The layout and design of your bedroom can have a powerful impact on your ability to sleep. Light is the single most important factor in the timing of your sleep-wake cycle, so it has to be used carefully in the bedroom. The layout and placement of furniture as well as how you control natural and artificial light can help you get better, more restful sleep.
Light’s Power Over the Sleep Cycle
Your brain naturally syncs your sleep-wake cycle to follow the day/night schedule created by the Earth’s rotation. The blue spectrum light that filters through the Earth’s atmosphere is absorbed by special photoreceptors in the eyes that signal the brain to suppress sleep hormones. As light levels decrease at night, sleep hormones are released.
Where we tend to run into problems are artificial light sources that also emit blue light like televisions, laptops, e-readers, and high-efficiency (HE) light bulbs. Their blue spectrum light suppresses sleep hormones just like sunlight, which can interfere with a normal sleep cycle. The heavy use of technology is one reason nearly one-third of all adults in the United States get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep.
Light the Room Right
For the best possible sleep, you’ll have to control both natural and artificial light in the bedroom. Window Placement and Bed Orientation: Windows on the North and South sides of a house make it easier to manage natural light because the bedroom doesn’t take direct morning or afternoon sun. East or West-facing windows, however, are another matter. If that’s the case in your house, place the bed either underneath or to the side of the windows to reduce early morning and late evening light exposure. Another option, which we recommend no matter which direction the windows face, are blackout curtains or heavy-lined drapes to block light at night. Light Bulbs: Artificial light can have a big impact too. HE light bulbs work great in the kitchen and living room where you spend most of your daytime hours, but they don’t belong in the bedroom. You have the option of specialty HE bulbs with reduced blue light levels or traditional incandescent bulbs that emit red spectrum light. Dimmer Switches: Dimmer switches allow you the ultimate control over light levels. Use them at full power during the day and dim the lights when it’s time for bed. The darker you can keep the room the better.
Track and Recessed Lighting: Track and recessed lighting add powerful illumination that should be directed away from your bed. If possible, put them on a dimmer switch. Task Lighting: In the bedroom, you’ll need task lighting for reading. Sconces, built-in lamps, and table lamps are the most common choices. Rather than models that disperse light evenly, choose designs that direct light to a specific area to reduce your light exposure. Skylights: While skylights reduce the need for artificial light, they aren’t conducive to healthy sleep because it’s difficult to control how much light enters the room. Even the moonlight that comes in a skylight can interfere with sleep. If you already have a skylight in your bedroom, move the bed out of the direct path of the light.
You can have a bedroom that’s light, airy, and supportive of sleep. With the right layout and light management, you’ll be able to use light to your sleep advantage.
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