Creating a healthy bedroom environment is important for good sleep. If your bedroom isn’t designed for sleep, you may struggle to sleep comfortably. But good bedroom design is more than just picking out the right mattress. You’ll need to consider other elements, including temperature, sound, and colors. But light is an especially important factor in sleep quality.
Why Light Matters for Sleep
Your circadian rhythm is your internal clock. It governs when you feel sleepy and when you feel alert. But unlike a regular clock, your circadian rhythm is variable and can change depending on your behaviors and environment.
Factors that influence your circadian rhythm include your daily schedule, your activity level, even hormones and medications can have an effect. But exposure to light is an especially important part of the time cues that help your circadian rhythm maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
Your circadian rhythm relies on light to indicate when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to be asleep. During the day, when you’re normally exposed to light, your circadian rhythm gets the signal that you should be awake. At night when it’s dark, the signal says you should sleep.
But exposure to light can throw a wrench in things. Light exposure can send the wrong signal to your circadian rhythm and be a problem for maintaining normal sleep patterns.
Sources of Nighttime Light
Most people turn on lights at night. After all, when it becomes dark outside, so do our homes. But lights are necessary for going about evening activities (and still being able to see). That means you probably keep household lights on at night before bed. And that could be an issue for getting good quality sleep.
You don’t need to walk around in pitch black darkness in the name of sleep cycles, but you should be mindful of what light exposure can do to your sleep quality. Consider sources of light, including:
- Bright overhead lights
- Lights that shine into your eyes
- Light from outdoors coming through your windows
- Light from screens
How You Can Manage Nighttime Light
Keeping the lights on at night is completely normal, and if you’re careful, it’s also completely fine for sleep. But some lights are better than others — and some should be avoided as much as possible.
- Dim overhead lights. Bright overhead lights are the worst for sleep. They shine brightly into your eyes and mimic the sun. You should either dim them in the evening or avoid using them altogether.
- Opt for low lights. Instead of bright light at night, opt for small lamps. Ideally, lamps should point downward and offer soft light.
- Cover up windows. The moon can be a source of light at night, and so can artificial outdoor light, like street lamps. Use window coverings that can block out light well, such as blinds, or better yet, blackout curtains.
- Cut off screen time. The blue light waves emitted from screens can send the wrong message to your circadian rhythm. Resist the temptation to stay up late scrolling through social media or squeezing in a bit of work before bed. Set a hard rule to cut off screen time at least one hour before bed so you can give the effects of screen time a while to wear off before you need to get to sleep.
- Avoid night lights. A night light can offer some nighttime security and help you find your way around at night. But it can disturb your sleep, even with your eyes closed. It’s best to keep your bedroom as dark as possible at night, and night lights change that. It’s best to avoid night lights completely, but if you can’t live without one, look for a soft, warm light rather than a bright white light. In fact, a red light can be less disruptive for sleep.
- Consider a sleep mask. If you really struggle with light, an eye mask worn at night can be an effective last line of defense against light exposure at night. Look for a comfortable, effective mask that you’re happy to wear all night.
- Plan ahead for late night awakenings. If you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, turning on bright lights to do so can wreck your ability to get back to sleep. Try to avoid fully turning on bathroom lights to see. It could be a good idea to keep a small, soft night light on in your bathroom so you can make your way without turning on any bright lights at all.
- Get exposed to light during the day. Just as important as limiting nighttime light exposure is getting light exposure during the day. When you see light during the day, it reinforces the time cue so your body better understands that you’re experiencing daytime and you should be awake and alert. It can be helpful to get bright light exposure first thing in the morning. For example, when you get out of bed, you can open your curtains or turn on a bright overhead light.
Light can have a major effect on your ability to sleep well, so consider how light is affecting your sleep environment. Design your bedroom to limit exposure to bright light at night, and consider how you can keep lights to a minimum as you’re trying to get the sleep you need.
Author Bio: Jackie Kepler is a MattressReviews.net sleep professional. She enjoys sleeping with cats, but sleeps on a king size bed because she needs her space, too.