When it comes to figuring out how to hack the light in your bedroom for better sleep, the best trick is probably the easiest: turn it off.
Still, some of us prefer to doze off in the company of a bit of light, and at the very least, we can’t deny the need to flip a couple of light switches in the middle of the night to ensure that we don’t crash into a few pieces of furniture en route to the bathroom. But even though there’s no beating total darkness to boost your slumber, the less-than-ideal impact of light on sleep might be alleviated by a simple change in color.
Because white light – which is what you’ll generally get from most lightbulbs – is meant to mimic the light of daytime, it would make sense that it isn’t the best option for helping you get to sleep, or for minimizing the disruption to your sleep should you need to turn it on at any point during the night. If you’re trying to put your finger on the color alternative that seems like it would be most conducive to sleep, chances are you’re leaning towards blue. It makes sense given that this is a color that is often associated with relaxation. As far as light goes, though, it turns out that blue light is actually one of the worst options that you can go for to minimize the negative effects on your sleep.
According to research published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, blue light actually has the strongest ability to reset our circadian rhythms, which are essentially the body’s internal clocks that help regulate sleep patterns and cycles. Exposure to blue light also proved to suppress the body’s supply of melatonin – the hormone responsible for promoting and regulating sleep – and to delay the onset of REM sleep in the study’s subjects. This means that what the study basically boiled down to is that blue light, and blue portions of artificial light, can be seriously detrimental to a healthy sleep when part of a typical evening routine.
So if not blue, what? Red.
The same study found that red light seemed to have the lowest effect on shifting the body’s circadian rhythm, with additional research confirming the findings and adding that opting for red-tinted light in the evening not only improves sleep, but also helps improve mood and energy during the day.
Unlike lights with a blue hue, bulbs with an red or orange tint don’t emit the same kind of frequencies that our minds use to distinguish the morning from night, meaning that it’s not as likely to confuse our bodies and throw off our sleep cycles.
That means that even if total darkness at night just isn’t your style, keeping a light on doesn’t mean sacrificing a good night’s sleep – just your regular light bulb.