What Color Light Helps You Sleep?

Written by
Purple Staff
Last Updated
December 5, 2022
|
8
min read

Your bedroom can impact your sleep. You should create an optimal sleep environment to sleep better. Color in your bedroom can be the difference between a  good and bad night's sleep.

In fact, warm light is believed to help people fall asleep faster at night, while blue light is believed to keep people up. That's why most doctors recommend limiting the use of mobile phones and computers, which emit bright blue light, at least two hours before bedtime.

Your ability to get restful sleep at night depends on a variety of factors, including your room's temperature, noise level, and, yes, lighting. In this post, we focus on the latter and explain everything you need to know about the lights and colors that help people sleep better.

Lighting And Its Relation To Mood And Sleep

Sleep experts believe that light has a profound effect on both our mood and sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the light/dark cycle of the sun influences your circadian rhythm, your internal clock that tells your body when it's time to fall asleep and wake up.

Researchers have found that greater light exposure during the day leads to increased alertness, while greater light exposure at night can lead to melatonin suppression and difficulty sleeping. Furthermore, researchers found that even dim light can affect one's ability to fall and stay asleep.

The CDC states that the circadian clock is most sensitive to light around two hours before bedtime, throughout the night, and about an hour after your usual wake-up time.

However, the amount of light you are exposed to and the time of day that you receive it aren't the only factors that affect your sleep-wake pattern. You should also pay attention to the color of the light in your bedroom.

Light Color And Sleep

Color temperature refers to how cool or warm light appears. It's measured in Kelvin (K) – the lower numbers correspond to yellowish or warmer light, and the higher numbers correspond to whiter, cooler light. For reference, candlelight measures about 1800K, daylight measures around 5000K, and a clear blue sky measures about 8000K to 12000K.

Keep in mind that light that appears white often contains large amounts of “blue light” or high-energy visible (HEV) light. This type of light has a short wavelength, which means that it produces more energy than other types of light.

Blue light keeps you alert, increases your ability to focus, and elevates your mood. It also signals your body to stop the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that triggers sleepiness and muscle relaxation.

Next to sunlight (which is our biggest source of blue light), mobile phones, laptops, tablets, TVs, and other digital devices are among the most common sources of blue light. This is why doctors recommend that we stay off our phones and computers at least two to three hours before bedtime.

What Color Light Helps You Sleep Better?

The best color night light for sleep is a yellow or warm-toned light. Below, we elaborate on the best light colors for sleep and the science behind how they work.

Best Bedroom Light Colors For Sleep

Based on recent studies, these light colors help induce relaxation and sleepiness better than others:

Yellow

Unlike blue light, which can keep you awake and elevate your mood, yellow light is believed to bring on feelings of warmth, safety, and tranquility. According to the CDC, yellow or orange lights have “little effect on the [circadian] clock”, so you’re better off using warmer lights in the bedroom.

There is a long-standing theory that this may be because our ancestors would light a fire at night to keep themselves warm and ward off predators. Yellow-toned lights are also similar to the colors of dusk and dawn – times when people would start to wind down and prepare for bedtime.

Red

A 2012 study involving Chinese female basketball players showed that longer wave-length red light therapy may also have positive effects on sleep. According to the study, the participants reported improvements in their sleep quality and showed elevated levels of melatonin after 14 days of whole-body irradiation.

Another study showed that red light at night may improve sleep inertia the next day. Sleep inertia refers to the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that most people experience upon waking up. 

In the study, participants who were exposed to red light during sleep or right after waking up reported lower sleep inertia compared to those exposed only to dim light. The red light also did not reduce the participants' melatonin production in any significant way.

Worst Bedroom Lights Colors for Sleep

These are the light colors you should avoid if you’re trying to catch more zzz’s at night.

Blue

Blue light exposure, especially from the sun, throughout the day can be a good thing. It helps keep your body clocks on schedule and allows you to stay alert when you need to be. 

But too much blue light exposure at nighttime can leave you tossing and turning through the night. This is because the brain can’t tell the difference between artificial blue light from a phone or a TV and blue light from the sun. So, by staring into your phone in bed, you’re tricking your brain into thinking that it isn’t actually bedtime yet (even if it really is). 

Bear in mind that white light contains blue light, even if it doesn’t appear bluish to you. 

Green

There is a lot of conflicting information on the benefits and drawbacks of green light for sleep. A study from 1999 revealed that green light can reduce melatonin production and potentially counteract sleepiness in those who are sleep deprived. 

On the flip side, green light therapy is being studied as a potential treatment for chronic pain, particularly pain caused by fibromyalgia and migraines. So, the jury’s still out on whether green light can be helpful or harmful for relaxation. For now, it may be best to just avoid it. 

