Artificial indoor lighting has been around for quite some time, but it seems that our biological clocks haven’t quite caught up yet. A new study at the Surrey Sleep Research Centre revealed tactics for minimizing the sleep deprivation caused by exposure to artificial indoor light in evening hours.
You didn’t read that incorrectly: Multiple studies have shown keeping the lights on after the sun goes down has a significant effect on sleep patterns. The hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle is called melatonin, and it is suppressed when we are exposed to artificial indoor light before bedtime.
The study at the University of Surrey attempted to determine if a particular type of lighting might allow melatonin to work naturally. It seems that a blue-sensitive photoreceptor targets the biological clock, so lighting on the yellow end of the color spectrum (with minimal blue content) minimizes the effect on biological rhythms. In addition, dimming the lights helps to increase melatonin production.
If you want to take this research to heart, invest in a dimmer or two to lower the light levels a couple of hours before you head for bed. As far as the blue-sensitive photoreceptor, look for lighting with a color temperature around 2800-3200K for a “warm” look that won’t interfere with your zzz’s.