It’s common knowledge that too much light—especially at bedtime—can affect your sleep cycle. But did you know that getting too little light can also cause a problem? Your circadian rhythm, that natural timekeeping device that tells your body when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up, produces brain waves and hormones that control your sleep/wake cycle. This system is often attuned and based on light patterns. While this can be cause for concern, armed with knowledge, you can hack your body’s natural patterns and improve your own quality of sleep.
1. Go outside
This might seem obvious, but sunlight during the day is an essential part of sleeping through the night. Going outside even on an overcast day will increase your light exposure by a factor of 10, then if you stay inside under fluorescent lights. This contrast between a bright part of the day and a dark part of the night is essential to tell your brain when it is time to sleep at night.
2. Light timing
Even if you can’t get outside very much, timing your highest light exposure in the morning or even close to the middle of the day can help you wake up faster and still be able to sleep at night. Even a quick stroll around the neighborhood first thing in the morning, as long as it’s light out, can signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake. A brisk 4am walk in the pitch black might not exactly do the trick. Bright light will jumpstart your day even better than a cup of coffee, and can coax your brain into regulating your sleep cycle.
3. Reduce blue light exposure
We’ve all been warned about the dangers lurking in our smartphones, but what about the danger they pose to your sleep habits? Blue light, the kind of light present in tablets, phones, and other electronic devices with screens, can disrupt your sleep cycles and make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. Try a enforcing a no screen time rule for 60 minutes before your usual bedtime for a week, and see if your sleep cycle improves.
4. Blackout curtains
The flip side of the light exposure coin is that when it’s time to sleep, it needs to be dark. Very dark. Not halfway dark, with streetlamps throwing shadows around your room in crazy ways or the neighbor’s porch lamp being on all night. To ensure your best sleep, block out as much outside light as you possibly can. Blackout curtains are a great investment for anyone whose room is anything less than pitch black at night.
5. Little lights
Once you’ve eliminated outside light sources and pulled those blackout curtains shut, you may find that despite your best efforts, there are still lots of smaller light sources in your room. Who’s the culprit? All those tiny electronics, even if they’re off, often still produce small glowing dots. Your gaming system, your TV, your phone charger, whatever your personal electronic of choice is, it probably produces a small light. You may not think of it as a big deal, but even a small light can disrupt your brain’s perception of sleep/wake time. Try covering all the tiny lights in your room with socks or turning electronics to face the wall. You might be surprised how much of a difference this can make.
While there are many factors that can influence your sleeping habits that are outside of your control, light is one of the few things that you can often manipulate to work in your favor. By implementing some of these tips, you may be able to improve the quality of your sleep with just a few simple changes. For more help, contact us here at Sleep Science today.