Painting Tips

Another way to make your bedroom more conducive to sleeping is by painting your walls with calming colors. According to color psychology, different colors can spark certain emotions, create moods, influence decisions, and impact sleeping behaviors. 

Best Bedroom Paint Colors For Sleep

Below, we list room colors that could help you sleep better. 

Bear in mind that some colors that work for bedroom lighting will not necessarily work for your bedroom walls. This is because light primarily affects your circadian clock, while paint color primarily affects mood. 

For example, blue light can signal wakefulness in the brain, but when applied to walls and other furniture, the color blue can invoke feelings of peace and tranquility. 

Blue

Blue is associated with peace and security. Research has shown that the color blue can even bring down a person's respiration and heart rate – something that happens naturally as you drift off to sleep. If you're struggling with bad sleep quality, consider repainting your walls a light blue.

Green

Green is another color that is associated with tranquility and serenity. This is because green is often associated with nature, which in itself can be relaxing. Ophthalmologists even recommend office workers rest their eyes every 50 minutes by looking at something green, such as trees and plants.

Yellow

Yellow is often regarded as an uplifting and energizing color, so it may not seem like an obvious choice for those who want to get better sleep. But for those who want to reduce sleep-related anxiety and associate the bedroom with positive vibes, painting the room yellow may have its merits. Yellow is often associated with warmth, cheer, and positivity – feelings you’ll want to invoke if the thought of sleeping stresses you out. 

Pink

Though red is not recommended for bedrooms (we'll get to that later), lighter reds and pinks should be okay. Pink is often associated with romance, sweetness, and even compassion. When paired with a warm light, a pink wall can give a room a soft, rosy glow. 

Silver

Like gray, silver is a neutral color that doesn’t invoke a lot of strong emotions. As such, it can go well with virtually anything. However, be wary not to use glossy paint, as the glare will reflect bright lights and keep you from sleeping well. Instead, opt for a matte or eggshell finish.

Light Brown

Light brown, beige, and taupe are subtle colors that give a room an earthy, natural feel, which can be quite comforting. These colors are also quite easy to pair with most hues and designs.

White

White is as neutral as you can get – this color can be matched with virtually any style or color. It also doesn't affect mood very much and can even make a room appear cleaner and brighter in the day, especially if you have a source of natural light such as a big window. By letting sunlight into your room during the day, you can easily maintain your natural circadian rhythm.

Worst Bedroom Paint Colors For Sleep

Not all colors are soothing for bedtime. Here are some of the worst colors for sleep:

Red

Most people associate the color red with passion, danger, and intensity. Research suggests that red can make you more alert and aware, and many corporate brands also use red because it feels "bold and energetic". But while this may be helpful in other contexts, these aren't exactly things you want to feel as you try to fall asleep.

Bright Pink Or Purple

Generally, you'll want to avoid bright hues in your bedroom, especially if they have reddish hues that can keep you alert and energetic. If you want to paint your room purple, stick to colors with cooler undertones like lavender or periwinkle.

Dark Gray Or Dark Brown

While earthy, neutral colors can put you at ease, very dark browns and grays may also evoke feelings of sadness, anxiety, and uncertainty. If you already suffer from insomnia, you may want to go for something lighter like silver or beige.

Black

Like dark browns and grays, black is more commonly associated with feelings of gloom and anxiety. If you want to keep your bedroom dark when you sleep, consider investing in blackout curtains instead.

Other Ways To Create A Relaxing Bedroom

Aside from picking the right color, there are other things to keep in mind when repainting your bedroom to improve your sleep. This includes:

  • The paint finish: Matte or eggshell finishes are better than high-shine or glossy ones because shiny paint reflects light and makes a room brighter. Flat paint, on the other hand, absorbs light.
  • Your decor: If you like mixing your decor up now and then, consider painting your room in a neutral shade that can go well with virtually any color.
  • The size of your bedroom: Dark colors can make small bedrooms feel even smaller and possibly make you feel claustrophobic. Lighter colors, on the other hand, can make smaller rooms feel big and airy. If you want to stick with a dark color, consider having an accent wall instead of painting your whole room instead.

Bedroom Light FAQs

What color light helps you sleep at night?

Warm and reddish light has been proven to help people sleep better at night.

Why shouldn’t you sleep with red LED lights on?

No evidence proves that you shouldn't sleep with red LED lights on. In fact, reddish lighting can help you sleep better at night.

Is it ok to sleep with red lights on?

Yes, studies have shown that red lights can induce sleepiness and improve the quality of one's sleep