How Can Light Affect Your Sleep Schedule?

How Can Light Affect Your Sleep Schedule?

Light affects each person’s sleep schedule very differently.

Many, many years before the advent smart phones and computer screens, humans relied on an altogether different primary light source: the sun. Circadian rhythm—the regulatory physiological process determining our natural sleep patterns—developed to roughly corresponded with the day/night cycle. For a very long time, we-the-species have lived at the whim of this ancient bodily mechanism, one that’s been written into our very DNA.

In modern society, though, our brains are almost constantly inundated with different kinds of artificial light; many of these are designated with a “color name,” and each affects us neurologically in various ways. Unfortunately, some are deleterious to our sleep habits—and enough consistently poor sleep can bring a whole host of health problem, including higher risk of cardiac arrest.

But! Before you throw out your entire collection of photon-emitting electronics, kindly take a moment to familiarize yourself this guide; it was specifically designed to shine a light on which wavelengths may be harmful and which may be helpful when it comes to getting quality shuteye.

Blue Light

Relative to the others we most often encounter, this light has a fairly high frequency and transmits more energy as result. Exposure can have a subtle stimulating effect, boosting our moods and energy levels.


  • Backlight displays on our phones, computers, televisions, tablets, etc.
  • Certain types of energy-saving eco-friendly lighting (particularly fluorescent and LED)

Effects on sleep:

  • “Traditionally,” sunset has come to coincide with the release of melatonin, a chemical that primes our brains for sleep. The blue light we take in throughout the day tends to accumulate and linger well after dark, disrupting our circadian rhythm by preventing the consistent and timely melatonin influx we’ve so long depended on.
  • Clinical research has conclusively found that this leads to lousy, nonrestorative sleep. The entire routine is thrown into flux, making it harder to fall asleep and to stay asleep.

Red Light

The lower frequency of this wavelength curbs its energy transmission. No “pick-me-up” effect has been scientifically observed as an outcome of red light exposure. 


  • None that are typically encountered in the course of a given day.
  • This artificial light source is still nascent technology, currently utilized in Red Light Therapy. Though the mechanism isn’t yet well understood, it’s been (tentatively) observed that RLM may improve skin health and act as a general pain reliever.

Effects on sleep:

  • Red light hasn’t been linked to any disturbances in circadian rhythm.
  • In fact, the data from one study seem to indicate melatonin production might be bolstered by red light exposure, i.e., potentially facilitating healthier sleep.
  • These findings are still new and as yet inconclusive, though research continues steadily.

Natural Light

This term signifies the complete spectrum of wavelengths emitted from the sun, rather than a single isolated frequency. It includes all naturally-occurring visible light, as well as types we can detect with instruments but not observe directly (e.g., ultraviolet and infrared). Natural light plays a critical role in many metabolic processes.


  • Our trusty sun!
  • Innumerable other stars in the universe, the very closest of which is too impossibly far off to ever interact with us metabolically/hormonally 

Effects on sleep:

  • As previously noted, our entire sleep model evolved as a function of solar “behavior.” 
  • Exposure to natural light in the morning engenders the nighttime melatonin release that “tells” us when to sleep.
  • Sunlight allows the human body to naturally convert D2 into D3, healthy levels of which correlate with lower reported stress, better sleep, and greater overall health.


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This entry was posted on Friday, September 23rd, 2022 at 9:57 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.