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How light therapy can help you to fall asleep

by Laura Falls on 20 Jan 2015

Are you one of those people that find it hard to get to sleep? When you finally do drift off to sleep, does the alarm always seem to go off? Do you always wake up tired or find it particularly hard to get out of bed? Chances are your circadian rhythm could be delayed.

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal 24-hour clock. It influences the timing of all your sleeping and waking patterns, alertness, performance levels and even metabolism. Mis-timing of your circadian rhythm leads to poor sleep quality, insufficient sleep duration, sleepiness and fatigue, impaired overall well-being in family and social lives and decreased motor and cognitive performance.

If any of the above sounds like you, chances are you’re not receiving enough light in your life, particularly in the mornings.

Light plays a crucial role influencing our circadian rhythms. If you do not receive light at the proper times, your body clock can get out of sync with the rest of the world. When our eyes sense light, our brain receives a signal to be awake and nudges the circadian sleep period away from it. So morning bright light will help you wake up and gently nudge your body clock to an earlier time allowing you to fall asleep and wake up earlier getting more adequate sleep.

Here are four light related tips that can help you secure a good night’s sleep, and fight the winter blues:

1. Different kinds of light affect our body in different ways
Some coloured lights operate at a frequency that are better at re-timing the body clock. Standard interior lights are not strong enough to change the body’s circadian rhythm. Shorter wavelengths, colours such as blue and green light, are more effective at retiming the body clock. White light includes all colours, including red which is ineffective. UV-free blue/green light has been proven to be the safest and most effective light source to influence the sleep cycle.

2. Avoid certain lights when trying to go to sleep
Bright light in the evening can nudge your body clock later in time making it more difficult to fall asleep. Some devices such as mobile phones and tablets are sources of blue lights, which can delay the body clock, so avoid staring at them for too long before going to bed.

3. Seek light if you wake up feeling tired or lethargic
The same principle applies. If you wake up feeling tired or it takes you a long time to feel alert after waking up, it may be because your body is still in the sleep phase of the circadian rhythm. Exposure to some lights in the morning can help you wake up and become more alert after you wake up.

4. Try light therapy
Light therapy could be the solution for you. Light therapy involves scheduling the use of a wearable light-emitting device into your daily routine to help you re-time your circadian rhythms to suit your sleep cycle or lifestyle.

See the full article on Lifehacker.co.uk


Written by Prof. Leon Lack, world renowned sleep psychologist.

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