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A peaceful sunset over a hill with dragonflies

Fading Light at Night is As Helpful as Morning Light

All of the sleep advice on the interwebs tends to include a suggestion for getting light in the morning to 'jumpstart the day' and 'anchor your circadian rhythm'.

I think this is great general advice for most people.

Exposure to fading light to reinforce sleep

However, one thing I always personally find helpful is exposure to fading light in the evening. Our brains are sensitive to fading light, which is one trigger for dim light melatonin onset. Dim light melatonin onset is when our body and brain prepare for sleep. This happens a couple of hours before bedtime when our brains begin to excrete melatonin.

When we spend all evening indoors with bright light, we miss the opportunity to reinforce to our brains that the light is fading and we are approaching night. We can see it happen out the windows, but we don't 'experience it' by letting our eyes sit with the fading light. I think sitting in the evening fading light could be a beneficial approach for those who worry about insomnia worsening in the summertime.

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I am an early bird and go to sleep early this time of year, when it's beginning to 'start to get dark' at about the right time to expose myself to fading light - about two hours before my usual bedtime. I sit for 15 minutes outside if I can or facing a large window and sit without artificial lighting in the room. This has the opposite effect of sitting in a bright window eating breakfast first thing in the morning.

Doing this helps me slow down and prepare for sleep. I get to watch the birds and bats begin to emerge, have some tea, and allow the fading light to help reinforce my sleep rhythm.

The power of light for insomnia

I use the power of light to my advantage in many ways. In midsummer, I'm awake at 5, and it's broad daylight in the UK. As it gets lighter and lighter, I wake up earlier and earlier. If I want to stop waking earlier, I emphasize being in dark/dim light until my 'day' starts and I then expose myself to bright light at the start of my day.

As I pass through spring, I expose myself to fading light a couple of hours before my own bedtime of 9 pm but this is impractical for an 'early bird' in the middle of summer as it's light until 11pm! I switch to exposing myself to less light in the evening as spring passes once I get to a place where I'm happy with the length of my day, which is longer in summer. I keep the lights low throughout the house as I go about my evening, and I still sit and look out the window. It's a lovely way to say goodbye to the day and hello to the night! (And look at the stars!)

Have you ever tried evening light exposure to help you with your wind down in the evening?

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