How Electric Light Affects Your Sleep—And Your Health


Recent research suggests that limiting electrical light exposure, particularly at night, can positively impact metabolic Health and biological rhythms.

The amount of electrical light that people are exposed to at night and the absence of natural light in the daytime can cause sleep disruption that can affect wellbeing, productivity, and health. However, new guidelines are aiming to change those patterns.

The guidelines, which were recently published in PLoS Biology, make use of a new standard for measuring light which researchers believe will offer guidance for the electronics and lighting industries to help promote healthier work environments, public buildings and houses by exposing themselves to sunlight.

“These recommendations provide the first scientific consensus, quantitative, guidance for appropriate daily patterns of light exposure to support healthy body rhythms, nighttime sleep and daytime alertness,” study co-author Timothy Brown, PhD, researcher and professor of the Environmental Research Institute at the University of Manchester, announced in a press statement

A New Standard for Measuring Light’s Impact on Health

The report points to urbanization and industrialization as significant factors that affect the amount of light that people are exposed to, focusing on less natural light in the daytime and more (unnatural) lighting at night and an overall rise in the amount of electric light. According to research, the changing light exposure can negatively affect health and productivity, sleep, and health.

The impact of light on health and wellbeing led scientists who came up with the suggestions to develop scientifically-proven guidelines to maximize exposure to sunlight to improve human health. This is something that was not available.

To accomplish this, researchers first needed to figure out how to gauge light’s effect on the biological clock, like the cycle of sleep and wake. According to the report, light influences these rhythms via an eye-specific protein sensitive to light, and the eye called melanopsin is particularly attracted to blue and cyan lights. Scientists developed a new measurement method to determine that light is melanotic equivalent to daylight intensity (EDI). Research in the laboratory and the field proved that this new measure was a precise method of predicting the effects of light upon biological rhythms.

Light Recommendations for Healthier Biological Rhythms

The scientific experts–led by researchers from the University of Manchester and the University of Colorado-Boulder–split their guidelines into the daytime, evening, and nighttime sleep recommendations.

The researchers suggested that the sun should be your primary option to get exposure in the daytime. The minimum melanotic EDI recommended of 250 Lux (unit of light). According to Brown, the value is within the range of lighting you’ll see outside at sunset or sunrise in the case of a cloudy day. If daylight isn’t available, research suggests that the polychromatic white light enhanced in short wavelengths – a cool white LED light around 6500K, based upon the current lighting options — is the ideal alternative.

At night, the levels of light should drop dramatically. At least three hours before you go to bed, experts recommend melanotic EDIs that are not more than 10 lux, mainly using the white spectrum “depleted in short wavelengths” (a warm white LED light around 3000K could be used, according to Brown). While sleeping, melanotic EDI should not exceed 1 lux and shouldn’t exceed 10 lux if you must take a step to the bathroom or do anything where night vision is essential.

The researchers stressed that the guidelines are designed to be followed daily, and they are best adhered to at the same time every day to ensure a steady routine. The policies are also intended to be used by healthy adults aged 18 to 55 who are on a regular daytime exercise. Like older adults, certain people could benefit from more sunlight during the day, while children might benefit from less exposure in the evening.

In addition, research published in the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) proceedings also suggested sleeping in dim lighting, if there is any. According to the study’s authors, those who slept in a space with a light level of 100 lux for just one night displayed increased insulin resistance the next day.

Lighting Changes to Make at Home

It is important to note that the suggestions from the PLoS Biology report are just that: suggestions. The next stage, according to scientists, will be to integrate the recommendations into official lighting guidelines. They hope this guidance will improve lighting conditions in public spaces and even homes, keeping health at the forefront of their minds.

Even without making any modifications, experts believe there are minor tweaks that you can do at home to improve your lighting environment a bit more healthy.

Brown explained to health that it is best to boost the amount of natural light you get during the day by getting out as much as possible, leaving your blinds up, and sitting near the window while working. At night, from around three hours before the time you go to bed, start dimming your lights, mainly blue light. “The closer you get to bedtime, the more important it is to limit light exposure,” Brown said. Brown. If it’s hard to reduce screen time altogether, you can dim your screen or put on blue-light glasses.

In the evening, as you are sleeping, it’s essential to design a bedroom that is as dark as you can. According to Mason, if you have to keep lighting to ensure your safety during the night, make sure it’s pointed towards the floor, not at eye level. “Try to reduce light in your bedroom, and if you have to use it, work with it to make it less disruptive,” Mason explained. Shades that block out light and eye masks can also be helpful, Daniela Grimaldi PhD, a Professor of Neurology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School for Medicine and co-author of this PNAS study, said to health.

Getting the best sleeping environment isn’t the cure for all illnesses, but it will significantly enhance your overall health and wellbeing. “Obviously, this won’t cure all disease,” Brown said. Brown. “But we’re definitely hopeful our guidelines can shift things in a positive direction for people.”