Is It Bad To Sleep With Red Lights On?

is it bad to sleep with red lights on

The relationship between sleep and light is a complicated one, and there is a solid reason behind it. Nighttime has been associated with complete darkness for most of the existence of humankind. It was only a couple of hundred years ago when our nights started getting more and more brighter. While being able to produce versatile means of artificial lights has brought us tremendous advantages, it raised some concerns as well. One of them is that sleeping with lights on can lead to sleep deprivation and severe health issues.

However, we know for a fact that different light wavelengths have different effects on the human body. 

Moreover, red light has shown to be effective means of treatment for numerous diseases. But many people wonder – is it bad to sleep with red lights on? Let’s dive into some science behind sleep and red light therapy to find out. 

The Science Behind Sleep vs. Light

In order to understand the effects of light on our sleeping patterns, first, we need to know what makes a good night’s sleep so dear to our kind. 

Our bodies are accustomed to being awake and energetic in the presence of light and being rested and asleep in the dark. Our biological clock is heavily dependent on the hormone called melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone. As the night approaches, a tiny section in our brain called the pineal gland starts producing melatonin, which is a signal for our whole body that it is time to sleep.

The tricky thing is that melatonin production is a photosensitive process. In order to encourage melatonin production, the pineal gland needs a signal from receptors (located in our eyes) that it is getting dark. But if we are surrounded by superficial light after sunset, our brains think it’s still daytime and won’t start releasing melatonin. As a result, with no melatonin floating in our system, no one’s telling our body to go to sleep. This is why being exposed to light during the night is associated with poor sleeping patterns. 

Why Is Good Night’s Sleep So Important? 

Now that we’ve established that being exposed to light while sleeping has the potential to throw our biological clock off track, let’s talk a bit about the consequences that follow. Countless studies have shown that lack of sleep is just the beginning of significant health concerns.

Altered Cognitive Performance

Unhealthy sleeping patterns hit our brain function hard, resulting in altered cognitive performance and productivity. When you’re not getting enough sleep, you may find it extremely difficult to concentrate. If you’re suffering from long-term sleep deprivation, you’ll notice that you have difficulty processing new information and performing daily tasks. Shift workers and first response medics often struggle with these issues due to inconsistent sleeping patterns. 

An excellent example of the effects of the lack of sleep is the study done at the University of New South Wales. Psychologists observed cognitive and motor performance of sleep-deprived subjects. They found out that brain functions of the sleepless subjects were altered as severely as they are in alcohol intoxication cases (1). 

Slower Metabolism

The longevity and quality of sleep have a significant influence on our metabolism. You may have noticed that every “how to lose weight” article has a section suggesting developing healthy sleeping habits. Well, they are 100% correct in saying that. With a lack of concentration and productivity, there is hardly any room for weight loss motivation. But that’s not the catch.

The extensive study done in adults and children with short sleep duration observed that the subjects had extremely high chances to develop obesity (2). 

Higher Chances Of Severe Diseases

Lack of a good night’s sleep has been shown to increase the chances of triggering significant health issues. 

Unhealthy sleep patterns affect blood sugar levels, which can lead to type two diabetes. The study done on healthy men who slept up to 4 hours per night caused them to develop early prediabetes symptoms (3). Now imagine how much worse it would be for a person who is prone to diabetes or already has it. 

Sleep deprivation does no justice to our hearts as well. A recent study suggests a shred of strong evidence connecting lack of sleep with heart disease and stroke (4).

Negative Effects On Mental State And Social Life

We’ve all been cranky due to sleeplessness, but it doesn’t even begin to explain the long term effects that sleep deprivation has on mental health. Research indicates that those who have insomnia and sleep apnea report depression and anxiety more often than those who have healthy sleeping habits (5).

Another study has shown that sleep deprivation has a strong impact on a person’s ability to feel social empathy. Because of this, one’s capacity to interact with others and process emotional information decreases (6).

The list of sleep deprivation-related issues doesn’t end there. To avoid these troubles, it is essential to steer clear of things that can trigger insomnia and vice versa – pick up habits that promote a good night’s sleep.

How Does LED And Blue Light Affect Sleep?

As we’ve established from the very beginning, not all lights are the same. Therefore, not all kinds of light exposure have the same effect on sleep. 

When it comes to blue light, all evidence is against its use during nighttime. The thing is, blue light wavelengths are found in natural sunlight. So when we are exposed to blue light, our brain thinks it’s daytime – aka time to be awake. The problem with LEDs is related as well – even though they are more energy-efficient than traditional light bulbs, they produce blue-spectrum light that suppresses melatonin secretion. 

