Sleep and the environment

Our environment can either enhance our sleep and energy or it can be deleterious – and it’s quite often  the latter due to our increased use and dependence on technology. Keep reading to find out if you’re making these common mistakes that impact your sleep!

How light affects your sleep

Light is one of the most fundamental aspects of our environment and influences how effectively we sleep, according to what type we’re exposing ourselves too – and when. Have you ever left your computer work until really late at night and consequently felt tired and groggy the next day (despite sleeping the same number of hours)? Well, there’s actually an extremely important reason for this! Artificial blue light suppresses our ability to produce melatonin [1]. While I wouldn’t endorse doing your work late at night, there are a few ways around this to at least reduce the harmful effects it imposes on our sleep quality.

How to manage your light exposure to maximise your sleep

  1.  Blue light blocking glasses – a great way to reduce exposure to blue light, which is especially imperative after sunset and when we are doing work on computers.
  2. Exposure to direct sunlight in the morning – even being outside when its overcast is still beneficial. We need adequate levels of serotonin (which we get from the sun) for many reasons, one of them being that its needed to convert into melatonin at night.
  3. Exposure to the sunset – this signals to the photoreceptors present in our eyes to start increasing melatonin production, a great way to regulate circadian rhythm.
  4. Red light therapy – here is a great hack, we can use different types of light frequencies to our advantage. Red and near-infrared light frequencies have been shown in research to increase melatonin levels [2]. Another great benefit of sauna therapy!

How environmental pollutants affect your sleep

Did you know that mould and indoor pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can affect our ability to wind down and have sound sleep? Damp affected houses and mould exposure within the home have been correlated with decreased sleep in children and insomnia in adults [3]. Consequently, our indoor air quality contains pollutants that may actually be even greater than outdoor air pollution due to mycotoxins produced from mould species, bacteria (which can grow on walls and surfaces), VOCs from furniture and household cleaners.

How to create the perfect environment for sleep

  1. Find the root cause – did you really see a Naturopath if they didn’t say find the root of the problem? I doubt it! There’s always a good reason for this – if your home is water damaged and mould affected, simply removing the external mould is symptomatic treatment (and often done incorrectly). Further investigation is needed to rule out humidity issues and hidden leaks within the house.
  2.  Invest in an air purifier/ionizer – this is one of the best ways to ensure you have healthy, clean air in your bedroom and house.
  3.  Consider low toxic furniture – even mattresses can contain toxic substances such as lead, mercury and VOCs, which is the last place we would like them to be lurking to get a restful sleep!

Next week we’ll be looking at how gut health and infections may be impacting our sleep, stay tuned!


By Fallon Cashell – A.R.T Practitioner and Naturopathic Assistant 


[1] Smolensky, M. H., Sackett-Lundeen, L. L., & Portaluppi, F. (2015). Nocturnal light pollution and
underexposure to daytime sunlight: Complementary mechanisms of circadian disruption and
related diseases. Chronobiology International, 32(8), 1029–1048.

[2] Zhao, J., Tian, Y., Nie, J., Xu, J., & Liu, D. (2012). Red light and the sleep quality and endurance
performance of Chinese female basketball players. Journal of athletic training, 47(6), 673–678.

[3] Tiesler, C. M. T., Thiering, E., Tischer, C., Lehmann, I., Schaaf, B., von Berg, A., & Heinrich, J.
(2015). Exposure to visible mould or dampness at home and sleep problems in children: Results
from the LISAplus study. Environmental Research, 137, 357–363.