Get Light Exposure at the Right Time

Get Light Exposure at the Right Time

Get light exposure at the right time to support your sleep.

Some people benefit from light exposure at the start of the day, while others benefit from light exposure in the afternoon.

Which one are you?

Struggling to Fall Asleep?

If you're struggling to fall asleep, sunlight exposure first thing in the morning is right for you.

Exposure to the sun for at least 45 minutes within an hour of waking up helps your brain get the message that it's time to be awake and helps your circadian rhythm stay on track. Going outside in the sunlight without sunglasses is ideal. However if that’s not possible, opening the curtains to let the sun in will work. Or if you’re somewhere without sunlight when you wake up, simply turning on your inside lights nice and bright will do the trick.

If you have trouble falling asleep, get morning light for at least 45 minutes, wear sunglasses in the afternoon if you’re outdoors, and dim interior light in the evening. This will help your brain get the message when it's time to be alert, and it's time to be asleep.

However, if you typically fall asleep after 4 a.m., you may have a delayed phase sleep disorder (DPSD).

Delayed Phase Sleep Disorder and Light Therapy

Delayed phase sleep disorder is not technically insomnia. Being on a delayed schedule can be problematic, causing anxiety which can trigger insomnia. Many people have both. People with DPSD fall asleep later than what is considered typical. This disorder can be corrected with Light Exposure Therapy. Treatment consists of gradual shifting of a clock and exposure to light (often using a lightbox) for 45-90 minutes upon rising.

If you relate to this DPSD, talk to your doctor about the recommended treatment for you.

Falling Asleep Too Early?

If you're falling asleep too early, which happens for various reasons, including age, you may want to focus on getting afternoon light.

If this is you, wear sunglasses in the morning if you’re outdoors, and get afternoon sunlight (without sunglasses) for one hour any time from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Again, if it’s not possible to be in the sun when you need to be awake, then turn your inside lights on nice and bright and that will do the trick. Dim the lights an hour before your desired bedtime.