Flooring, walls, and beds are often the focus of bedroom updates, but the most important element of bedroom design may be lighting. Light is one of the major factors that enable high-quality sleep, so it’s essential that you make smart lighting a part of your bedroom design.

The Effect of Light on Sleep

If you’re not sleeping well, think about lighting before buying a new mattress online. It has a bigger effect on your sleeping habits than you may think. Your body’s internal clock relies on circadian rhythms. These rhythms rely on cues to tell you what time of day it is and whether you should be sleeping or awake and alert.

Sunlight is one of the most powerful cues, so when it’s light outside, you get the signal that it’s daytime and time to be awake. But there’s a problem: artificial light.

When we use artificial light to see at night, it sends confusing signals to your brain. Although you know that it’s nighttime, artificial light is a signal that tells your brain it’s daytime — alert time — even when it’s time for you to go to sleep.

Bright overhead lights, screens on TVs, laptops, and mobile devices can make you feel less sleepy, leading to nights of tossing and turning. Overhead lights can be too bright, and high efficiency bulbs tend to make you feel more awake. Blue wave light can be especially troublesome, as research indicates this type of light is particularly energizing. It can suppress the release of hormones that you make you feel sleepy for three hours.

Lighting Design for Good Sleep

Use natural light as much as possible in bedrooms. Large windows can provide natural light during the day with window coverings open. At night, use blackout curtains to block out artificial light pollution so you can sleep comfortably in the dark.

Design lighting at a lower level in the bedroom. Overhead lighting can be too harsh and jarring. Incandescent lamps are a good fit for the bedroom because they don’t have blue wave light, and they don’t shine right in your eyes at night. Consider going even lower, adding soft low-level lighting at or near the floor.

Use red night lights to get around in the dark. If you need some light to get out of bed at night, red lights are the best choice. This shade of light has the least effect on circadian rhythm.

Keep screens out of your bedroom. The blue wavelength light emitted from screens including TVs, laptops, and mobile devices delays the onset of sleep. Don’t keep your computer or TV in your bedroom, and make it a rule to stop using mobile devices and other screens at least one hour before bedtime.

Don’t use bright lights before bed. Direct bright light exposure before bed can be confusing for your circadian rhythm. Use a dimmer or avoid turning on bright overhead lights.

Pay attention to light intensity. Higher light levels, measured in lux, can suppress melatonin, the hormone that helps the body process the signal of darkness. Look for light bulbs that have lower lux levels for your bedroom and any hallways or areas connected to your bedroom, such as your master bath.

Ellie Porter
Managing Editor | SleepHelp.org