The Bedroom Environment

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Light and darkness are powerful cues that tell your body it’s time to rest, or get you ready for a productive day. So it’s no surprise that light in the bedroom (as well as light peeking in from outside) has an impact on the quality of your sleep.

Artificial light after dark can send wake-up messages to the brain, suppressing the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. In fact, a recent study showed that even bright room light could have this chemical effect. And early sunrays begin to activate the body and can cause some of us to rise before we’re ready.

With a little thought and creativity, though, you can use the body’s light sensitivity to your advantage. Consider low-wattage, incandescent lamps at your bedside to help you wind down in the hours before sleep. Survey your room for any other sources of artificial light, for example, streetlamps or porch lights, or even the glow from the power buttons of electronics like TV’s or bright alarm clocks. Consider blocking these to make the room completely dark while you sleep. If you go to the bathroom during the night, do so by nightlight, instead of turning on stronger overhead lights.

If you can wake up rested with the sun after 7-9 hours of sleep, then by all means welcome the early morning rays. If not, use darkening curtains or shades to keep your body in sleep mode until it’s time to wake up and start the day.

Supporting Research

Exposure to Room Light before Bedtime Suppresses Melatonin Onset

Non-visual effects of light on melatonin, alertness and cognitive performance

Limiting the Impact of light pollution on human health