Can red light really help us sleep better?

Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience from Oxford University, is a leading researcher in the study of sleep and cycles of the brain.Prof. Foster explains that we need exposure to light between 1000-2000 lux to keep our body clocks ticking over.  In a living room the typical lux level is around 200-300.  When you step outside even on a dull day the brightness will be around 10,000 lux. Prof. Foster basically says that exposure to light will not only prevent sleep problems, it may also be crucial for keeping our brains in good condition. 

Getting the right amount of light can be achieved by going outdoors having light therapy or introducing new technology that allows the correct levels and colours of light from morning to night.

Our circadian clock requires being exposed to regular patterns of light and dark but not all light is the same. Some kinds of light have the effect of making you more alert and more awake. 

Light from the sun is strong in blue light which is important in the morning when we need to be alert and awake.  However, when it comes to the evening or during the night, blue light fools the body into thinking its daytime, hence the potential to wander at night if lights have been switched on. 

We now know that this bright blue light has the strongest effect on lowering melatonin during the night.  Other kinds of light, such as a dim yellow or red light have very little effect.  Yellow or red light is similar to a campfire or a candle; even the old fashioned incandescent light bulb is more dim and redder than the new lights. 

Even though modern humans have been around for 200,000 years the electric light has only been widely available for the past 100 years or so. Exposure to bright light after sunset is an entirely unnatural occurrence, especially to our body clock!! 

Apple has taken steps to address the sleep disrupting light of the iPhone.There is apparently an upgrade called “Night Shift” which changes the colour balance of light and will adjust the composition of screen light after sunset reducing white and blue light while increasing red and orange light. 

It is a really interesting and important subject and one that I believe electrical contractors know little about.There are so many papers and research on this subject. If you would like further information please contact our office.