Sleep Care


Lighting In The Bedroom For Restful Sleep

Lighting is an important external factor that affects sleep.  It directly affects our ability to fall asleep and indirectly influences our bodies’ internal clocks by affecting our preferred sleep times.

Our internal clock is affected by light through our eyes.  Light-sensitive cells in the retina of our eyes tell the brain whether it is day or night, and our brain sets our sleep patterns accordingly.  Another indirect way that light affects sleep is through the production of melatonin.  Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body that helps stimulate our bodies to sleep.  Exposure to bright light can affect our bodies’ ability to make melatonin, in turn affecting the sleep cycle.

The electric light bulb has affected sleep patterns more than we realize.  Exposure to light in the late evening puts a delay on our internal clocks and leads us to sleep at later times.  Being exposed to light in the middle of the night has even more of a traumatic effect on our internal clocks, sometimes causing them to “reset” and not allowing us to fall back asleep.

With all the effects light has on your ability to sleep and your internal clock, what can you do about it?  First, make a conscience effort to go to sleep at scheduled times, allowing at least 6 hours of sleep between bedtime and arousal time.  Secondly, as the sun begins to fade through the day, try to dim your lighting as well.  The less exposure you have to bright light, the more your body will follow its natural rhythm, and the production of melatonin will not be inhibited.  Lastly, if you do find yourself having problems sleeping in the evening or waking up in the middle of the night, use as little light as possible (dim night lights, the glow of an alarm clock, etc..) to guide you in activities that will help you return to sleep.

All About Light Box Therapy

Light-box therapy, sometimes just called light therapy, is a method of treating several different sleep disorders, specifically insomnia, delayed sleep-phase syndrome (DSPS), advanced sleep-phase syndrome (ASPS) and jet lag.  It is also an effective method of treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or “the winter blues.”

DSPS is the most common sleep disorder involving circadian rhythm (your body’s natural clock).  This disorder occurs when a person’s body clock is running later than it should be, which results in feeling tired/falling asleep and waking up very late in relation to life’s daily cycle. People with DSPS generally sleep the same number of hours as those who don’t have the disorder; they just fall asleep out of sync with daily life patterns.    Teenagers and young adults are generally the candidates for DSPS.

ASPS is at the opposite end of the spectrum.  This disorder affects a person’s body clock by having early-onset sleep and early-morning waking times in relation to life’s daily cycle.  ASPS primarily affects older people, not allowing them to sleep past pre-dawn hours (3 or 4 A.M.).  Like DSPS, those afflicted with ASPS generally sleep the same amount of hours as those who are not afflicted; they just sleep out of sync with daily life patterns.

Jet Lag seems to be a more frequently occurring condition with the increasing availability of air travel.  Jet lag is characterized by sleepless nights and extreme fatigue during the daytime caused by crossing several time zones, which puts a person’s sleep-wake schedule out of sync with local time.  Jet-lag symptoms can be alleviated by using or avoiding bright light at various times of the day.

Seasonal affective disorder is a condition in which a person feels depressed at certain times of the year.  Most people experience SAD in the fall and winter months when days become shorter and there is less sunlight.  The cause of SAD is not directly known.  It is speculated to be related to the amount and the intensity of sunlight in different seasons.

Light therapy treats the mentioned disorders by exposing the user to a special type of light that is much brighter than a lamp or light fixture found in your home.  The light comes from a box that contains fluorescent (not ultra-violet/full-spectrum) lights.  Light therapy is only available through a prescription by your doctor.  To use light therapy, the user simply sits a prescribed distance from the light box.  The amount of exposure needed depends on the intensity of light used.  Time spent with the light box ranges from 30 minutes to 2 hours.  Light intensity ranges from 2,500 lux to 10,000 lux (10,000 lux is around 20 times as bright as normal indoor lighting).  Most users are prescribed 10,000 lux for 1 hour upon awakening in the morning. Light therapy for SAD is generally used in fall and winter months and discontinued in the spring.  When starting light therapy, the user’s initial response determines whether or not an adjustment in the time or intensity of the light is needed. Most users respond to the treatment within 3 to 5 days, but they may relapse into depression if 3 or more consecutive days of treatment are missed.

The most common side effects of light therapy are headache, eye strain and nausea.  Fatigue may take place in the first week of use due to changes in sleep-wake patterns, but this side effect normally subsides within the first week of use.

Light boxes are only available for purchase with the prescription of a doctor.  Light boxes are available for purchase on the internet and come in a variety of sizes and portability options.  Prices for light boxes range from around $100 to $400 or more.  When purchasing a light box be aware of manufacturers that market inexpensive light boxes and devices that have not been researched for effectiveness or documented for safety.  The safest light boxes have fluorescent, not full-spectrum or ultra-violet light.

To view sleep comfort products available at the WebStore, click here.