This International Dark Sky Week, we’re highlighting the importance of cool, dark and comfortable bedroom environment
April marks the return of International Dark Sky Week – an initiative that aims to shine a light (no pun intended) on the detrimental impact of light pollution.
According to the International Dark Sky Week campaign, light pollution is increasing at two times the rate of population growth, and 83% of the global population now lives under a light polluted sky. This is having a negative impact on the world around us, as well as on our own wellbeing. Including our sleep.
We’re going to take a closer look at the impact of light pollution, and the relationship between excess artificial light and our sleep health.
What is light pollution and why is it bad?
In many ways, artificial light is an essential part of modern society. With today’s 24-hour culture, night lights help us stay productive, visible and safe when out and about after dark. However, any artificial light which is not wholly necessary should be considered a pollutant, according to the International Dark Sky Week campaign.
This pollutant does more than simply block our view of the night sky. It can have significant consequences overtime, including disrupting wildlife, wasting money and energy, contributing to climate change and impact human health, particularly our sleep schedules.
Light and relaxation
Sleep and light have a close relationship, with light impacting everything from your circadian rhythm and melatonin production to your overall sleep cycle.
Your circadian rhythm is essentially your body clock, coordinating a wide range of processes in the body, including sleep. Light enters the eye and is sensed by a special group of cells on the retina, which is carried to the brain and interpreted as information about the time of day. The brain then sends signals throughout the body, in accordance with the time of day. When you’re only exposed to natural light, your circadian rhythm falls closely in line with sunrise and sunset, but artificial light can alter your brain’s ability to tell your body when to be energised, and when to relax.
Exposing your eyes to bright lights late into the night – such as those from a phone screen, television or laptop – can prevent your brain from helping your body wind down, effectively making it more difficult to fall asleep, largely due to a lack of melatonin.
Otherwise known as the sleep hormone, melatonin is a chemical produced by the brain that tells our body it’s time to relax. Darkness helps to stimulate melatonin production, while artificial lights can inhibit it.
Improving your sleep space
Making smart changes to your sleep space and sleep habits can help you rest easier when bedtime comes around. Ensure your bedroom environment is both cool and dark. Ideally it should be free from electronic devices, as this can help you associate your bedroom purely with rest.
In the run-up to bedtime, engage in activities that promote relaxation. Give yourself a curfew for social media, smartphones, work and television (at least an hour before you plan to turn in), and instead opt for reading, meditation, gentle stretches or a relaxing bath. This will let your body know that it’s time to wind down, and that sleep is approaching.
By reducing the number of lights that you have on in your home in the evening, you can enjoy higher quality sleep in the long run.