Sleep is important. It has a huge effect on your physical, mental, and even emotional health. Yet, high-quality sleep doesn’t come automatically. Sleep is a delicate process that can too easily be interfered with, even on accident. There are several outside factors that play a part in improving or disrupting sleep, including light. Your ideal bedroom should be cool, quiet, and dark. The last factor is an important one! You can create the ideal bedroom environment for maximum sleep by making sure it’s dark.
Understanding Circadian Rhythm
When you stop to think about it, it’s pretty easy to understand why light matters so much. Our internal clocks are set based on the rising and setting of the sun. This is known as our Circadian Rhythm. It is the basis for why we feel awake and tired at the same time every day. Our bodies produce Melatonin as it grows dark outside, allowing us to slowly ease into sleepiness. This hormone is important to our sleep-wake cycle for this reason.
Humans had no issues with sleep schedules until the invention of the light bulb. Then, our ability to turn on a light has made “daytime” longer and natural sleeping is a thing of the past. Light is a powerful guide for your body. It tells your brain that it is daytime and therefore you should be awake eating, working, talking, and moving around. With lights in our houses, as well as light emitted from multiple screens, our bodies have a hard time determining when it’s truly night and therefore time for bed.
Making Your Room Dark
Now that we understand Circadian Rhythm, it’s no surprise that artificial light turned on in the bedroom as well as sunlight peeking in from outside have an impact on the quality of your sleep. The best light for sleep is very little light at all. You need your room to be dark!
A few small changes can help minimize the problems associated with sleeplessness and artificial light. Be sure that you don’t keep your phone near you when you sleep. Avoid all screens, like televisions, iPads, and smartphones, right before bedtime. Don’t fall asleep with the television on in your bedroom. Search your room for any other sources of artificial light you may not have realized could be affecting you, like street lamps or porch lights shining through the window. Use darkening curtains or shades to keep your body in sleep mode until it’s time to wake up and start the day. Above all, use bright light at night only when it’s absolutely needed.
A Quick Note About Night Lights for Adults
You may be saying “I need to use the restroom at night sometimes. If it’s pitch dark, I may trip or bump into something!” You’re absolutely correct. A completely dark room can be a danger, particularly if you need to get up and walk around before the sun rises and naturally illuminates it. What you need is a night light that helps you sleep, one that brightens up the room just enough to see where you are going without telling your mind it is daylight.
You’ll want to be careful about which night lights for adults you choose, though. They are not all the same! Many nightlights use white, blue, or green hues. These colors are commonly considered to be soothing but in fact they inhibit the body's secretion of Melatonin by tricking the brain into believing it is still daylight. Red based light has a much higher wavelength than white, blue, and green lights, which research shows does not inhibit Melatonin. It doesn't improve sleep, it just doesn't interfere with it at all.
Biologically speaking, the best light for sleep is nothing. Darkness is essential to sleep. Along with a high-quality mattress, supportive pillows, soft linens, and a cool temperature, it is incredibly important to ensure you fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night. Be sure you set up your bedroom environment in a way that makes sleep easier to achieve by telling your body it is nighttime. This is what is natural and what is best for your overall health.