The Science Behind Low Lights at Night

The Science Behind Low Lights at Night

Fun fact: setting the mood in your bedroom is more important than you think. And no, we’re not talking about rose petals on satin sheets.
Weighting For Bedtime Reading The Science Behind Low Lights at Night 4 minutes

Fun fact: setting the mood in your bedroom is more important than you think. And no, we’re not talking about rose petals on satin sheets. What we mean is getting your lighting just right.

How does light affect sleep?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC,) “Bright light in the evening, 2 hours before bedtime, will make you feel sleepy and fall asleep later.” They recommend dimming lights, and getting your body in a perfectly restful state, with the use of light. Here’s why: Bright lighting can distract the mind and disrupt circadian rhythms, needed to clue our brains in that it’s time to rest.

Melatonin

Light affects sleep more than any other external factor, even noise. Brightness sends a signal to our brain, making us alert and energetic—a reaction that happens day and, unfortunately, also at night. Sleeping with lights on does the same thing to our brains– signaling that it’s just not time to snooze. While darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, a hormone directly linked to our circadian rhythm, an internal clock that tells us when to wake and rest. 

In fact, sunlight and sleep are so linked, our bodies have been traditionally synced melatonin production to sunrise and sunset. But in this digital age, waking and sleeping according to your light source is easier said than done. And electricity and tech stimulation have real-life consequences, like unrestful sleep and frequent nighttime awakenings.

Circadian Rhythms

Our bodies are governed by circadian rhythms - the 24-hour internal clock that tells our system what to do and when. Controlled by a teensy part of the brain known as the circadian pacemaker, these rhythms are extra sensitive to light and sleep. 

With natural light, circadian rhythm is synchronized with the daily patterns of nature and our environment - we’re alert during the day and sleepy at night. But electricity can confuse and dismantle the parts of the brain that rely on the powerful clock. That can impact more than just your bedtime - it can quickly impact your mood and mental health in very serious ways. Out of whack sleep has also been tied to slow metabolism, weight gain, cardiovascular problems, and even an elevated risk of cancer.

Can some types of light be beneficial to sleep?

Thankfully, modern times also mean that not all light is created equally and some say that sleeping with a dim night light can actually even be beneficial. Whether you’re just setting the evening wind-down tone with lighting or leaving it on throughout the night, the type and color of light are what matter most.

Harsh blue light, for example, has shorter wavelengths that impact sleep—the same blue light that radiates from your tablet, phone and tech. So yeah, putting down the tech at night is crucial.

Is red light good for sleep? There’s a lot of research being done on just that very subject, and so far the results are promising. The National Library of Medicine tested female basketball players over the course of a 14-day study and found evidence that suggests red light improves sleep, melatonin levels, and endurance. RGB is another soft lighting option that combines red LEDs with other colors.

(One important thing to note if you’re intrigued by using red light for sleep: red light does not mean red light bulbs. The type of red light that improves sleep are bulbs that emit red light wavelengths. More on that here.)

The bottom line on lighting: look for lamps with red light wavelengths that mimic the sun, like our new Loftie Lamp.

What Other Steps Can Improve Sleep and Circadian Rhythm?

So, how can you sleep better and get in line with your own circadian rhythm? Firstly, consider having a conversation with your care team to ensure there are no underlying issues with your sleep patterns. Then, improve your sleep by turning off the lights or using a sleep light with the right wavelengths, remove distractions (like your phone or other electronics) and establish a consistent bedtime routine.

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