In nature, lighting changes with the days, the seasons and the moon cycles. For humans in the past, these cycles signified what times were best for hunting, fishing, planting and harvesting – and of course time for waking and sleeping. These days, electronic lighting allows us to accomplish more than ever before at any time we like. And with electronics like televisions, computers and smart phones, we have more we can do in our spare time than ever before. But these also keep us awake.
At first it’s hard to believe that what light bulbs we use and where our lights are positioned can have a profound effect on our sleep. But it’s true. Our biology is made to be highly sensitive to the lighting around us.
It’s not coincidence that chronic sleep deprivation and sleeping disorders are also more common than ever. And these sleep problems impact our quality of life in a big way. When we don’t get enough sleep, our mental function, our moods, our productivity and our long-term health suffer greatly.
Fortunately, we can help get our sleep back on track by applying a few key lighting tips that make a big difference:
1. Bright lights in the morning.
Did you know the light you see in the morning can affect your sleep at night? Expose yourself to the bright morning light as soon as you wake up if possible. If you can’t get outdoors, try a sun lamp for 15 to 30 minutes in the morning. Many report that sun lamps are very effective for restoring natural sleep cycles.
2. Cut back on electronics before bed.
Research shows that using electronics like televisions, computers or cell phones before bed contributes to sleep problems. Limit their use in the hour or two before bedtime. (If you need to use the computer at night, there is free software you can download to help your computer’s light simulate the natural light cycles of your region.)
3. No blue before bed.
Blue lighting simulates daylight. In the evenings, use bulbs that give off more yellow light. Lamp shades in gold or red tones can help simulate natural evening light and help you get to sleep.
4. Low lights after sunset.
This is crucial to help your body recover a natural circadian rhythm. After the sun goes down, avoid the use of overhead lights and instead use lamps at table height. This simulates the firelight our ancestors would have been exposed to after dark, whereas overhead lights simulate sunlight and prevent your body from realizing it’s time to rest.
5. Use low-watt bulbs.
No need for bright, 100-watt bulbs in the evenings. For the last one to two hours before bed, use bulbs with a lower light output.
6. Block window light.
Street lamps or flood lights can shine through windows and are sometimes as bright as daylight! Get some curtains that block out light if you have trouble with light shining through your windows at night.