The Importance Of Sleep
A big part of Eye Wellbeing is taking care of yourself and your eyes in a relaxed and natural way.
One important aspect of this is regular good quality sleep to allow your eyes and your body to rest. Think of it as our built-in recovery mode!
Artificial Light Kills our Sleep Cycle
Naturally, our daily rhythm was defined by bright sunlight during the day and darkness at night.
Our internal sleep-wake cycle is regulated by the naturally occurring hormone melatonin. Complete darkness signals the body to produce more of this hormone which aids us to fall quickly asleep and allows for better recovery.
The invention of artificial light enables us to increase our daily active time and even swap day and night when working in shifts. But this flexibility comes at a price. A lot of people have trouble to fall asleep and find deep and good quality rest.
Here are my 5 top tips to improve your sleep quality by tweaking your light usage:
1. One hour to prepare for sleep
Create an evening routine that allows your body to prepare for sleep since it needs time to prepare. Think of how the sun dims slowly and not just switches off. To mimic this give yourself a full hour before bedtime to adjust slowly to darkness. Dim the lights if possible, or have a low-watt bulb as evening light.
Modern light bulbs, computer monitors and television screens are designed to have a light spectrum like the sun. To achieve a white bright light source they produce blue light. Unfortunately, these blue wavelengths are scientifically proven to reduce melatonin production and therefore boost to keep us awake.
Therefore it is best to turn off your television an hour before you go to sleep. Computer, tablets and mobile phones can be adjusted and the latest smartphones start to offer night modes where white is replaced with a softer yellow. To get this effect on your computer I can personally recommend to install and use f.lux.
2. Prepare your room
Check your room and avoid any light sources and disturbance from electronic devices, such as cell phones or radio/alarm clocks with screens. In addition to the light, any electronic device produces electromagnetic fields which can disturb your sleep patterns. Therefore it is best to turn them off for the night if possible or keep them at least 1m (=3 feet) away from you and turn the screen away from your bed.
3. Sleep in complete darkness or use a Sleep Mask
We already learned that complete darkness triggers the increased melatonin production which in return leads to deeper sleep.
Unfortunately, depending on where you live and the season, your nights actually might never be really dark or end way too early.
Creating a dark sleep environment is even more important when working in shifts or for new mums catching up on sleep during the day.
If you can install blackout curtains those are a great solution to block out light from the outside.
A more affordable and flexible option is to use a sleep mask. Our eyes register light and darkness. Therefore a mask helps to deepen the perceived darkness and limits your light exposure.
It might take a little time to get used to it. But once you experienced how relaxing it is, you will not want to go back and even miss it when sleeping again without.
The soft elastic strap holds the mask in place over your eyes and therefore offers sleep while seated during travelling too. Catching sleep matching your destination time zone during a long-distance flight is a good way to prepare and avoid jet lag.
Research shows that melatonin is not only important for our sleep quality but works as an antioxidant too. The National Center For Health Research has a very informative article on how this can prevent damage to the DNA which otherwise can cause cancer.
Since I fell in love with the many benefits of sleep masks I started to craft them to help others find better quality sleep too. Check out my shop on Etsy for lots of different colours and patterns in soft cotton fabrics.
4. Dimmed (Red) Nightlights
Bright light is sleep-disrupting due to the blue light waves. When turning on the light on your way to the bathroom or a child’s bedroom you will probably have a hard time falling back to sleep afterwards since the production of melatonin was stopped.
Instead, try out if you can find your way with just the soft light from outside. We know our way in our familiar surroundings anyways, we just need to learn to trust ourselves more.
If this is not enough, use a nightlight with a dimmed red bulb. Red is a long wavelength and shown to be less disruptive to sleep. Maybe install one in your hallway to guide your way. Or you can prepare a flashlight by covering it with red paper and keep it next to your bed.
5. Wake up with Light and Movement
The simplest natural way to signal your body that it is time to get active is to yawn! I personally start each day by stretching and yawning. Once you have completed this it is much harder to snooze on and stay in bed. Plus this eye treat has more benefits for your eyes than you would guess.
Just as important as sleeping in darkness is light to fully wake-up. Make it your habit after waking up to turn on the lights or open your window shades to let sun float into your room. Light helps to reset your internal clock. The melatonin levels are reduced which signals the body to be awake. By aligning your daily rhythm you can increase your energy for the day.
Lighting that follows natural day and night routines is very important to our health as we have learned from above. Dimmed yellow/orange light in the evening can help to fall asleep more easily and slowly increasing bright light in the morning is a great way to wake up. These are only two of the options that I love about having the Philips Hue Light system at home. It also allows for different scenes to help you concentrate or relax and all controlled via an automated time-based setup or with simple control via your smartphone or the included dimmer switch.
If you have been looking for a way to bring coloured light into your home I can recommend this Starter Kit which is available on Amazon (Other bulbs are available too):