Light in the Bedroom
How light affects sleep
Light and dark are strong cues in telling your body when it’s time to wake up or go to sleep.
Light is a common sleep ‘robber’ because it suppresses melatonin (the hormone that helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm and helps you drift off). And in today’s age, we are exposed to more artificial light than ever before, which disrupts our circadian rhythms – keeping us alert and feeling less sleepy.
Studies have shown that the sleeping environment can have a great impact on sleeping patterns, so it’s no surprise that the light in the bedroom has an impact on the quality of sleep, which can lead to numerous health consequences.
A few adjustments to your morning and bedtime routines can really help strengthen your body’s internal body clock.
How dark should a bedroom be for sleep?
Ideally, you shouldn’t be able to see the other side of the bedroom! Even when you’re sleeping, light can be detected through your eyelids, so we need darkness to stay fast asleep.
Here are some ways you can make the bedroom dark to help you sleep better:
- Invest in a pair of quality, well-lined curtains and a blackout blind to keep the early morning light or street lights out and the room dark.
- Have an eye mask to hand to further block out light – especially useful if you’re a shift worker trying to sleep in daylight hours.
- Purchase a lamp with low-wattage bulbs or a dimmer light if you want to read in bed.
- Even small amounts of light from an alarm clock or TV standby button can have an impact on your sleep, so either remove, turn around or cover them.
- Keep bedroom doors closed to avoid additional light filtering in from the landing, bathroom or other bedrooms.
- Nightlights can be used if you’re afraid of the dark or need a small amount of lighting to help navigate trips to the loo or a child’s bedroom. However, opt for red bulbs rather than white ones as they don’t interrupt melatonin secretion – and never put the overhead light on!
- You can also purchase alarm clocks with handy light settings, which dim slowly to help you drift off, and then brighten to wake you gradually in the morning.
- On the run-up to bedtime, avoid screens for about an hour. Blue light inhibits the night-time secretion of melatonin, so turn off computers, mobile phones and even the TV. Turn off overhead lights and switch to softer lighting in the evening to help increase melatonin levels and ease your body into night-time mode.
Exposure to light in a morning
To feel alert, it’s important to have exposure to light in the morning. Open the curtains upon awakening and as soon as is practical, get out into natural light in the morning, preferably around the same time every day.
Natural light, which can still be effective on a cloudy or grey day, helps reset our internal body clock. It helps us get over feeling groggy when we have just woken up and makes us more alert.