How to light your bedroom for a better night’s sleep

Light can have a huge impact on how we sleep. Find out how to make your bedroom a relaxing haven at night time, with our expert lighting guide...


How does light affect your sleep?

Before the arrival of electricity, humans would rise and sleep in line with the rising and setting of the sun, and light still plays a key role in our sleeping patterns. As it begins to get dark, the body starts to produce the hormone melatonin, which is responsible for making us feel relaxed and sleepy.

However, today’s more artificial environments can interfere with this process. Stronger and harsher lighting can affect the body’s natural sleep cycle – or circadian rhythm – making it more difficult to get a decent night’s rest.

The good news is, with the right lighting scheme you can help make your bedroom a calm and restful space, and make a real difference to your quality of sleep.

Image: Greg Penn - aka @manwithahammer - read his Q&A with Pooky here


Layering light in the bedroom

A bedroom is a multipurpose space: a place to sleep, read, dress, watch TV and – especially in recent times – even a place to work. To help get a better night’s sleep, it’s important to make sure you provide different types of lighting for these different functions.

There are three main types of lighting: ambient lighting, which refers to the general lighting in a room, including the main light; task lighting, which is targeted lighting for specific tasks, such as a bedside reading lamp; and accent lighting, which is used to create mood or highlight features in a room.

When lighting a bedroom, it’s important to use a range of different light sources. As well as ambient and task lighting, you need plenty of warm, lower level lighting for when it’s time to wind down and relax. By layering your light, you can help to create the perfect environment for sleep. 

Find out more about layering light in our guide.


Avoiding harsh or direct lighting in the bedroom

In many bedrooms, the main source of ambient lighting is a ceiling fixture – often a pendant light suspended over the bed. Pendant lights can provide a lovely focal point in the bedroom, and they’re great for providing general lighting during the daytime. However, a single bright overhead light can sometimes be quite harsh at night and can create unwanted glare and shadows.

Stronger and brighter lights are known to have a stimulating effect on the body, making you feel more alert, so it’s important to avoid exposure to harsh and direct lighting if you want to get a good night’s sleep.

If you have overhead lighting in the bedroom, try choosing a pendant or lampshade that diffuses the light for a softer effect, and avoid more exposed types of fitting – remember when you’re in bed you will be viewing the light fitting from underneath.

As night approaches, you need to create a calm atmosphere to help relax and prepare for sleep. You can supplement any overhead lighting with a range of other lighting sources, including wall lights and sconces, table lamps and floor lamps to produce a warm, restful vibe.


Using wall lights and lamps to create a calm bedroom vibe

Wall lights and sconces will cast a lovely soft light in a bedroom, and they offer an attractive alternative to an overhead light, especially in a bedroom with low ceilings. They’re also a great space saver in a smaller bedroom – try placing a pair of wall lights above the headboard or bedside tables.

Meanwhile, a pair of table lamps placed next to the bed will produce a warm glow that’s perfect for that bedtime read, while also helping you to unwind naturally. Your choice of lampshade can also make a difference – try opting for a shade in a darker colour, or choose a material that will diffuse the light gently, such as linen or velvet. To help avoid glare, the lampshade should sit around eye level when you’re sitting up in bed – and don’t forget to make sure the switch is within easy reach!

Finally, you can create some relaxing accent lighting by placing a selection of decorative lamps in different areas of the room. Try putting a table lamp or two on a dresser or cupboard or inside an alcove for some warm, low-level lighting. Meanwhile, standing a designer floor lamp in a corner of the room or beside a comfy reading chair will create a cosy feel.

Limber wall light for bedtime reading


Consider the ‘colour temperature’ of your bedroom lighting

As well as providing a range of different light sources in the bedroom, it’s also important to consider the nature of that light. It’s often said that blue screens are bad for sleep, and where possible it’s best to avoid using a phone or watching TV in the run-up to bedtime. The same principle also applies to the lighting in your bedroom – and it’s all to do with the strength and the ‘colour temperature’ of your lightbulbs.

The brightness of a lightbulb is measured in lumens, and you should opt for a lower output from your bedroom lighting, ie. fewer lumens. (Find out how much light you need in a room with our expert guide.)

It’s also important to consider the ‘colour temperature’ of your lightbulbs. Light is measured on the Kelvin scale (K), with cooler bluish and white light coming in at the higher end of the scale and warmer, yellower light towards the bottom. You should aim for this warmer, more relaxing light for wall lights, table lamps and floor lamps in the bedroom – somewhere in the region of 2,700-3,000K. For more information on colour temperature, see How to choose a lightbulb.


Dialling things down with a dimmer

As we’ve seen, avoiding exposure to high levels of light before bed can significantly improve your chances of a good night’s sleep. Once you’ve chosen your bedroom lighting scheme, adding in some dimmers will give you the ultimate control over the brightness and ambience of your lighting, allowing you to create exactly the right mood and atmosphere in your bedroom.

Whether you’re using overhead lights, wall lights, bedside lamps, floor lamps or a combination, the ability to dial down your lighting will help you to prepare for sleep, body and mind. Similarly, when it’s time to get up in the morning, turning on the light gradually is a much more gentle and natural way to wake up!

Wilma bedside table lamp in grey


By layering your lighting, and providing plenty of gentle, low-level illumination, you can make your bedroom a comfortable and relaxing space that’s just perfect for helping you drift off into a restful slumber. Sweet dreams…


Browse Pooky’s bedside lamps, wall lights for bedside reading and all our beautiful, affordable lighting here.


Image top: Cooper wall light fitting in antique brass