Light and lack of light both help us to get a good night’s sleep. I had trouble staying asleep as car headlights would disturb me and my partner worked late and lights were left on. So my sleep hack was this.
I bought a sleep mask.
Sounds so simple but along with a few little tweaks to my days and I was having the best night’s sleep I had had in years.
How we are exposed to light both during the day and at night can affect how well we sleep. Absence of light tells our brain it is time to sleep and exposure to light at the wrong times influences how well we sleep.
Exposure to bright lights after dark suppress the sleep hormone melatonin. This hormone tells our brain to rest, our bodies to relax and for us to fall asleep. Levels of this sleep hormone slowly rise in early evenings and keep rising til the early hours of the morning and then start to decrease for us to wake up.
Artificial light in our homes and from our phones and digital devices interferes with melatonin production. So while my sleep mask stops lights from waking me up I needed to alter my evening routine as well.
The brightness or lumen of light also wakes us up in the morning. By filling your home with natural light or going outside into the sunshine actually helps us sleep better that night. The brightness of sunlight turns our brains to ‘on’ and helps us function better during the day. This is why we often feel tired after being out in the sun all day. Our body is ready to sleep as soon as the brightness diminishes.
The brightness of lights in our homes are often too bright for us to fall asleep properly even after we have turned them off. So I changed a lot of light globes in my home to a lower level of light and stopped watching TV about an hour before I went to bed. This gave my brain the signal that it was time for rest and sleep.
Once you have hopped into bed and turned off the light your bedroom should be dark.
The right light for sleeping
I have bought my sleep mask and lowered my evening lights now it is time to look at the light coming into my bedroom. I bought a block out blind so the car headlights couldn’t penetrate into the bedroom. I had still had my gorgeous curtains to cover the windows but now the light was firmly being kept out.
To save my partner from turning on lights and disturbing me I bought some red globes and night lights for strategic placement in our home. Our eyes react a lot less to the wavelengths of red light and studies have shown it to be less sleep disruptive.
My sleep mask keeps out all unwanted light and I am sleeping better and waking feeling more refreshed. Choose a mask that is soft and comfortable and doesn’t spin around your head while you sleep.
One other thing that is a great help for stopping light keeping us awake is to move your Smartphone out of the bedroom and stop playing games on it at least one hour before going to bed. These digital devices emit a blue light that acts to keep us awake and alert. By putting your Smartphone up before bed time allows your eyes and brain to switch off from the blue light and to let melatonin help with our sleep routine.
Seeing the light
When we spend time in subdued light in the evenings like our ancestors did before electric lights we are allowing our body to choose our sleep time. Our natural, circadian rhythm of sleeping and wakefulness, will regulate and we will feel a lot better and ready for the day’s work.
You may even appreciate the way light plays on different surfaces and really learn to appreciate that bright sunlight that helps us stay awake during the day and the soft low moonlight that watches over us as we sleep at night.