Blacking Out Your Bedroom for Health: The Dark Side Of Light
Blacking out your bedroom is one of the top things you can do to ensure longevity.
If your health is a priority for you, and I hope it is, make it a goal to spend the next week tweaking your bedroom to be as dark as you can possibly make it. Gaze around your bedroom each night, once you turn out all your lights and your eyes have adjusted to the dark. Ask yourself: Where is any light coming from, even the smallest dimmest amount? Do you see ambient light from your window? How about any LED’s (no matter how small or what color) on fire alarms, electronics or a/c units? Any night lights or light from an adjoining bathroom? How about light creeping under your door from a main living area? Each night take note and then take steps to black out those lights the next day. The next night, do the black out test again. See where any light leaks are still happening.
DO THE HAND TEST
Work to cover these sources until you cannot see your hand in front of your face when all the lights are turned out. This is the darkness we should be sleeping in each night. “Initially, it was thought that bright light, at least 2500 lux, was required for melatonin suppression in humans. More recently, however, it has been shown that, under carefully controlled conditions, retinal exposure to illuminances of as low as 1 lux or less of monochromatic light at wavelength 440 to 460 (blue-appearing light) can significantly lower nocturnal melatonin, as can <100 lux of broad-spectrum fluorescent light. These same light levels can also elicit significant phase shifts of the circadian clock and directly enhance alertness; approximately 100 lux exposure will cause about 50% of the maximum response. Such light exposure, when experienced in the evening at home from bedside lamps, TVs, computer screens, tablets, and other devices, causes suppression of melatonin, delays the timing of circadian rhythms, and elevates alertness, all of which make it harder to fall asleep, make it harder to wake up in the morning, and restrict sleep.“ Source
Light at night is part of the reason so many people don't get enough sleep, says Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher. Researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.” Source
DIABETES AND LIGHT AT NIGHT
“Results show that a single night of light exposure during sleep acutely impacts measures of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the diminished ability of cells to respond to insulin action transporting glucose out of the bloodstream and precedes the development of type 2 diabetes.” Source
CANCER AND LIGHT AT NIGHT
“Exposure to light at night, which shuts off nighttime production of the hormone melatonin, renders breast cancer completely resistant to tamoxifen, a widely used breast cancer drug, says a study out of Tulane University in 2014. "High melatonin levels at night put breast cancer cells to 'sleep' by turning off key growth mechanisms. These cells are vulnerable to tamoxifen. But when the lights are on and melatonin is suppressed, breast cancer cells 'wake up' and ignore tamoxifen," Blask says. Source
“A new study reports a link between exposure to blue light at night and higher risk of developing breast and prostate cancer. Blue light is a range of the visible light spectrum emitted by LEDs and many tablet and phone screens.” Source
Blue light is especially bad: “Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).” Source
Most studies prove that blue light is the biggest issue and red lights have little impact, however I am of the stance that we should be blocking ANY light at night to optimize sleep quality. The only place I have light at night is in my bathroom, which is not connected to my room and it is an amber colored incandescent night light. It is just enough light to see to use the bathroom or even brush teeth in the evening. If this bathroom connected to my room, I would take measures to even block the amber nightlight light coming under the door by installing a door strip.
TIPS FOR BLACKING OUT YOUR BEDROOM:
BLACKOUT CURTAINS: It’s important to deal with light pollution from outside (city lights or street lights), and to eliminate this you can use blackout curtains. Target and other big box stores sell these now! Make sure the curtains are rod pocket and not grommet top and that they are 100% blackout and not just light filtering or light reducing. Install these blackout curtains with a wrap around curtain rod with the rod at least 8” above the window frame to reduce light pollution from the top and extend the track pole 10” on either side of the window frame to even further prevent light pollution from the sides . Make sure to get enough curtains so that they can overlap in the middle and have enough material on the sides - usually you will need more than one panel so you have generous material to cover your windows. Some employ hook and eye attachments to secure the sides of your curtains to the wall so light cannot seep in the sides. I manage this by just using copious fabric on the sides. You will be surprised just how much deeper you will sleep with blocking even very mild ambient street lights or the moonlight.
If you can’t or don’t want to hang black out curtains (although you really should), an organic cotton eye mask is helpful, but not nearly as effective as the blackout curtains. Some people will use both.
BLACKOUT ROLLER SHADES: If you have curtains you just love, but they aren’t 100% black out curtains, you can install a blackout roller shade to block light underneath the curtains. It is important to correctly size the roller shades for them to work properly. Here are some good quality rollershades I’ve used in previous homes: Rollershades.
If you have a larger budget and want very high quality, there are also very good custom blinds and shades that are higher end and will be custom fitted to your windows. Contact a local showroom to see what is available in your area.
ELECTRICAL TAPE: As a general rule, I suggest removing as much electrical gear from your room as possible. Remove any printers, tv’s, routers, speakers and other gadgets that are not in use. If you cannot remove them, put them on a power strip and turn off the strips at night. But for the remaining items that cannot be removed such as fire alarms and a/c units, electrical tape is my favorite for blocking small LED screens or lights. I use both black or white electrical tape (depending on what color item Im taping) so that it doesn’t look too terrible during the day. I find electrical tape a great choice because it blocks light better than most tapes and comes off fairly easily. Sometimes you may require a few layers to get the level of total blackout you are looking for. For example, I have electrical tape over the LED on my fire alarm, on the LED screen on my air conditioning unit, on the LED’s on power strips, over the LED on my waterpik water flosser and electric toothbrush and over the LED’s on some of my bedroom light switches and plugs that have them built in. I like this brand: Electrical Tape
DOOR SWEEP: Install a door sweep to block any light leaking under your doors coming from main living areas or bathrooms with a night light. These door sweeps can also block some portion of sound, drafts, dirt and keep out pests as an added bonus! These door sweeps can be found here: Door Sweeps
REMOTE CONTROLS: Using remotes to turn multiple lamps easily on and off at night (instead of harsh overhead lighting) is much easier than going around and switching each lamp on and off. Just plug in each lamp into the remote outlet and suddenly you can turn on and off the lamps or anything else from afar and with ease. I use these remotes to turn on and off our wifi router, our printer, lamps and power strips once we are ready for bed. These are the remotes we use for everything: Outlet Remotes