild wind.
  • Nanofiber PureAir Window Screens, $40, cover approximately 3-4 average window screen panels.  They are transparent (so your view is not blocked) and use electrostatic adsorption to block particulates.
  • Medify has a great selection of HEPA air purifiers which can be sized according to your room.  All units are equipped with a pre-filter, True HEPA H13 or H14, and active carbon filter.  The active carbon filter is what will remove the VOCs in traffic and industrial pollution.

What if I live in an area where it’s not safe to keep the windows open? 

Security, of course, trumps fresh air…but you can have both if you secure a small window opening with a latch or lock.  It can also prevent children from opening the window too far and falling out.  One thing you’ll need to keep in mind, however, is fire safety; if the window is your safety exit in the case of a fire, you’ll need to make sure the key remains nearby if you lock it.

  • MiniLatches, $69, are pricey but well-made.  They are sized to allow fresh air in but prevent any indoor cats from going out.
  • Stainless Steel Window Chain Locks, $19, are very sturdy
  • Window Security Bars, $50 for a pack of 4, are easily adjustable and installed, and can be used on vertical or horizontal sliding windows and doors.

What if I don’t have a window in my bedroom?

“Fresh air” doesn’t always have to come from windows.  If your bedroom is an interior room, you’ll need to either use the central air conditioning system or create ventilation pathways to bring in fresh air from the rest of the house.

  • If your house is tightly built, it’s a great idea to add a fresh air intake.  Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) minimize the heat and humidity losses of bringing in fresh air and exhausting stale air (ERV’s are recommended for more humid climates).  That way, fresh air comes into all parts of the home and having a window to open is not necessary.  For more on HRVs and ERVs, check out our article here.
  • If your room doesn’t have central air conditioning, you can have privacy and better ventilation by adding grilles in the wall or door.  We discuss four options to do it in this article.
  • If you can’t modify the walls or door, you can still have some security by using a Door Chain Lock ($7 for 2-pack) that will allow your door to open slightly and let more air flow in.  

Here’s a pictorial summary of the ventilation recommendations:

Source: Ventilation causing an average CO2 concentration of 1000 ppm negatively affects sleep: a field-lab study on healthy young people

The bottom line is…a lot of our comfort and well-being depends on how well we sleep.  Measure your bedroom CO2 in the morning before exiting (with the door closed) and if it’s above 1000 ppm, research your options for better ventilation.  Ventilate your bedroom tonight for a better day tomorrow!

Photo by Storiès on Unsplash

Some Home Automation Can Make for a Healthier Home

Some home automation can make for a healthier home

Confession: I have not made it a priority to automate my home via smart technology.  Being an artist, I tend to allocate my budget more for aesthetics, like a nicer couch or new faucets.  There are some devices in which I’m not remotely interested, like a smart toilet (TMI for Alexa!)  but I’m starting to yearn for some of the health benefits of other elements of home automation and I might cave soon!  I want to discuss some unique smart appliances that not only make our lives easier, but make our homes more healthy for all the inhabitants, even pets.

Before I get to the goodies, I must divulge that the type of home automation discussed here (smart home technology) operates on wireless signals, which is a type of electromagnetic field (EMF).  The potential health effects of EMFs is a subject that is debated by consumers and scientists alike.  We at HypoAir have some very healthy clientele who are always in search of what will take them to the next level.  They are constantly judging the health benefits of any technology against any unhealthy aspects of it--as we all should!  That said, I encourage you to research EMF to be aware of the invisible magnetic fields all around us, including in our homes.  Then you can be the judge: are these smart appliances worth it for you?

