When you think of the best light color for sleeping, you probably assume that warm white, green, or blue light would be an ideal choice for creating a relaxing environment. But you’d be surprised how untrue that is.
Several studies and studies prove that the light colors you choose for your bedroom can really affect how well you sleep. But curiously, it seems that the kinds of shades you’d assume would be the most calming actually keep you from unwinding. Some even increase your heart rate and make you more alert.
So if you often find yourself in bed having trouble falling asleep, or waking up completely alert in the middle of the night, it might be because of the color of your lights. As we learned when we learned how to use smart light bulbs, it’s not always the shades you’d expect that make you feel a certain way. We spoke to lighting and sleep experts to find out which lighting colors to avoid and which to use, along with other interesting bedroom ideas.
Watch, implement and sleep well!
Aditi is a home writer and editor with several years of experience. Her articles, backed by expert insights, offer suggestions to help readers make the best home design choices. Each piece presents the latest ideas, information and trends to its readers. For this piece, she spoke with top lighting brands and sleep experts to understand the colors of light that help a person sleep better.
The best color light for sleeping and to help you relax
“Our circadian rhythm is our body’s ability to know what time it is without looking at a clock, and it helps us produce melatonin (our sleep hormone) at the right time to promote sleep at night,” says Dr Lindsay Browning, a sleep expert at Difficulty sleeping (opens in new tab) and author of the self-help sleep book, Navigating insomnia.
“Exposure to bright light makes our brain think it’s still daytime, and as a result, it suppresses melatonin production at night, making it harder to fall asleep,” Lindsay says. “The color and brightness of bedroom lighting can greatly affect sleep.”
Light colors that help you sleep
1. Warm white
A great way to get a good night’s sleep is to cut out the harsh white light and opt for warm, colorful smart lighting that gives off a soft glow and makes a bedroom look relaxed and harmonious.
“A soft diffusion shade lamp or a dimmable lamp on your bedside table is preferable to illuminate the eyes before going to sleep,” says Scarlett Hampton, co-founder of Lights & lamps (opens in new tab). Shade or dimmable lighting is always best for creating mood lighting and getting ready for bed. The color of the lamp is just as important. We recommend a warm white color because the eyes are less sensitive to it.’
Also keep in mind that ceiling lights are perfect for dark days but may need to be dimmed or even turned off when relaxing by the fire or the TV. “Think of lighting like the sun. Big and bright during the day, lower and softer at night. When ceiling lights are no longer needed, switch on a larger floor lamp, and as the evening wears on, replace with a subtle table or bedside lamp,” says Scarlett. “Imitating the setting sun is a great way to change up your bedroom during the day and bring peace and tranquility before going to bed.”
It’s time for a little science lesson. The light-sensitive cells called ipRGCs that reside in the retina of our eyes can identify any light and send messages to a part of the brain that helps regulate the body’s circadian clock. According to research, these cells are the most sensitive to blue wavelengths of light and the least sensitive to red wavelengths.
“We know that our circadian rhythms are quite insensitive to low levels of long-wave radiation or red light,” says Dr Maja Schaedel, clinical psychologist and co-founder of The Good Sleep Clinic (opens in new tab). “This means that we are less likely to become ‘alert’ to exposure to red light than any other light and therefore red light can be used to ensure a smooth transition to a relaxed state before bedtime.”
This is an important part of how smart light bulbs work – allowing us to create our own moods. “It’s important to choose warmer, red-colored lights because they mimic natural evening light, which promotes melatonin production and helps our bodies into a natural sleep cycle,” said David Amos, CEO of Amos Lighting + Home (opens in new tab).
Aside from that, when it comes to how to sleep better, “many people find reading a good way to relax before bed and some people find it more difficult in red light,” says Dr Maja. “So there isn’t really a color of light that is ‘good’ for sleeping, but red light is certainly the least disruptive to our circadian rhythm.”
Amber or soft yellow light helps you sleep better. The shade has an inherent calmness and helps in the production of melatonin. It may also be related to improved general mood and mental health.
When it comes to bedroom lighting, an amber lamp is highly recommended as it will not weaken the eye muscles while you are working or watching TV. This mimics the amber light of candlelight, making it an ideal soothing light.
Light colors to avoid
You probably don’t realize this, but we are constantly surrounded by sources that emit blue light, including laptops, TVs and smartphone screens. These blue light devices disrupt the secretion of melatonin, disrupting your natural circadian rhythms and hindering you from getting a good night’s sleep.
‘We are sensitive to short-wave radiation or blue light, which means that even low levels of blue light for 40 minutes lead to increased heart rate and alertness and increased levels of melatonin,’ says Dr Maja.
‘This is important, because in order to fall asleep we need to lower our heart rate and alertness,’ says Dr Maja. However, it is also important to note that recent research indicates that it takes at least 1.5 hours of blue light exposure to have a significant effect on melatonin levels. In addition, even if our melatonin levels are affected, it may not affect the time it takes to fall asleep if the person was ‘ready’ to sleep.”
According to research, people are sensitive to this color of light because the melatonin output is more easily suppressed by this shade.
Lights from the warmer spectrum are better than cooler colors like green. While green is a good choice for a bedroom’s paint color because the shade promotes relaxation, the color of the light can make a huge difference if you’re struggling to sleep through the night.
Tips and devices to help you sleep better
Getting a good, sound sleep and rest is paramount, so the colours, lighting and layout of your bedroom should be such that they work together to help calm you down. Hundreds of stimuli and different sources of information are constantly thrown our way, causing our brains to go into overdrive. But with a few changes, habits, and even devices, you can help your situation.
“Candles produce a warm, dim lighting that would be especially helpful in the evening to help you relax,” says Dr. Lindsay. ‘Since bedroom lighting has to be softer than daytime lighting, using a dimmer in the bedroom would be a good way to reduce the light intensity. In addition, some studies have shown that blue light-blocking glasses (or amber glasses) can help reduce exposure to blue-frequency light and improve sleep.”
“If you have lights in your bedroom that you can’t dim or adjust the color of, consider wearing an eye mask while you sleep,” says Dr. Lindsay. And if you want to use electronic light-emitting devices at night, such as a tablet or phone, consider enabling the night mode on your devices, which reduces both the intensity of the light and the blue spectrum light range, thus reducing the negative effect on your sleep.’
Also see our guide to the best smart light bulbs.