Our smartphones, TVs, and computers expose us to a great deal of blue light during the day, so physicians recommend avoiding the use of electronic devices a few hours before sleep. Don’t get us wrong – blue light therapy has countless benefits. It is successfully used in treating several skin issues, including acne, rosacea, and inflammation, and it won’t mess up your circadian rhythm unless you expose yourself before or during bedtime.

Is It OK To Sleep With Red Light On?

Red light is not only harmless to use before and during sleep, but it also helps you develop healthier sleep patterns. Compared to blue light, red light wavelengths are characterized by a low color temperature, which has a soothing effect on the brain. In fact, there is an increasing number of studies backing up the red light benefits on sleep. 

Note that when we talk about red light, we don’t mean regular light bulbs with a red tint. For the red light to be sufficient, you need bulbs that produce it. The right kind of red light exposure is called red light therapy, which is best known for its medical-grade powers. 

What’s Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy consists of controlled exposure to red and near-infrared light wavelengths that optimize numerous functions of your body and mind. Continuous red light treatment sessions have been shown to improve skin condition (7), ease pain (8), help with muscle fatigue (lack of energy) (9), fight inflammation (10), and aid overall health and well-being. 

But what about sleep?

Let’s take a closer look at the evidence backing up the benefits of red light on sleep problems.

How Does The Right Kind Of Light Help You Sleep Safely And Soundly? 

A study published in the sleep research journal suggests that red light therapy is an effective cure to sleep inertia. The research consisted of exposing participants to red light wavelengths while they were sleeping. This went on every day for three weeks. As a result, participants reported better sleep quality, high energy levels in the morning, and improved cognitive function (11).

Another study done on athletes demonstrated that being exposed to red light for 30 minutes improves melatonin levels, resulting in sounder sleep. Additionally, the participants reported improved physical tolerance and boost of energy (12).

That’s not all.

An in-depth study done in infants observed the effects of red light exposure around bedtime. The results showed that red light can aid parents in averting babies’ nighttime crying and decrease fussiness during sleep (13). 

What should I do if I can’t sleep at night? 

Battle with sleep disorders such as insomnia can be long and tiring. We’ve gathered a few tips that can help improve your condition.

Stick To A Routine

It is a well-known fact that the appropriate amount of sleep for adults is 7-8 hours a day. However, consistency plays an important role as well. It is recommended to make a habit of going to sleep at the same time every day. This kind of pattern will enhance the body’s sleep-wake cycle, resulting in sounder sleep. 

Reduce Blue Light Exposure

As exposure to blue and bright lights near bedtime interferes with sleep quality, you should try to minimize it. You don’t have to go the extra mile to achieve this – simply put your smartphone and computer displays on the night-mode and use blue light blocking glasses while looking at the screen a few hours before bedtime. Toning down bright lights in your environment around the evening should do the trick as well. 

Avoid Caffeine Late In The Day 

Many of us need a hot cup of coffee to function during the day. But if consumed near bedtime, caffeine can keep us up all night. To promote better sleep, omit caffeine intake after 4 p.m. as it can stay in your system for 6-8 hours.  

Consider Red Light Therapy

If you’re looking for a fast and effective solution to sleep deprivation, red light therapy can be the solution. Fortunately, you can get an in-home red light treatment device and enjoy its benefits from the comfort of your home.  

Red light therapy devices come in different sizes and shapes. Choosing the most optimal one boils down to your preferences.

If you want to get maximum exposure to red and near-infrared lights, we recommend trying nuMAX 1200 – a powerful red light therapy device that lets you target your whole body. It is a great option to improve your sleep quickly, along with optimizing cellular function and general well-being. 

But if you’re looking for something more low-key to start with, nuMAX 200 or nuMAX 300 will be suitable light therapy panels for you. Both are meant for targeted treatments, while nuMAX 300 is a better pick for exposing larger parts of your body. Alternatively, you can click here to browse a vast selection of red light therapy devices that will help you improve your sleep.

Seek Professional Assistance

While insomnia, sleep apnea, and other sleep-related issues can be eased with some in-home remedies, it is always better to consult a doctor regarding your condition. Remember that lack of sleep can lead to serious health complications, so make sure you get a professional opinion before further inconveniences arise. 

Written By Matthew Caldera

Matthew Caldera is the founder and CEO of nuYOU LED, a leading provider of red light therapy devices. As a dedicated biohacker and RLT specialist, Matthew aims to make science-backed information about red light therapy and self-improvement more accessible to everyone. To achieve his goal, Matthew uses up-to-date research materials and converts them into easily digestible articles, answering frequently asked questions of those interested in the power of red light.

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