Like many of the factors which either improve or hinder our sleep, lighting does not provide a straight forward influence on how well we kip. It’s not that eating food will make us overweight. Eating the wrong food at the wrong time, however, will.
That’s why we are not only going to look at how different types of light affect our sleep, but how we can best use light to provide the soundest of snoozes.
Different Types of Light
We may think of how sound travels at different wavelengths, some of which we register as audible noise, some we don’t. This is seen in how dog whistles with ultrasonic frequencies can be heard by canines, but not we humans.
Light works in similar ways, also travelling across wavelengths. Similar to the dog whistle, there is also light which we cannot detect. More importantly, within the light we can detect, there is different light which is beneficial at different times.
The light we are talking about is that which is emitted from different types of light and can be called ‘visible light’ for these purposes. This is light which falls under the electromagnetic frequency of around 430 to 750 THz (terahertz). At the two opposing ends of this light is ultraviolet light and infrared.
The reason why a beautiful sunny day has a bright blue sky is because of how these different wavelengths pass through the earth’s atmosphere. As we are diurnal (the opposite of nocturnal), we need this blue light to function. It helps our bodies to produce the hormones we need to stay alert, fend off predators and, in the modern world, get all of our work done.
This is why night shift workers have been shown to have a lower life expectancy. It goes against our bodies’ circadian rhythms and can put our overall health at risk.
However, it is not because we are exposed to blue light that is the problem. We need blue light to function. It is how we let it affect us.
Using LED Lighting to Help Improve Sleep
While it is true the warmer red light given off by incandescents is generally better for us just at the point we are going to sleep, it is not true they are generally better. They are much less energy efficient, cost us more in the long run and provide higher does of harmful UV and infrared.
LED lighting is the malleable light of the future. Not only are they much more cost effect and last longer, but they are manipulable. This means we can set LEDs to give off lower does of blue light when we don’t need it and more when we do.
LEDs help solve the problems our world faces over sustainability while providing improvements to our sleeping pattern by complimenting our natural rhythms. It is unreasonable and unhelpful to walk around our house with different types of light bulb in our pockets to change at different times of the day. What is not only reasonable, but advisable, is harnessing the potential of LEDs to help us rest easy. Not only that, but new technologies are being developed to make red light (the wider wavelength light) more affordable in LED form, something which takes sleep aid LED lighting one step further towards the future.