The Science Of How Light Affects Your Sleep Cycle

by | Mar 20, 2023 | Science of Sleep

Most people know that getting a good night’s sleep is important for their health and well-being. But did you know that the quality of your sleep can be affected by the light around you? In this article, we’ll take a look at the science of how light affects your sleep cycle and what you can do to use light to your advantage.

How Light Affects the Sleep Cycle

Your sleep cycle is largely influenced by light, with sunlight being a driving factor in regulating your body’s day and night processes. When we are exposed to bright light (like the sun), receptors in our eyes tell our pituitary gland and hypothalamus region that it is daytime. This tells the body to produce the chemicals and/or hormones needed for daytime function. When darkness occurs, the receptors in the eyes notify the pituitary gland that it is nighttime, and the pituitary gland then releases melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for helping you fall asleep and stay asleep. Because your body only produces melatonin in the presence of darkness, this means that exposure to light before bed can disrupt your body’s natural melatonin production and make it harder for you to fall asleep. This is particularly true for blue light, which is emitted by electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Not only can blue light suppress your body’s melatonin production, but it can also stimulate your brain and make it harder for you to wind down before bed. This is why many people recommend avoiding screens for at least one hour before bedtime.

Using Light to Your Advantage

While certain types of light can negatively affect your sleep, others can positively affect your sleep. Here are some tips for using light to your advantage:

  1. Get plenty of daylight, especially in the morning: Studies show that exposure to sunlight during the day can help regulate your sleep/wake cycle and improve the quality of your sleep at night. Daily exposure to sunlight right away in the morning tells your body to “wake up” and starts the process of releasing daytime hormones like cortisol and serotonin. Starting that process right away in the morning means your sleep/wake cycle will be better regulated. If daily sunlight is not available to you, purchasing a bright light device that mimics the brightness of the sun can provide similar results.
  2. Dim your lights: Dimming the lights in your home an hour or so before bedtime can help create a relaxing atmosphere that signals your brain that it’s time to wind down. Dimming the lights can also help regulate melatonin production.
  3. Invest in a blue light filter: If you must use electronic devices before bed, consider investing in a blue light filter. These filters can help reduce the amount of blue light emitted by your device and make it easier for you to fall asleep.
  4. Try a sunrise alarm clock: A sunrise alarm clock simulates the gradual increase in light that occurs naturally as the sun rises, helping to regulate your circadian rhythms and make it easier for you to wake up in the morning.

By being mindful of the light around you and taking steps to manage it, you can improve the quality of your sleep and wake up feeling more refreshed and energized. For more information on how you can improve your sleep, schedule a consultation with Delta Sleep Coaching.