03 December 2015

If you are part of the 1/3 of the UK population who has suffered from insomnia at some point, then you will know how important it is to keep your sleep cycle regular. Insomnia is classified by the NHS as frequently struggling to fall asleep, struggling to stay asleep, or not being able to get enough sleep to function normally.

You may know that sunlight can be beneficial to insomniacs due to it suppressing production of the sleep hormone melatonin during the day, which means they are less likely to get tired until night time. Melatonin production is also thought to be one of the reasons behind seasonal affective disorder, as in winter there is less sunlight and so our brains produce more melatonin, which can cause tiredness and depression in S.A.D. sufferers. For severe insomnia and seasonal affective disorder you might want to look into buying a light box which is a lamp specifically made for S.A.D. sufferers to use during the day to help alleviate symptoms. However if you’re looking for a cheap alternative, buying bulbs with a higher lumen output would also help. While no amount of artificial lighting will ever be as beneficial to you as real daylight (even on a cloudy day), high lumen lighting can trick your brain into thinking you’re seeing real daylight, and so, like sunlight, it suppresses melatonin production during the day (you are probably better off not having the high lumen bulbs in your bedroom though as you’ll want melatonin production to re-start when you’re trying to sleep).

Quick tip: if you want to try light therapy out, a lot of websites offering advice (including the NHS) say to get high lux lighting, not high lumen. While high lux measurements are what you would want as an end result, telling you to look for high lux lighting is a minor error on their part. Lux is a measurement of how bright a light source is once it is inside a room and its lumens have spread out, and so cannot be given to you by the lighting seller as they do not know where you will end up putting their lights (this can’t be estimated either). The best way to ensure a high lux measurement is to get a bulb with as high a lumen output as possible with a narrow beam angle, and then to make sure the beam is directed straight towards your eyes so you get as much concentrated light as you can.

For people wanting to improve their sleep hygiene we would also recommend you buy lighting that is dimmable, which means you can dim your lights towards bedtime to increase your melatonin production and to help you feel more relaxed, which will put you in a more sleep-ready frame of mind.

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