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Sleep and lighting: How well are you sleeping?

sleep and lighting

Sleep is so important to our wellbeing. We don’t know about you, but a lot of people seem to be having more trouble sleeping during this latest lockdown. They wake up tired, spend the day exhausted, go to bed feeling wiped out and… boom! Frustratingly, they spend most of the night lying awake.

Have you ever wondered why that happens?

Well, we decided to do a bit of research for you!

The more you worry about not getting to sleep… the worse your insomnia will become

That sounds like a ‘what came first – the chicken or the egg’ dilemma, doesn’t it? But, according to sleep experts, that’s precisely what happens.

The more you lie awake and worry about not being able to sleep, the more tense and anxious you become. How many times have you laid there thinking, “Why can’t I sleep? My body’s exhausted, but I can’t turn off my mind. What’s wrong with me?” and it feels like you watch every hour tick around on the alarm clock? That’s because sleep likes to play games with us, like that boy or girl who pretended not to like you when you were at school and then spent all their time trying to get you to chase them around the playground.

Here’s the bottom line: you’ll never get to sleep if you struggle. Accept you’re awake, stay quiet and let your body relax, and the chances are better that sleep will eventually come.

Don’t lie awake for longer than twenty minutes… get up and do something else instead

Yes, you know, that’s another ‘chicken versus the egg’ dilemma!

After all, how logical does it sound to get out of bed when getting to sleep is your real priority?

But sleep experts call this ‘stimulus control.’ Instead of lying in bed, move to another room and read a boring book or an old copy of ‘Setsquare Weekly’ (with apologies to any set-square collectors who might be reading this 😊.) Stretch gently to release tension, and only go back to bed when you feel sleepy and can barely keep your eyelids open.

How does ‘stimulus control’ work? Because it retrains our mind and body to understand that bed is where we go only when we’re ready for sleep. The big problem with lying awake for hours on end is that we start to dread going to bed and our relationship with the bedroom and sleep becomes very negative. Stimulus control teaches us to break that cycle.

Even if you’re tired during the day, don’t go to bed early

We’ve talked about our body’s circadian rhythm in previous blogs, but here’s a quick reminder in case you’ve forgotten the details…

Our circadian rhythm is our body’s internal clock. We wake up with the daylight, and we go to sleep when its dark. We generally feel more active or more lethargic during our waking hours, depending on the quality of light we’re experiencing. That’s one of the many reasons why smart LED lighting in offices and homes is such a brilliant invention, because it means we can keep our bodies in tune by giving us enough light for whatever activity we’re doing. Even if we don’t have access to natural light via a window, smart LED lighting keeps our circadian rhythm on track.

Anyway, when we haven’t slept well the night before and try to make up for it by spending a few extra hours in bed in the morning or going to bed earlier than usual at night, we’re disrupting our circadian rhythm and that only makes matters much worse. Taking ‘cat naps’ during the day can be a bad idea too, because it decreases something called ‘sleep debt’, which means we won’t need as much sleep at night.

The best solution is to maintain a regular sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time every night of the week and using an alarm to wake up at the same time every morning. Don’t look at your cellphone, watch TV or read in bed at least thirty minutes before bedtime, avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol several hours before going to sleep, and keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool.

What are the best and worst types of light for sleep?

Of course, we couldn’t finish this blog without talking a bit about lighting!

For years, sleep experts have told us to switch off electronics and avoid looking at bright lights before bedtime. However, early research suggests that some light colours may help you sleep better – especially warmer colours, like red and pink.

That’s because colours that are close to red on the light spectrum increase melatonin, the hormone that helps control our body’s natural wake/sleep cycle. It’s all tied up in the way specific colours and brightnesses of light stimulate the photoreceptors in our eyes and how our eyes send that information back to our brain and tell it how much melatonin to release.

It’s also a lot to do with our individual make-up, because some of us have a preferred light colour that can make us fall asleep more quickly. For example, one research study found it took participants 21.2 minutes to fall asleep in white light, 21.1 minutes to fall asleep in darkness, but only 12.3 minutes to fall asleep to their preferred colour.

Babies and children are affected by light differently to adults because their melatonin production seems to be more suppressed. That’s why children’s night lights should have warmer colours, and you shouldn’t expose babies and children to blue and white lights before bedtime.

Avoiding blue light in the bedroom is something adults should do too. According to some evidence, blue light (and maybe even green light) can negatively affect our quality of sleep, which is a big reason why we shouldn’t look at electronic screens when we go to bed. There have also been studies that suggest violet light could have a similar effect on us as blue light, and exposure to green and purple light could also prevent us from falling asleep. However, a lot of research still has to be done on all those claims.

In the meantime, if you’d like to improve the quality of your sleep with some warmer coloured LED lighting, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our friendly, expert team will always be here to help and advise you, even while our physical shop is closed due to this seemingly endless lockdown! All you’ve got to do is give us a call on 01328 855028, drop us an email at [email protected], or use the contact form on our website.

We’ll be continuing the health theme in our next blog by answering another question we’re sometimes asked, ‘How does lighting affect our eyes and bodies as we get older?’

If that’s something you’ve ever wondered about too, or even if you haven’t (!), we’ll look forward to seeing you there!

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