How Does Light Affect Your Sleep?
Light Can Help Or Hinder Your Sleep – Find Out Why And What To Do
Light, both natural and artificial, can help or hinder your sleep if you’re not careful.
Natural Light and Your Sleep Timing
Your circadian rhythms, which are regular 24-hour cycles that control everything from body temperature to metabolism, control the timing of your sleep cycle. Special photoreceptors in the eyes, called ganglion cells, absorb the blue light produced by the combination of sunlight passing through our atmosphere. These cells then signal the circadian region of the brain to the synchronize the release of sleep hormones with the local day/night schedule.
Limited exposure to natural light can cause a delay in your sleep cycle. With age, the eyes dim and absorb less blue light, which can cause many of the sleep problems experienced by the elderly. They’re often prescribed bright light therapy to increase their exposure to blue light. However, light can also get in the way of good sleep.
Too Much of Good Thing?
Here in the Southwest, we’re never at a loss for sunshine. But it’s not natural light that tends to cause sleep problems. Electronics like TVs and smartphones also give off a blue light that’s absorbed by the ganglion cells. High-efficiency light bulbs can also emit blue light and disrupt the sleep cycle. Exposure within two to three hours of your bedtime can suppress the release of sleep hormones.
Your eyes can also sense light through your eyelids. Moonlight, streetlamps, and other sources of light pollution can similarly interfere with sleep.
How to Get Better (and More) Sleep
Your sleep environment, including how you manage light, can make a difference in the amount of sleep you get and your sleep quality. You can also develop personal habits and behaviors that support healthy sleep. We recommend:
- Blocking Light at Night: It’s important to keep excess light out of the bedroom at night. Blackout curtains, heavy drapes, and blinds can all be used to keep outside light sources from disrupting your sleep. A motion-activated night light placed low to the ground can provide enough elimination for nighttime bathroom trips.
- Getting Comfortable: Light exposure won’t make a difference if you’re sleeping on a lumpy, sagging mattress. Your mattress should support your preferred sleep position and, since temperatures can get hot, it should have good breathability. You can also use bedding made of natural fibers like cotton and linen, which have a loose weave that allows heat and moisture to move away from your body.
- Following a Consistent Schedule: You can help support your body’s response to environmental cues, including light, by following a consistent sleep schedule. That means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Eating Healthy, Regularly Spaced Meals: In addition to light, your circadian rhythms use factors like your meal timing to correctly release sleep hormones. When you eat healthy meals that are regularly spaced throughout the day, you support your body’s natural rhythms. However, that means avoiding high-fat, sugary foods close to bedtime as they can cause indigestion and discomfort.
Many people call Tucson home because of the Southwest sun, and it can actually help you sleep better as long as you manage your light sources right. So enjoy all the Tucson has to offer and sleep well with healthy sleep habits.
Getting the right amount of restful sleep is important to everyone. And with 320 plus days of sunshine every year, managing the light that could affect your sleep is critical. Hopefully this article will help you get the restfull sleep you need.
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The article content was provided by SleepHelp.org.
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