Dangers Associated With Sleeping With a Light On

Sometimes, keeping a senior safe requires something of a juggling act. By this, it is meant that two potential competing risks need to be balanced against each other. For example, seniors are often advised to keep some light on at night to ensure that they can readily see if they need to get up from bed and walk about for one reason or another. On the other hand, a good amount of research indicates that a person can have an optimal sleep if they are in a truly dark room. More recently, a research study supports the proposition that failing to sleep in a dark room at night in and of itself can have negative health consequences.

In this article, we explore what researchers are now calling dangers associated with sleeping with a light on. Before diving into this subject, we provide some basic guidance on how a senior can keep safe if the need arises to get out of bed in the dark.

Practical Senior Nighttime Lighting Solutions

While it is true that some bedrooms are designed in a manner where the space is lighted by a fixture operated by a switch on a wall, there are many instances in which that switch is not located near the bed. This is one of the reasons why some light is left on in a senior’s bedroom during the night.

The solution to this type of situation is not complex. A nightstand next to the bed featuring a lamp is a good solution. This typically necessitates an electrical outlet next to the bed because having an extension cord snaking through a senior’s room is not a solid plan of action.

In some older homes, electrical outlets might not be as plentiful or appropriately distributed throughout a room as one might desire. If that is the case, keep in mind that there are reliable lighting products that are battery-operated, including lamps that can suit the needs of a senior in a bedroom.

Turning out the lights in a bedroom but cracking the bedroom door to allow illumination from the hallway is also considered disruptive, according to researchers. In other words, complete darkness is the order of the day to guard against the dangers of lights on when sleeping.

Results of Research Study on Exposure to Light While Sleeping

As mentioned previously, a research study was concluded recently that indicates that people who do not sleep in total darkness at night risk experiencing significant adverse health conditions. The research study included 552 adult seniors between the ages of 63 to 84. These seniors were part of what is known as the Chicago Healthy Aging Study.

In the study, participants all wore devices that measured the amount of light in their bedrooms over a week. Fewer than 50 percent of the participants consistently had a five-hour-long stretch of complete darkness. The other participants were exposed to some light even during their darkest nights, usually in the middle of the night.

The research study’s findings were published in June 2002 in the journal Sleep. The researchers reported that light during sleep can potentially disrupt a person’s “internal clock.” This disruption has the potential to affect an individual’s normal metabolism. This type of metabolic disruption has the propensity to increase the risk of certain medical conditions that include:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes

Other Risks of Inadequate Sleep

In addition to the specific health issues that might develop from inadequate sleep – including sleep impaired by light in a bedroom during the night – there are other more immediate risks of improper sleep. These conditions can potentially develop more rapidly than health issues like obesity, high blood pressure, or diabetes. These conditions include:

  • Loss of decision-making skills
  • Loss of critical thought
  • Poor memory
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Increased appetite (which can lead to obesity)
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Vision problems

Minimum Sleep Requirements

Everyone’s sleep needs are different, but on average, most people need between seven and eight hours of sleep a night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, factors that can affect how much sleep you need include age, lifestyle, and health.

How to Improve Sleep

We have already discussed the importance of maintaining a dark room at night to enhance a person’s sleep. Some other strategies you need to consider if you feel you are not obtaining adequate sleep consistently. Ways in which you can improve your sleep include:

  • Stick to a fairly rigid sleep schedule. Set aside eight hours for sleep. As mentioned a moment ago, a healthy senior’s recommended sleep is at least seven hours. Most seniors do not require more than eight hours of sleep each night. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including on weekends.
  • Pay attention to what you eat. Do not go to bed hungry or feeling stuffed. Avoid heavy meals within a couple of hours of your bedtime.
  • Create a restful sleep environment. In addition to keeping your bedroom dark, keep it relatively cool. You will also want to keep your bedroom quiet as well.
  • Include regular physical activity in your daily routine. Regular physical activity can promote better sleep for most seniors. Avoid being active too close to bedtime.

Finally, if you follow the recommendations in this article, including maintaining a dark bedroom, and still believe you are having issues sleeping, make an appointment with your doctor. Your inability to obtain a decent night’s sleep might stem from some medical condition, including sleep apnea. Your doctor can assist you in determining whether or not an underlying medical condition may hamper your ability to consistently obtain a suitable amount of healthy sleep.