Sleeping in the Dark: Does Light Affect Sleep?

It’s a daily routine: after a long day, you change into something comfy like pajamas, turn out the light, then crawl into bed. Why do you switch off the light? Is it because you need it off for sleep? Is it to save electricity?

Do we sleep in the darkness purely because we have been trained to or are there other reasons? Let’s examine why light may be a factor in you falling asleep and staying asleep.

The Natural Imperative

Long before we created our own electricity, humans would sleep when the sun fell and awaken when it rose. It seems to be ingrained into us to sleep at night. The same applies to much of the animal kingdom. Those that are nocturnal have developed specially through evolution.

Look how difficult people find sleeping when they work a night shift. And what do they do? They darken their bedrooms and invest in a sleep mask.

It would seem Mother Nature makes us crave darkness for our slumber.

Melatonin and You

melatonin-formulaIn our wonderful bodies, we have the pineal gland. By itself, we don’t pay much attention to it. Heck, many of us haven’t heard of it. But it produces a vital hormone called melatonin. No doubt you’ve seen melatonin pills in your local store’s vitamins and supplements aisle. People pop them when they have jet lag and can’t sleep in a new time zone. This naturally occurring chemical promotes safe and fulfilling sleep. Without it, we become grumpy, can’t sleep through the night, and just feel meh. During the day – in the light – the pineal gland is inactive. It ‘wakes up’ in the night. Production of this hormone is disturbed by light.

Sleep and Your Health

Sleep is important to physical and mental health. Poor sleep makes us feel foggy, tired, lethargic, grumpy, and more susceptible to illness. Our concentration is diminished, as is our strength and stamina. Sleeping better in darkness promotes the creation of melatonin which, in turn, helps our bodies to align and balance themselves out.

Important Tips

Simply turning off the lights is not all you need to do to ensure a good sleep. What happens during the day, in the crucial hours before bed, and in the bedroom all make a big difference.

  • Get exercise and fresh air during the day.
  • Get rid of fluorescent tubes in your home. They are awful for your eyes, your mood, and your sleep.
  • Blue light is your enemy. Turn off your mobile devices and TV at least an hour before bed time. The blue light emitted by those screens is proven to be disruptive to sleep. Unfortunately, compact fluorescent bulbs emit a fair amount of blue light.
  • Yellow and red light is better during your awake evening hours. Candlelight and campfires don’t cause sleep problems. They’re far more soothing.
  • Invest in lighting that emits more yellow or red. Incandescent and halogen bulbs are better in this area. Dimmable is even better.
  • Get good drapes or blinds that block out light.
  • No night lights in the room.
  • Buy a sleep mask.

A Sleep Mask Could Be Your Savior

If you simply can’t darken your bedroom completely, a soft, breathable sleep mask could take care of that and provide the sleep you can only (day)dream about. You’ll finally have the darkness you crave – and need.

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