Every night before going to sleep, you turn off your lights, close your eyes, and hope for a good night’s rest. That doesn’t mean you always get it – and with the grogginess that you feel the next day, you certainly won’t forget about your poor sleep. But what if you tried something different and kept some light on instead?
No, we’re not saying you should turn on your daytime artificial white or off-yellow light when it’s time to go to bed. Instead, you might get better sleep from keeping certain colored lights on while you sleep. Read on to learn the best – and worst – light colors for sleep.
Why is sleep so important?
We all know that sleep is important – it’s how our bodies recharge (1) and heal, it’s how we ensure our brains work at full capacity, and it’s something that we quite literally can’t live without. Other reasons sleep is so important include:
- Sleep can lower stress. The restorative processes (2) that the body works through during sleep may lead to sharper concentration, stronger positive emotions, and better decision-making. And when you’re feeling better, making good decisions, and always in the zone, you’re likely to be less stressed (which, in turn, means you’ll sleep better (3)).
- Sleep can improve mental acuity. When you sleep well, your mental functions improve (4). Proper rest is crucial for cognitive ability. That’s why sleep is correlated with easier problem-solving, sharper memory, and clearer thinking.
How can lighting affect your sleep?
While it’s well known that darker rooms often lead to better sleep, lighting – as in, not complete darkness, but certainly not daytime levels of light – can help too. Here’s how:
- Your body senses light. There’s a reason people are inclined to sleep when it’s dark, and it’s difficult to sleep during the daytime hours. Even when you’re asleep, the retinas of your eyes can detect light (5). As your retinas detect increasingly more light, like when the sun rises, they alert a part of the brain called the hypothalamus – essentially the body’s clock – to gradually awaken you.
- You react to brightness levels while you’re awake. Bright lighting, whether natural light or artificial light, is often associated with higher energy levels, exactly the opposite of what you need for sleep. Dim lighting (6), on the other hand, can tell your brain that it’s time to sleep. Suffice it to say that lighting plays a major role in your sleep cycle and patterns.
- Your brain works differently as lighting colors change. Certain light colors interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle (7). Other light colors, though, can help you with falling and staying asleep – we’ll tell you more about that later.
What is the best light color for sleep?
Red light is likely the best color for sleep, as many scientific studies have found that red night lights improve sleep quality. Here are just four of the myriad of studies performed about red light’s effects on sleep:
- A 2012 study in the Journal of Athletic Training (8) correlated red light treatment with sleep improvement in elite athletes.
- A 2019 study reported in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep (9) suggested that sleep exposure to red light increased alertness and improved task performance the next day.
- A 2014 study published in the open-source journal PLOS One (10) found that exposure to red light at night bolstered the body’s ability to properly regulate the circadian rhythm.
- In the same 2016 study from Light: Science & Applications (11) mentioned earlier, scientists also correlated red light exposure to quicker sleep onset in mice.
Due to these and other studies, red light therapy has emerged as an alternative therapy for sleep disorders. At BlissLights, we offer plenty of calming, easy-to-use affordable red lights in our product line – but before you browse through our collection, take a moment to learn why red light often works so well to help you fall asleep.
Why is red the best light color for sleep?
Although scientists are still determining why red light is the best color for sleep, the working theory is that red light exposure does not interfere with melatonin production. The 2012 Journal of Athletic Training study mentioned earlier came to this conclusion while also noting that red light exposure improved sleep quality solely in study conditions – real-life situations can easily differ.
Other sources say that red light is good for sleep since the human eye is not sensitive to long-wavelength light (12) such as red light, which eases your eyes’ adjustment to nighttime conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees with this theory and says that dim red light has no effect on circadian rhythms (13).
What is the worst light color for sleep?
One of the light colors most associated with poor sleep is a color we typically encounter in everyday life. White light, such as that emitted by light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, may suppress melatonin production up to five times as strongly (14) as do the yellow or orange colors also common in artificial lighting. Many scientific studies have provided additional evidence that white light is the worst light color for sleep:
- A 2020 study in the scientific journal Current Biology (15) found that nighttime exposure to white light often disrupted birds’ sleep physiology – and a 2013 study (16) found that birds and humans may have similarly wired brains.
- A 2011 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (17) found that standard room lighting – which often includes white light – can interfere with the body’s ability to produce melatonin.
A 2016 study in the scientific journal Light: Science & Applications (11) found that white light can disrupt sleep architecture in mice. Additional findings in this study indicated that red might be the best light color for sleep.
Why BlissLights’ red lighting is good for your sleep
At BlissLights, our red laser lighting home fixtures – light bulbs and portable, USB-powered varieties – can help contribute to the relaxing environment you need for a good night’s sleep. Our laser lights aren’t quite bright enough to resemble daytime lighting, but they’re still bright enough to let you see throughout your room.
BlissBulb Laser LightBulb
Transforming your world is as easy as changing a lightbulb.
Shop Now arrow_forward
Better yet, our red lights can move with you. Just unscrew your BlissBulb from its standard-size light socket and insert it elsewhere, or plug your StarPort Laser USB into your mobile charger and relocate. Even our HolidayPort USB Christmas Light can be the perfect touch for better sleep since it projects just a bit of red light into an otherwise dark room. Browse our indoor laser light collection to find your favorite new light for the healthy, rejuvenating sleep you need and deserve.
StarPort USB Light
One tiny light. Thousands of stars!
Shop Now arrow_forward
- Sleep Foundation. “Why Do We Need Sleep?” sleepfoundation.org; accessed November 2020
- Sleep Score. “How Does Sleep Reduce Stress.” sleepscore.com; accessed November 2020
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Understand the Facts: Sleep Disorders.” adaa.org; accessed November 2020.
- Sleep Foundation. “How Lack of Sleep Impacts Cognitive Performance and Focus.” sleepfoundation.org; accessed November 2020
- Sleep Foundation. “Light and Sleep.” sleepfoundation.org; accessed November 2020
- Sleep Foundation. “How to Design the Ideal Bedroom for Sleep.” sleepfoundation.org; accessed November 2020
- WebMD. “Melatonin.” webmd.com; accessed November 2020
- Zhao, Jiexiu et. al. “Red Light and the Sleep Quality and Endurance Performance of Chinese Female Basketball Players.” Journal of Athletic Training; 2012.
- Figueiro, M et. al. “Effects of red light on sleep inertia.” Nature and Science of Sleep; 2019.
- Mien, Ivan H.et. al. “Effects of Exposure to Intermittent versus Continuous Red Light on Human Circadian Rhythms, Melatonin Suppression, and Pupillary Constriction.” PLoS ONE; 2014.
- Zhang, Ze et. al . “Red light at intensities above 10 lx alters sleep–wake behavior in mice.” Light: Science & Applications; 2016.
- The Energy Blueprint. “Is Red Light Therapy Good for Sleep?” www.theenergyblueprint.com; accessed November 2020
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Interim NIOSH Training for Emergency Responders: Reducing Risks Associated with Long Work Hours.” cdc.gov; accessed November 2020
- Medical Xpress. “'White' light suppresses the body's production of melatonin.” medicalxpress.com; accessed November 2020
- Aulsebrook, Anne et. al. “White and Amber Light at Night Disrupt Sleep Physiology in Birds.” Current Biology; 2020.
- Imperial College London. “Birds and humans have similar brain wiring.” imperial.ac.uk; accessed November 2020.
- Gooley, Joshua et. al. “Exposure to Room Light before Bedtime Suppresses Melatonin Onset and Shortens Melatonin Duration in Humans.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism; 2011.