Attaining a good night’s rest is becoming more difficult in our fast-paced world. Nearly half (48%) of all adults in Australia report at least two sleep-related problems. Moreover, one-quarter of 12 to 13-year-olds (27%) and more than half of 16 to 17-year-olds (52%) do not meet the prescribed sleep guidelines on school nights. Unfortunately, the rapid pace of peoples’ lives leaves little time for rest, and sleep is often neglected when people are pressured to fit all their tasks into the day. The lack of proper sleeping cycles leads to numerous physical and mental health problems.
Unfortunately, breaking free from these abovementioned patterns is challenging, especially if we’ve habitualised things like eating before bed, taking long naps during the day, and drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks in the afternoon. On top of that, there’s another factor affecting our sleep, that people tend to overlook—light exposure. This article will discuss how too much light exposure at night negatively impacts sleep, including ways to address this issue.
How light exposure at night negatively impacts sleep
Traditionally, the sun dictates human’s sleep schedules: people rose with the sun and settle into bed after it sets. Because of modern technology, particularly artificial lighting, our sleep rhythms vary more at night than ever before. Findings show that the average Australian home lighting is so bright it can suppress melatonin production by almost 50%. This is mainly due to the increase use of strong, cool-toned LED lights. Homes with intense brightness levels are often associated with poorer sleep, as the excess light stimulates individuals and prevents them from falling asleep.
The type of light also makes a difference to sleeping patterns; LED lights generate more blue light than traditional lightbulbs. Blue light is naturally emitted from the sun, however, the human body is not equipped for the levels of blue light we are exposed to everyday through screens and artificial lighting. This over exposure, and after sunset exposure to blue light disturbs our circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm, often referred to as your body’s internal clock, is a natural, biological process that governs the sleep-wake cycle and repeats on each rotation of the Earth, roughly every 24 hours. It influences sleep patterns, hormone release, eating habits and digestion, body temperature, and other important bodily functions. Disruptions in these rhythms may lead to various health issues such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.
Tips on how to improve your sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep should be achievable for everyone. Here are some valuable tips you can incorporate into your daily routine to improve your sleep and your general health:
Avoid blue light
Artificial blue light comes from your favourite gadgets such as computers, tablets, and smartphones, as well as electric lighting. As mentioned earlier, blue light can adversely affect your sleep quality. If you spend most of your time in front of a screen and have issues with nighttime glare, consider putting a blue light filter on your device or acquiring blue light glasses. Blue light blocking glasses like Invisibles Blue protect your eyes against screen glare and the sun’s UV rays, including ones that reach your eyes by hitting the back of the lenses. The BlueGuard Lens technology in these glasses filters blue light between its potentially harmful range of 400 and 455 nanometers, ensuring your eyes are protected at these critical wavelengths.
Use smart lights
Aid your circadian rhythm by using circadian smart lights, also known as human-centric lighting. Surprisingly enough, not enough exposure to light at the correct times will also disrupt sleep cycles. As such, investing in circadian lights like LIFX Day & Dusk or the Philips SmartSleep Wake-up light will help since they change colour to mimic natural light from the sun. During mornings, they shift to a bright light that gently wakes you up, and at night, transitions to darkness to help you sleep. This helps reduce the confusion of your circadian rhythm. You get the correct sleep and wake cues instead of the usual darkness-by-day and bright-devices-at-night habit many people have.
Block out all light
If fancy smart lights aren’t your thing, you can opt for the basics. Dark sleep environments help with the sleep quality of teenagers, middle-aged, and older people alike. Do your best to keep your bedroom dark when it’s bedtime. Close your windows and use blackout curtains or blinds to prevent light pollution from outside. Or, try using a blockout sleep mask over your face for additional sleep support. Eye masks can greatly enhance the quality of your sleep by blocking out light, creating an ideal dark environment that can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Ditch the devices at night
Using electronic screens after sundown can have a negative impact on your sleep and overall health. As mentioned above, the blue light emitted by these devices is particularly potent in disrupting our circadian rhythms. This is because the blue light tricks our brains into thinking it’s still daytime, suppressing the production of melatonin, a hormone that signals to our bodies it’s time to sleep. Additionally, engaging with screens often means we’re either working or being entertained, both of which stimulate the mind and make it harder to unwind and prepare for restful sleep. Therefore, avoiding screen use after sunset can significantly improve the quality of your sleep and your overall well-being.
By understanding the effects of light on your sleep, you are better equipped to have longer and more comfortable sleeping times—leaving you invigorated and ready to face each new day. Whether you opt to block out unwanted light, avoid technology before bed, or try out blue light blocking glasses or circadian light bulbs, there is a solution for you.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your sleep health or any other medical condition.
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