Sleepless woman suffering from insomnia, sleep apnea or stress. Tired and exhausted lady. Headache or migraine. Awake in the middle of the night. Frustrated person with problem. Alarm clock with time.

Want a good night’s sleep? Keep the lights off – ALL of them.

A recent sleep study conducted by Northwestern University found that sleeping with a ‘moderate’ amount of light in the room affected heart rate and metabolism- even with subjects who felt they got a good night’s sleep. Light pollution creeps into our nighttime hours in all kinds of ways, and research shows it’s not good for us- they theorize that even a small amount of light can put humans or animals into a ‘pro-inflammatory state’ during sleep. So, Dr. Phyllis Zee and her team at Northwestern University wanted to know – what would the effects be after just one night of sleep? They designed a small study with 20 people. As their subjects slept, Zee’s team ran test.

Additionally, the heart rate increased, insulin resistance was on the rise, and the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and relax) nervous systems were unbalanced, which has been linked to higher blood pressure in healthy people.

Zee, however, noted that the light was not bright enough to raise body melatonin levels. The study was published in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Based on Zee’s study and existing research in the field, what advice would she offer people? Consider closing your blinds and curtains, turning off all the lights, and putting on an eye mask.

“I think the strength of the evidence is that you should clearly pay attention to the light in your bedroom,” she said. “Make sure that you start dimming your lights at least an hour or two before you go to bed to prepare your environment for sleep.”

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