By now we all know that light wakes us up, but did you know light can also help you sleep?
A new generation of light bulbs and lamps are mimicking natural light cycles to get your body into sleep mode without disrupting your evening activities.
Over hundreds of thousands of years the human body clock has set its alarm for sunrise. The body reacts to the morning light by inhibiting the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Those with thick curtains or early starts have even begun to use light emitting alarm clocks that slowly illuminate the room at a set time, to mimic the sunrise.
However, in the modern era, when the sun goes down we simply switch on our electric lights and the body continues to inhibit melatonin release. Then, when it’s time for bed, our bodies are still in wake mode and the quality of our sleep is affected. “The whole temporal environment has been turned upside down,” claims said Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, chief of the division of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
While sitting in complete darkness from sunset till bedtime may be great for sleep, it’s not very practical. Turning down lights is a good start but still disrupts the body clock, or circadian rhythm. The key, according to scientists around the world, is the colour of the light.
The sun emits greater amounts of blue light in the morning, white light in the middle of the day, and more red light in the evening. The body has tuned into this pattern and wakes up to the blue frequencies of light. Therefore, by removing the blue frequencies from our evening lighting we can realign our bodies with natural cycles without disrupting our evening activities.
The emergence of light emitting diode, or LED, lighting has come just in time to save our sleep cycles. LEDs allow for far greater control over light intensity and colour, and they can easily be connected to timers or sensors to automatically mimic natural light. So as you get closer to your chosen bedtime the LEDs in your home will get dimmer while emitting less and less blue light, allowing you to doze off and sleep well throughout the night.
Recent research has also found that the circadian rhythm is not just responsible for sleep and wakefulness. It seems that other essential internal systems, like hunger, mental alertness, mood, stress, heart function, and immunity, all depend on natural light cycles. So the switch to environmentally friendly LEDs can provide a host of health benefits while also, conveniently, reducing your energy bills.