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From red light therapy to blackout curtains, we shine a light on ways you can set up your home lighting to help you fall asleep.
As a kid, you might have heard the term “lights out”—parent talk for “get to bed.” They were on to something: studies suggest that light exposure at the wrong time can affect your circadian rhythm: your body’s internal clock that tells your brain it’s time for bed. Yet it’s often at night that people watch TV or go on their phones, staring directly into the very light they’re supposed to avoid. No wonder a quarter of Canadians report that they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep each night.
But with new studies suggesting that specific spectrums of light can actually for trigger sleep, there might just be a way to harness light to optimize your sleep health. That’s right: while lights are the problem, they may also be the solution. Here’s a look at the ways to use light in your bedroom to get a better night’s sleep.
Candles are excellent for this, but impractical. Fireplaces too, for that matter. But using red and amber night light colours emulates the ambiance of a fire without any of the hazards. Not only does this colour spectrum create a warm, soothing atmosphere in the room, but it also promotes a good night’s sleep by not disrupting your circadian rhythm. The logic is: the closer to red it is on the light spectrum, the more melatonin you’ll produce. In terms of your circadian rhythm, it’s a lower colour temperature than the sun so your body’s internal clock won’t think it’s day. A good option for lighting is a Himalayan salt lamp.
Because of the importance of the circadian rhythm for falling asleep, it’s important to have your interior lighting match whatever is happening outside, so as not to throw it off-kilter. As the sun rises, have your lights slowly increase in intensity and at sunset, have them grow softer (dimmers are a great way to manually create this effect). Another way to emulate this effect would be a sunrise alarm clock: program them to wake you up with a steadily increasing LED light to help jumpstart your circadian rhythm for the day. They usually come with multicolour settings, so you can set the light to red to help with sleep.
If you like warm atmospheric lighting, you might do this already. During the day, built-in overhead lights are great, but as the night falls, opt for decorative floor lamps and ornate table lamps with low-intensity soft bulbs or, better yet, an LED Edison bulb that gives a more orange-toned glow. Of course, anything red or amber is your best bet. You can also opt to throw a red or dark scarf over a lampshade for added dimming and a bohemian vibe (just watch for fire hazards, of course). If you do insist on turning on ceiling lights, try switching the bulbs to warm-toned incandescent or florescent light bulbs.
Red Light Therapy or RLT is fast becoming a trend in wellness and for good reason—it boasts benefits anywhere from anti-aging, muscle healing, hair regrowth and mood enhancement. Studies also suggest that it helps improve sleep quality. Whether or not you believe in the science behind this newest health craze or not, the glow of one of these red-light panels is strong enough to light a large portion of your home and help you keep your circadian rhythm from going out of whack. Sure, your home will glow like a hell-ish haunted house, but a good night’s sleep could just be worth it. Keep in mind, these panels can range from expensive to very expensive (anywhere from $150 to $3500) so only invest if this is something you’re also interested in for the accompanying health benefits.
It’s well-documented that avoiding the blue light spectrum is the key to a good night’s sleep. Electronic screens, LED lights and fluorescent lights can all contain blue light and negatively impact our sleep quality. In a nutshell, all visible light we see as humans contains the entire spectrum of the rainbow, and within that are blue light waves, said to help us stay alert and upbeat. Some ways to avoid or filter out this wavelength is to purchase special blue-light blocking glasses which also claim to help with headaches if you stare at computer screens all day. (They also come in different styles so you don’t have to compromise your personal aesthetic for a good night’s sleep.) Most TVs have a blue-light option that you can set a timer for to start automatically when the sun starts to set. If your TV doesn’t have this filter option, there are blue-light filters you can buy to stick directly onto your screen for the same effect. Of course, another obvious option is to keep your TV and computer screens out of your room entirely, so when you’re in your room your brain understands that it’s time for sleep.
Depending on where you live, your window could be a source of sneaky light pollution from the outside. Studies have shown that just a night or two of exposure to faint light is enough to raise your pulse and increase insulin resistance—factors that increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Investing in some blackout curtains can help block out any exterior streetlights or city light pollution so you can experience complete darkness, helping you to fall asleep faster and for longer. Blackout curtains come in a variety of colours, so they don’t have to be an eyesore during the day. Or, if you don’t want to commit to a full-window makeover, there are also some great eye masks that can help you shut out any light and get that precious shut-eye.
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