  • Lighting: set your lights to dim or change color (to less blue ranges) in the evening to cue children and adults that it’s time to get ready for bed.  The easiest way to retrofit your lighting is by installing smart light bulbs, which you can control by voice, app, or your home’s smart system like Alexa (called a “hub”).  Some of the best smart bulbs are: 
  • Air Purifiers: To use smart filtration or not?  It’s possible to set your air purifier on “auto” mode to save energy and only kick on when needed, but several reviews like the Wirecutter tend to believe that either the air quality monitor or its settings in many purifiers may not be optimal, leading to above average pollutants in your home space.  Rather, employ an independent, high-quality air monitor that will give you alerts to bad air quality, in order to get the purifier activated. 
  • Mattresses: Some of us sleep like a log, from the minute our heads hit any pillow, and some of us roll around like a rotisserie chicken (more my style).  For anyone who is on a quest for a better night’s sleep, smart beds may know our sleep better than we do, and can adjust automatically to help us achieve more rest even when we’re in “la-la land”.  The Sleep Foundation has a great page explaining what smart mattresses are and the features they offer.  Most smart beds are air beds, which allow a great range of firmness options.  The ReST bed, Eight Sleep, Saatva Solaire made two “best of” reviews: Sleep Foundation and Tom’s Guide
    • Saatva Solaire: this mattress was rated best for back pain relief, and is also the most non-toxic bed we’ve found.  It was not the most high-tech, because it is only controlled by remotes (one for each side of the bed with no control over the other side: sorry sleeping partners to snorers!) but it is approved by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), so it’s well-suited to people with neck and back pain (Tom’s Guide).  The best part for those who are VOC conscious: the anti-microbial treatment on the fabric covering is botanical, and includes natural latex and Certi-pur US certified gel-infused memory foam. At about $2900 for a queen model, it is also one of the most economical. 
    • Best all-around: ReST Essential Smart Bed: this one has many bells and whistles and with up to 64,000 firmness combinations on each side in manual mode, it easily suits everyone.  The best part for restless sleepers is how it automatically moves air to different chambers when you switch positions during the night (from side to stomach for example), so that pressure-point pain is avoided (pressure-point pain is what tends to wake up many people).  It’s not the most expensive bed but certainly falls in the mid-upper range of pricing ($3800 for a queen mattress). 
    • Best for hot sleepers and couples: EightSleep The Pod Pro Smart Bed has a water-based climate-control system (water beds are not extinct!) which can be customized for each side of the mattress.  The sensors in their Active Grid layer collect information about your pulse, breathing, movement and sleep quality, and also has a gentle vibrating alarm option to wake you up (a nice alternative to an audio alarm which can wake both people!).  At about $2900 for a queen mattress, this is also a great mid-level priced bed.
    • If you can’t afford a smart bed or just invested in a conventional mattress, you can still get sleep data by using Withings Sleep Tracking Pad, which is a pad placed under the mattress to record your movement, breathing and breathing disturbances, sleep cycles and more.  It can also be connected to your home’s smart system to automatically turn off/on lights or modify room temperature when you get into/out of the bed.
  • There are many “smart watches” out there that connect to apps designed to improve your health, but I have not seen one more stylish than the Withings ScanWatch. It can detect Atrial Fibrillation (abnormal heart beat) and blood oxygen levels, for those who are prone to these health issues!  It works with Apple Health, FitBit, Google Fit and others to monitor your activity and workouts.  It also works as a sleep monitor to record sleep duration, cycles, heartrate data and sleep apnea problems.  All this and a fantastic (30-day) battery life?  Yes please!
  • Smart Garage Doors: Anyone with a garage has at one point wondered: did I close the door? Usually this happens miles away from the house, and adds a level of stress to any trip if you can’t go back and verify.  I’m all for reducing stress, since driving can be stressful enough!   There are kits that can convert your existing garage door opener to a smart door, allowing it to open by voice or app or on a schedule, or you can purchase a smart door from the start. Most require a strong wi-fi signal. The Chamberlain's MyQ Smart Garage Hub is very economical at about $30, is able to check the open/closed status on the door, and open or close it remotely via its app, and it’s highly rated for ease of installation.  Upgrades to this product include a keypad and camera.
  • Pets are a recognized source of comfort and well-being which are often considered family members!  It makes sense then, to be able to care for them 24/7 almost like a family member, even if you have to go away to work or a short trip.  Here are some devices that help with that:
    • Smart Pet Feeders are great to extend your time away from home even if you have pets who like their schedules!  “Leaving out bowls” may work for cats, who tend to be more picky eaters, but most dogs I’ve encountered indeed would eat as soon as you set the bowl down.  Enter the ideal pet feeders that can operate on a schedule, or manually through an app, with the ability to work even if the wi-fi or power goes out.  
      • Pet feeders need to have sizes and features that fit the pet you’re feeding.  PetSafe’s WiFi -enabled Smart Feed Automatic Pet Feeder holds up to 24 cups of food and allows you to schedule meals, dispense a snack, or even “slow-feed”: an option for pets that eat too fast, enabling it to dole out the meal over a 15-minute period.  
      • Fish feeders are great even when you are home, as anyone who multi-task knows that some items may not get the attention they deserve!  This review rated the Eheim Everyday Fish Feeder as best in class due to its ability to dispense many different types of fish food with accuracy, to be mounted in several ways, and customizable feedings up to 4 times per day.  
    • Smart Pet Doors are an excellent way to alleviate stress of not getting home on time to “let the dog out”, while providing more security to your home and pet than the average dog door.  PetSafe Electronic SmartDoor is not app-enabled, but operates with an RFID tag that is attached to your pet’s collar,  to open only when your pet approaches.  It has two sizes: one for cats and small dogs, and another for large dogs.  Other brands operate with the microchip that is implanted in your pet,  No more free meals, Ricky Raccoon or neighbor cat! 
  • Smart flood sensors are awesome!  Anyone who has experienced the stress and cost of flooding, be it from a broken water heater, washer or AC drip pan, knows that this kind of warning could be priceless.  The Govee WiFi Water Sensor 3 pack can produce an audible alarm (100 dB) as well as an app notification, to let you know that water has been sensed.  This model sits directly on the floor of the area to be monitored, and includes the necessary 6 AAA batteries to get them going (2 per device). 

And for some of the plain-old convenience advantages, check out these smart appliances (from Living Things):

  • Set your oven to preheat before you’re even home, to make cooking less time-consuming
  • Set your coffeepot to come on before you need it (ok, old technology for sure but it's updated when you can sync it with the wake-up alarm on your phone!) 
  • Set your washing machine to start in the morning after you loaded it the night before
  • Go on vacation on the spur of the moment, when you have automated sprinklers and doors and cameras.

What is the best smart device you’ve discovered for your home?

Photo by BENCE BOROS on Unsplash