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Depending on the time you expose yourself to light, it might either help or hurt your ability to sleep. To maintain synchronization within the 24-hour cycle, the circadian rhythm, our body’s internal clock that controls sleep-wake cycles and other processes, principally depends on light and darkness.
While light exposure throughout the day tells your brain to stay awake and attentive, it can interfere with your body’s nighttime wind-down process.
Here is a brief explanation of light, how exposure to it affects sleep, and strategies for managing it.
The “strongest time cue to the circadian clock that keeps these rhythms entrained to the 24 hour a day,” according to experts, is light. In other words, light enables the body’s clock to function around-the-clock.
The circadian rhythm is influenced by light from the sun and artificial lighting (light generated by electricity). Our bodies’ capacity to relax, engage in deep sleep, or be active can be affected by the amount of time we spend exposed to these light sources.
Unlike the sun, which only shines during the day and sets at night, artificial light can be exposed to us continuously. Our circadian rhythm may become out of phase with the 24-hour clock when this occurs. It’s possible that this discordance will have a negative impact on our health, especially our sleep.
In reaction to darkness, the brain releases melatonin, a hormone that supports the circadian rhythm. Melatonin production increases in response to darkness and decreases in response to light, especially in the morning. In part, melatonin controls our circadian cycle to get us ready for bed.
Melatonin production is suppressed at night, interfering with the body’s signal to unwind and prepare for sleep. Low melatonin synthesis may be linked to disorders like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, impaired cognition, and sleep deprivation, according to research.
Our body is most sensitive to shorter wavelength blue light, according to study. Sadly, blue light is emitted by a lot of devices, including laptops, phones, televisions, tablets, and certain home lighting.
Two hours before bedtime, exposure to bright light delays sleep and wake times, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC). In contrast, early morning sunshine pushes back sleep and wake times. Bright light of all wavelengths may also make us feel alert and impede our ability to wind down and get ready for sleep.
It makes sense that a 2013 study found that because electric light is available to humans around-the-clock, it reduces our exposure to sunshine and increases our exposure to artificial light at night, which may lead to circadian rhythm misalignment and a lack of sleep.
Similar to this, a 2019 study reveals that even low-intensity blue light exposure may harm sleep health by interfering with sleep lengths, circadian rhythm, and quality. According to a different study, limiting light exposure after sunset may enhance both the duration and quality of sleep.
Basically, exposure to light or a lack of darkness at night can mess with the body’s internal clock, disrupt it, and interfere with both the quantity and quality of sleep.
But light exposure during sleep may also have an adverse effect on health, so it’s not just light before bed that affects sleep. For instance, a recent study discovered that even somewhat dim light left on throughout the night can harm our cardioembolic system by raising our heart rates at night and causing insulin resistance.
As it rises during the day to keep us alert and active when we should, and sets in the evening to allow our bodies to settle down and rest, sunlight supports the pace of our circadian rhythm.
1. To cut down on nighttime light, install window coverings or blackout blinds.
Having black-out window coverings thick enough to block light and well-fitted to prevent slivers of street light or early morning sunlight from filtering in is one technique to attain complete darkness after shutting off all the lights in your bedroom.
The bedroom should be absolutely dark for the body to fall and stay asleep. No lights are present to occupy your attention or keep you awake.
Like sunlight, artificial light keeps us alert and active. Contrary to sunlight, it is always present to us, even when we ought to be unwinding and getting ready for bed.
Artificial light exposure 24 hours a day can interfere with your circadian rhythm and sleep cycle. Here are some suggestions to help you control your exposure to light.
A study conducted in 2021 found that improved curtains with higher light-blocking abilities helped sailors, whose sleep quality is typically compromised by ambient light, experience less daytime tiredness and insomnia symptoms.
2. Put on Eye Mask.
An eye mask can help you get the perfect amount of darkness for sleep, especially if you can’t regulate the lighting in your room. It is a safe, non-addictive sleep aid.
You can use an eye mask anytime you want and wherever you are, and they are inexpensive. Once you’re ready to go to bed, simply put them on to create total darkness.
According to a study from 2021, eye masks and earplugs can considerably improve the quality, quantity, and REM sleep while lowering nightly awakenings and sleep disruptions. A similar study discovered that using earplugs and eye masks enhanced patients’ perceived sleep quality in the intensive care unit (ICU).
3. Reduce lighting before bed.
According to studies, room lighting has a substantial impact on melatonin production. Exposure before bed can suppress melatonin and have an impact on drowsiness and the quality of your sleep.
Therefore, to avoid the negative effects of bright light on sleep and circadian rhythm, attempt to reduce your room’s lights or turn them off completely before going to bed.
4. Clear the bedroom of all electronics.
Keeping electronic equipment in your bedroom at night, such as your computer, television, and other lighting sources, is another approach to turn your room into a peaceful place to sleep.
Evidence suggests that late-night light exposure from electric lights and gadgets can lessen drowsiness and interfere with the quality of sleep.
5. Obtain Sunlight Throughout the Day.
The circadian rhythm is synchronised with the 24-hour clock with the aid of sunlight. By exposing yourself to sunlight during the day, you can improve the health of your sleep and the strength of your sleep-wake cycles.
For instance, a 2015 study suggests that increasing elderly women’s exposure to indoor morning light may enhance their quality of sleep. Similar to this, a 2017 study discovered that seniors may benefit from direct sunshine between 8 and 10 in the morning for better sleep.
To maintain your circadian rhythm and improve your sleep, experts advise getting some sunshine exposure, ideally within the first hour or two of waking up.
6. Wear blue-light-blocking glasses.
Let’s say you have to use your PCs or other blue-light emitting equipment into the wee hours of the night. Given its effect on melatonin, you can then purchase blue light glasses to reduce the quantity of blue light you are exposed to. According to a 2017 study, compared to transparent lenses, wearing blue-light-blocking glasses two hours prior to bedtime significantly improved sleep quality, duration, and symptoms of insomnia.
Similar findings from a 2016 study showed that participants who wore blue-blocking eyewear while using electronic devices two hours prior to bedtime experienced increased levels of drowsiness and sleep efficiency as well as quicker sleep onset than the control group.
Another study discovered that wearing blue-blocking glasses boosted melatonin levels, subjective total sleep time, and sleep quality.
7. Minimise your screen time.
When you expose yourself to blue light from computers and phones at night, it can hinder the creation of melatonin and impair your ability to fall asleep. Blue light exposure is probably a contributing factor, but so is the stimulating nature of using technological devices. According to a study published in 2020, frequent screen use is linked to issues with falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, getting enough sleep, and having poor-quality sleep.
Researchers provide the following examples of how screen light impacts sleep:
It might raise arousal levels and lessen daytime sleepiness.
It may slow down the circadian clock and postpone sleep, which will result in shorter sleep duration.
So, you can limit your nighttime screen time to lessen your exposure to light from screens. Your screen time might be decreased by;
Final Thoughts on How to Reduce Light Exposure.
Your sleep health can be dramatically enhanced by controlling your light exposure.
Start by prioritising a dark sleeping environment and minimising your exposure to blue light-emitting devices if you’ve been having trouble sleeping.
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