Let's be honest - sleeping is a problem for a lot of people. According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost 50% of men and women either have trouble falling or staying asleep on a weekly basis. Difficulty sleeping is such a common problem that Michael Rosbash, a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist who studies the body clock, recently said that it's a public health problem that's been overlooked for a long time. He added, "All of western society is a little bit sleep deprived and, when I say a little bit, I mean chronically." Yikes! (You can read more about why Rosbash said this and why the body clock is so important here.)
As the originator of the HappyLight, we know how a simple change can make a big difference when it comes to getting a good night's sleep. So we've compiled a list of ways light therapy enhances sleep. Since the stage is set for a good night's sleep when you first wake up, that's where we'll begin.
The first step for making sure you're on track to get a good night's sleep is to make sure your body is waking up when and how it's supposed to. But everyone knows this isn't always easy.
In the world before alarm clocks, it was the sun that woke up our ancestors and told them when to start their day. This is why we all naturally wake up better in the presence of light. But now, many of us wake up before the sun (this is particularly true during the darker days of fall and winter), so we begin our morning by fumbling our way out of bed in the dark. Though our alarm clock says, "TIME TO GET UP!" our bodies are often begging us for "Just a few... more... minutes..."
Turning on your HappyLight or a light therapy lamp when you wake up in the morning helps signal to your body that it's time to get up. The HappyLight's bright white light mimics sunshine and tells your body it's time to start your day. And with that, the "wake" part of your sleep/wake cycle gets off to a great start.
Use your HappyLight when you wake up and start getting ready. It's great to have on while brushing your teeth or putting on your make up. The bright light will tell your body it's time to get amoving.
As you continue on during your day, it's essential that your body doesn't fight with you to go back to sleep in order to make sure you get a great night's sleep later on. Many of us do fight with our bodies by guzzling coffee, using energy drinks, and putting other things into our system that give it a temporary burst of energy. The problem with this approach is that it's a quick fix that can interfere with sleep later on (plus, many ingested products that give us a quick boost of energy may not always be optimal for our health).
Light therapy, on the other hand, works to boost our energy naturally - by providing bright light that stimulates our brain's production of serotonin, often called "the happiness hormone." When serotonin is produced, it conveniently suppresses melatonin production (the hormone that makes us sleepy) and lifts our mood and energy throughout the day.
Use your HappyLight before noon as you read the paper, at your desk at work, or while checking your emails. Turning it on while you do other activities will not only help boost serotonin production, but you may find it even makes you feel more focused and productive as well. For the afternoon slump, turn your HappyLight for a 10 or 15-minute dose of natural, energy-enhancing bright light.
After nailing the "wake" part of your sleep/wake cycle, your body will begin looking for signals that it's time to go to bed. An indicator that it knows to respond to is the level of light. Since you got a dose of bright light during the day, your body will begin with notice that it's not as bright in the evening and begin upping its melatonin production. Your body clock, now oriented to light from light therapy, becomes acutely aware of the different times of day and when you're getting ready to settle into to bed.
You don't want to use your HappyLight in the evening because its bright light will suppress your melatonin production, so simply by not having it on, you begin signaling to your body that night time is coming soon. It's also helpful to steer clear of other bright lights (particularly blue light from screens) during the evening and turn down the lighting in your home to more ambient, relaxing light.
One of the most common pieces of feedback we hear from people who use the HappyLight for sleep is that they now sleep soundly through the night. Like one customer said, "Before the lamp, every night I would wake at 3 a.m. and not be able to go back to sleep. Now I'm sleeping right through and waking feeling so much better."
When you've been doing a light therapy routine during the day and it comes time to go to sleep, your body stays asleep because you have enough melatonin in your system to keep you sleeping soundly throughout the night. Though it may seem like a wonderful night's sleep is a gift from the sleep gods, it's actually a result of your body being oriented to the right type of light throughout the day.
Make sure all light-producing devices are off when you go to sleep. If you need to have anything on that will emit light (like a night light), make sure it emits a soft red light or faint light that is not going send confusing signals to your body about what time of day it is. Most importantly, kickback, relax and sleep happy!