Everybody knows sleep is important.
But did you know that the way your bedroom is lit can impact the quality of your sleep?
In this article, I’ll walk you through a few insider tips to make sure your lighting is set up to give you the best night’s sleep you can get.
Trust me—it really does make all the difference especially to fend off insomnia.
And even if (for some unfathomable reason) you don’t care about your sleep, proper lighting can make your bedroom a more pleasant place to be, no matter what you’re doing in it.
Light and Sleep
Light—or, rather, darkness—is one of the most important factors in getting a good night’s sleep.
If it’s not dark enough, your body won’t recognize that it’s time for some shut-eye, and you’ll be stuck lying awake in the not-quite-dark.
How can you know if your bedroom is too illuminated?
Well, there’s a few common culprits.
Anything with a digital screen will act as an active hindrance to your sleep.
For one thing, they’re designed to be incredibly distracting, making it hard to put them down.
No matter if you’re checking Facebook, watching Netflix, or going deep down a Wikipedia rabbit hole, these devices are simply devious in their efforts to keep you from going to bed!
Here’s the thing, though.
Even if you have a good habit of setting down the phone or closing the laptop exactly when you mean to, those electronics might still be keeping you from getting to sleep.
For one thing, if they have any LED lights that are always on, those tiny light sources can be bright enough to interrupt your REM sleep.
More importantly, though, the blue light they emit when you’re using them is a wavelength that your body interprets as daylight—meaning that if you shut off the screens at midnight and roll right over to get some sleep, your body will be confused by the sudden disappearance of the ‘sun.’
This can cost you valuable sleep time as your body readjusts to recognize that it is, in fact, nighttime.
But electronics aren’t the only light sources in your life.
Another common troublemaker are bright, white, overhead lights.
If you’ve ever gotten up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, flicked on the light, and felt wide awake afterward, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Just like the blue light from your screens, white light mimics the sun, leading your body to believe it’s time for anything except sleep.
And if you leave your bedroom light on right before rolling over for some shut-eye, the exact same thing can happen.
Your body will eventually adjust, but going from ‘daylight’ straight to total darkness is disorienting, and it’ll take some time for you to get properly sleepy.
The classic solution is a bedside lamp or reading light—something with a low wattage, so it won’t get super bright, but that still puts out enough light to see by.
A lampshade can further diffuse the light, keeping it at a dull, warm glow that won’t leave you restless once you turn it out.
If the low-watt solution isn’t working, you could also try a couple of higher-tech solutions.
A dimmer switch will give you the ability to lower your light levels over the course of the evening, or to turn the lights on just enough to see by, for those times when you have to get up in the middle of the night.
There are also smart dimmer switches available, which can be programmed to slowly turn down as the evening grows longer.
Plus, if you have a smart home system, there are dimmer switches which can be integrated into that network, making it even easier for you to catch a few z’s.
But, if a dimmer switch isn’t your thing—or if your home’s wiring won’t let you install one—there are also red-light light bulbs, which filter out all the blue light so it can’t keep you awake.
Personally, I’m not as fond of these, since you don’t have the versatility to make them regular, full-spectrum white lights if you need to.
Still, in the right situation, they can be highly effective!
I’ve mentioned the way your body can mistake artificial lights for sunlight, but what about sunlight itself?
After all, most of us aren’t living our lives in accordance with the rise and set of the sun.
I’ve talked about better ways to keep your room illuminated after dark, but what about keeping it dark while the sun is up?
I don’t want to assume, but in our society, where everything is driven by strict clock-measured time, it seems like a pretty safe bet that you aren’t interested in tying your morning routine to the constantly shifting pattern of sunrise.
So, we need to keep the light out for a few hours in the morning.
But how to do it?
Fortunately, there’s a convenient answer: blackout curtains.
I adore these curtains!
They’re typically dark in color and relatively heavy, since they’re designed to be completely opaque.
They work best on a curtain rod that allows them to be pulled all the way across the window; you might be surprised at just how wakening a thin sliver of daylight can be at six o’clock in the morning.
Blackout curtains—despite their name—come in a wide range of colors, so you can find some that will work nicely with any room!
If you already have window coverings installed, though, there’s no need to replace them just yet.
Well-designed blinds, window panels, or even dark window film can also do a great job of keeping out light when you don’t want it.
As you can see, there are a bunch of ways to keep your bedroom nice and dark, just the way it needs to be for your best possible sleep!
Best of luck improving the light in your bedroom, and happy sleeping!
Stacey is the co-founder of Mattress Guides and continues to recommend and review countless mattresses. Together with Ted, Stacey makes sure that thousands of people are sleeping well and wake up healthy and ready for the day.
Updated at September 29, 2021