Picture: File photo, Ed Gregory

Sending midnight emails from the comfort of bed used to be the ultimate status symbol. Now, science and society are tending to agree that it's the ultimate drag.

The home design world is starting to tune in, with developers and architects approaching a good night's sleep as a challenge worth solving. It's a nascent awareness that follows a shift across other industries, moving away from relentless technology and stress, toward a calmer way.

IPhones have that "do not disturb" setting. Companies are adding nap rooms. Schools abroad are pushing start times later.

"Sleep, like clean air, increasingly has the potential to be the new luxury good," said Rachel Gutter, the chief product officer of the International Well Building Institute, which offers a health and wellness building standard modeled after LEED environmental ratings. "We are increasingly cognisant of how our homes and our offices directly contribute to our health and well being."

Last year, the Nobel Prize in medicine, given for research on circadian rhythms, renewed the spotlight on the link between sleep and health, and Arianna Huffington's new book, "The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time," brought the message of sleep's importance to a mass audience. People are more interested than ever in sleep, she said in an interview.

"The level of receptiveness is skyrocketing," Huffington wrote in an email. "I can see a clear difference from when I first started writing the book and telling people about it compared with now. These days, people are much more aware of the science about how important sleep is - and how could they not be; it's everywhere in the media - but what they want to talk about now is less the 'why' than the 'how.' "

Gutter said that while sleep-optimised homes are still a rarity, a focus on how design can support sleep is starting to take root, "particularly in higher-end housing and particularly in urban areas" where quality sleep is threatened by light and noise.

Between high-tech solutions, such as lightbulbs that promote alertness in the day and rest at night, and more primal ones, such as moving the bedroom or sometimes the whole house away from busy streets and into nature, the various approaches to sleep-friendly housing say one thing: "A good night's sleep is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and our families," Gutter said.

Huffington's "number one tip" for creating a sleep-friendly environment: Charge your phone anywhere but in the bedroom.

"Our phones are repositories of everything we need to put away to allow us to sleep - our to-do lists, our in-boxes, our anxieties. So putting your phone to bed outside your bedroom as a regular part of your bedtime ritual makes you more likely to wake up as fully charged as your phone." said Huffington.

- The Washington Post