Night Lighting For Sleep
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The light in our environment impacts us more than we think. The right night lighting can mean the difference between a peaceful wind-down from the day and a night of tossing and turning.
There are all sorts of night lights on the market, from simple plug-in models to high-tech options that you can control with your smartphone. And while night lighting is often associated with kids’ bedrooms, the right light can make any room in your home more inviting and functional after dark.
If you’re not sure where to start with night lighting for good sleep hygiene, we’ve got you covered. Read on for everything you need to know about night lighting so you can find the perfect solution for your space.
What is Night Lighting?
When most people think of night lighting, they think of lighting designed to illuminate a room softly and evenly. While overhead lighting is typically used during the daytime for task-oriented activities, night lighting is traditionally meant to be more subdued and relaxing. It can also be used to simulate day or night when you need to sleep during off-hours, such as with biphasic or polyphasic sleep schedules.
Some examples include:
- table lamps
- floor lamps
- string lights
- wall plug-ins
But night lighting can also have the opposite effect. If someone is adjusting to polyphasic sleep — like shift workers, students, night owls, or new parents who needs to stay up late and be productive, certain types of night lighting can help. Here are some examples of this type of night lighting:
- desk lamps
- clamp lights
- under-cabinet lights
- recessed lights
- red light bulbs
Using light (specifically, blue-enriched light) to stay awake can be an effective trick to fight fatigue and sleepiness, as exposure to bright light can shift your body’s natural circadian rhythm (the internal clock that regulates your sleep-wake cycle).
The more you adjust your circadian rhythm, the more night lighting can help you stay up and alert while the rest of the world is fast asleep.
What is Light Pollution?
Light pollution is excessive or obtrusive artificial light. While this might conjure up images of massive billboards and strip malls, light pollution can be as simple as a porch light or a small plug-in.
While once considered a necessary evil to illuminate our nighttime activities, bright night lighting has become ubiquitous in many societies. It has well-documented negative effects on human health, wildlife, and ecosystems.
Light-blocking innovations and dark sky legislation may mitigate the impact of artificial light pollution. Still, for people who need to stay up late for work or other reasons, the daytime light pollution produced by the sun is much harder to escape.
Not many of us have access to a dark cave that we can retreat to for a daytime siesta, but there are some strategies polyphasic sleepers can use to protect themselves from daytime light pollution and get some rest:
- Wear an eye mask. Eye masks are an easy and effective way to block out unwanted light so you can get some shut-eye during the day.
- Invest in blackout curtains. If you don’t want to wear an eye mask, covering your windows with blackout curtains is a great way to darken a room quickly. Blackout curtains are also a good option for night shift workers or students who need to sleep during the day.
- Tape aluminum foil over your windows. It may not look the best, but taping aluminum foil over your windows is a cheap and easy way to block out light.
By manipulating night lighting, we can alter our natural alertness and how our bodies respond to our surrounding environment. Studies show that retraining your circadian rhythm to sleep during the day and stay up at night is possible and can improve your overall performance when you’re awake.
Luckily, there are a lot of night lighting products on the market to choose from. So whether you’re looking for a way to relax after a long day or you need to find a non-invasive way to stay up late, night lighting can help.
How to Night Light for Polyphasic Sleep
Polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern that involves sleeping multiple times (at least over three periods) throughout the day instead of just once at night. This can involve taking several short naps throughout the day or splitting up your night’s sleep into at least three shorter periods. Babies, for example, are polyphasic sleepers.
While science has determined that biphasic sleep (sleeping in two segments, once during the night and once during the day, such as a nap) can help reduce sleepiness, boost cognitive function, and even improve emotional stability, evidence has not aligned with the glowing reviews from people who practice it. In fact, one study found that polyphasic sleep can result in the same risks and side effects as sleep deprivation.
Proper night lighting is essential to get high-quality rest during your shorter and more frequent sleep periods. Too much light exposure can make it difficult to fall asleep, while too little light exposure can make you feel drowsy and lethargic.
So how do people use various tools (like blue light, bulbs, and glasses) to change their sleep schedules? Let’s dive in.
Laser Eye Goggles
Laser eye goggles block sunlight by covering your entire field of vision with a red or orange light filter. This makes it easier to fall asleep during your daytime napping periods.
Red Light Bulbs
An alternative to glasses, red light bulbs are another popular night lighting solution for people who need to stay up late. They work the same way as the laser eye goggles, only you have to completely block sunlight from coming into your home (using methods like blackout curtains) for them to properly work.
You’ll also want to cover any screens with red-tinted film so you’re not accidentally exposing yourself to blue light, which can damage sleep.
Screen Filter Software
Since increased productivity is one of the most common reasons for adhering to a polyphasic sleep schedule, tools that allow you to use your computer and phone without messing with your delicate rest pattern are very useful.
Screen filter software alters the color of your device’s screen to emit a red light, which won’t disturb your sleep as much as blue light.
Overall, night lighting is a great tool in your arsenal if you’re looking for a way to improve your sleep quality or productivity.
By blocking out sunlight and emitting red light, night lighting can help you fall asleep during the day and stay up late at night. There are a few different ways to achieve this, so find the method that works best for you and give it a try.
Blume C, et al. (2019) Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep, and mood. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6751071/
Chepesiuk R. (2009). Missing the Dark: Health Effects of Light Pollution https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2627884/
Crowley S, et al. (2004) Complete or partial circadian re-entrainment improves performance, alertness, and mood during night-shift work. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15532201/
Laxhmi CS, et al. (2011). Non-visual effects of light on melatonin, alertness, and cognitive performance: Can blue-enriched light keep us alert? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21298068/
Mantua J, et al. (2017). Exploring the nap paradox: Are mid-day sleep bouts a friend or foe? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5598771/
Phillips AJK, et al. (2017). Irregular sleep/wake patterns are associated with poorer academic performance and delayed circadian and sleep/wake timing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5468315/
Blue light emitted by screens damages our sleep, study suggests. (2017). https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170822103434.htm
Blue Light and Sleep
Blue light is everywhere. Learn more about what blue light is and how it impacts your sleep.