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Patti L. Cowger Demistifying Design: Wellness at home
Demistifying Design

Patti L. Cowger Demistifying Design: Wellness at home


While there is an abundance of healthy-home tips available in books, magazines and on the internet, mine come from a client. Saskia Lytle-Vieira, a board-certified osteopathic physician, who expanded her St. Helena practice to Napa last year, asked me to improve the aesthetics of her new office.

During the consultation, she said, “I remember reading your column about bathtubs.” (I had written about the pros and cons of keeping or removing them.)

Dr. Lytle-Vieira went on to say how the moist heat from a bath is an effective way to relieve sore muscles and tension. She said that the benefits are increased by adding inexpensive Epsom salts to the water. You probably already knew this, but coming from someone who specializes in neuromusculoskeletal medicine, someone who treats acute, chronic pain and injuries, instills even greater confidence in these recommendations.

She also said a few drops of lavender oil in the tub are helpful. I sprinkle this essential oil on my pillowcases each night and now wonder if this is why I’m fast asleep within a few short minutes.

Dr. Lytle-Vieira added, “If feasible to incorporate into a home, a sauna is a great wellness investment. It can help stimulate the vagus nerve, which is a key nerve for the relaxation portion of our nervous system. It can also help ease sore, tight muscles.” A sauna can improve cardiovascular performance, flush toxins, help fight the common cold, and cleanse the skin as well.

What naturally follows a de-stressing sauna or a warm soak? A good night’s rest. Dr. Lytle-Vieira suggests blackout curtains or shades for those who have trouble getting a deep sleep.

“Light decreases melatonin, a hormone that signals sleep,” she said. “Keeping a room dark can help people sleep more soundly especially in the summer months when the sun rises earlier in the morning.”

Here’s the tricky part. Sunlight is essential to getting a restful sleep at night. That’s because your body’s natural clock relies on this light to figure out the time and then determine whether to pump out energizing hormones or relaxing ones (like melatonin.)

One way to help keep everything on schedule is to flood your body with light as soon as you get out of bed. Opening your window coverings right away sends a message to your body that it’s time to wake up. Keep the natural light flowing throughout the day. If you work indoors, try to sit by a window and then take a walk during your lunch break. Dr. Lytle-Vieira recommends 10 minutes of sun exposure in the early morning, without sunscreen, to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and to promote vitamin D absorption without risk of skin cancer. (She does recommend sunscreen during the rest of the day.)

Have you ever noticed getting an extra restful night’s sleep after a day of gardening or playing tennis? It could be because of the physical exertion or the meditative, in-the-zone moments that magically reduce stress. But it could also be the level of sunlight you’ve taken in. Maybe it’s a combination of all three.

Dr. Lytle-Vieira’s office is at the old Parks Victory Hospital site, 2180 Jefferson St., Ste. 215. For more information, call (707) 963-1547 or visit

I’ve always believed that the way we design, decorate, organize, and maintain our homes affects our everyday lives. Our moods, stress level, and time management are all made better or worse by the choices we make.

Watch now; How to Combat Stress and Anxiety by Moving Your Body

Patti L Cowger is a Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at call (707) 322-6522; or email

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