Getting Better Sleep (1 of 3) — 5 Ways to Use Light to Improve Sleep Quality
Sleep is an essential part of a balanced self. Sometimes, it can be the determining factor in what the next day will hold. For those who suffer from insomnia or sleep deprivation, there are many natural ways in which they can improve their sleep and become happier and more productive.
This is the first post in a series of three in which we will give you a guide on how to find a healthy sleep cycle. In addition to this article on light, we will also explore how routines can improve sleep quality, and what we should and shouldn’t put in our bodies to promote sleep.
Examining your exposure to light can be the key to improving your quality of sleep. Light, even the artificial kind, stimulates the body, making it difficult to sleep. By altering your approach to day- and night-time light, you may find more success in sleeping restfully.
- Increase morning light exposure:
Get at least 15 minutes of natural light exposure per day. Outside light is much more intense than inside light. Going outside allows natural light to regulate your biological clock. More is better, and if you can do this first thing in the morning you will get the most bang for the buck! I like to say that morning light turns of the ‘sleepy’ hormones and turns on the ‘happy’ hormones. This is why bright light therapy is so helpful for treating depression. If you cannot get outside, use a light box like this one to simulate
natural light. I would stay away from the ionizer function on this particular light box because it gets some mixed reviews. To be effective, the light needs to be white light and emit 10,000 lux. Make sure the box is big enough to shine into your eyes from a foot away so that you can do other things while you soak in the ‘sun.’ If you have ever had a manic episode or have been diagnosed with any psychological disorder, consult your psychologist before using a light box. If you have migraines, proceed with caution. Everyone should start with only 5 minutes of light box use and gradually work up to 25 minutes per day.
- Decrease evening light exposure:
Starting two hours before bedtime, begin dimming the lights! This is especially for the blue spectrum lights like those found in electronic devices like TVs, cell phones, computers, and E-readers. Blue light is so similar to natural light that it tricks the body into turning off the ‘sleepy’ hormones and promotes wakefulness. These lights can not only interfere with falling asleep, but can make it hard to stay asleep. These devices are also mentally stimulating, but we will talk about that in a future post.
- Make your bedroom dark and quiet:
Again, light turns off the sleepy hormones even when your eyes are closed. So get some black out curtains, and ask your neighbor to please point that pesky motion-controlled light away from your window! I know it’s not light, but we can’t ignore the noise. A nice noise-free sleep environment will help you fall asleep and help prevent you that you from waking during the night. Even if you don’t wake up, noise can disturb the quality of your sleep. Sorry kitties, you are going to have to sleep in the guest bedroom tonight!
- Put the clock under the bed or turn it so that you can’t see it.
The light it emits won’t do you any good, and no one is better off watching the clock. Clock watching often leads to frustration, anger, and worry, which will certainly interfere with sleep.
- Use the bed/bedroom for sleep only.
Read or watch TV in another part of your home. This is partly about light, partly about routine, and largely about psychology. Tap into this very effective behavioral trick to improve your sleep by strengthening the association between the bed/bedroom with sleep and help reestablish a consistent sleep-wake schedule for yourself.
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