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I just bought a color led strip (like similar to this one) and installed it so that the ceiling can be lit with any color.

We're making experiments on which color would have better effects on calming down my little lady. Some sites like this just recommend to use soft lights but doesn't specify what colors: yellowish? very dim purple?

Does anyone here have experiences about relaxing colors, or have used soft lights in the bedroom to help the child falling asleep?

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4 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

While blue may be a calming pigment choice for paint, according to Harvard Health, "blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night."

Light of any kind decreases the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep, and light at night particularly messes with your circadian rhythm (your daily biological schedule which is driven by exposure to light and dark). LED lights and those curlicue compact fluorescents emit more blue light waves than old style incandescent bulbs. Fluorescent tubes are sold with coatings that can shift the color away from blue wavelengths.

Harvard recommends using dim red lights for night lights because they are least disruptive to circadian rhythms. In order to improve sleep, they also recommend avoiding looking at bright screens for 2-3 hours before bed and spending as much time in bright light during the day as you can.

Since you have installed LED lights which are known to emit blue wavelengths, perhaps instead of using them at night, you could use them during the day as a "stimulant." At night, choose dim non-LED, non-fluorescent lighting.

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The problematic LED lights are the "white" LEDs, which are actually a blue LED plus a phosphor that converts some (but not all) of the blue light to white by fluorescence. The LED color strip linked in the question does not use white LEDs but rather Red, Green and Blue, which are each fairly pure see this vs this. If LED strip is set to use only the red LEDs it will produce less blue light than most incandescent bulbs. –  stignet May 15 '13 at 20:28
    
it makes sense that red/orange (sunset) would help you sleep compared to bright white or blue (noon) - if in fact any colour makes a difference –  Chrys May 15 '13 at 21:08
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Mary Jo's answer is spot on – blue paints are good, blue lights are bad, red lights are good. I was going to add a comment but I have more to say :-)

Avoid blue because it is very high-energy in terms of wavelength.
Red is good because it is very low-energy in terms of wavelength.
Other colors are in between those two endpoints.

The LED stripe you link to has no "pure white" but instead produces its many colors by combinations of red+green+blue. With LED, I only recommend pure red because otherwise you're mixing undesirable colors into the light. I use these pure red LEDs myself at home at night, but at the lowest possible intensity.

One very important aspect of sleep is the absence of light, because light hinders the body's natural ability to produce melatonin which is required for healthy sleep. (The body's ability to produce this degrades over time, which is why old people sleep much less than young.)

The melatonin signal forms part of the system that regulates the sleep–wake cycle by chemically causing drowsiness and lowering the body temperature (Wikipedia)

Blue light is most disruptive because of its wavelength but also because the cells in the eye's retina react to it and the brain believes it's daylight – not good for sleep (google melatonin for details). Have you noticed that blue status LED's are annoyingly bright to look at? That's it precisely.

Red light is least disruptive because it has the lowest wavelength.
Red bonus: Night vision! This is not important by itself of course, but it is helpful nonetheless. Night vision is a very direct indication of whether a light is disruptive or not. There's a reason why cockpits are usually lit with red light: The eye isn't blinded by red light and therefore it preserves night vision. If you look at a red light at night and then into darkness, you can still see. Look at a blue/yellow/green light and your night vision is gone. It can take up to 20 minutes to regain that night vision. In my home, I've lit the path to the bathroom with red LED at night for this exact reason – pilots and seamen would agree :-)

Red is also the color that newborns find most soothing, but my understanding is that it's soothing because it's a familiar color: any light looks red when seen from inside the womb!

More references and details can be found in this software description.

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My partners two daughter used to always be hyper at bedtime, jumping all over the bedroom and making a huge mess. I looked online and i seen the same advice on color and moods, so we set straight away at painting the room a very light pink and we have some lights from ikea that look like a flower.

When these lights are on, it emits a pink glow. It's not an intense pink glow, but it certainly seems to have worked.

As Vicky said, blue would seem the obvious choice, but children generally have a wider recognition of colors, so it would need to be a very light blue.

I may also be wrong, but I'm sure orange is a stimulating color too, so that may have an added playing effect.

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We have the exact same pink flower lights in my daughter's room! They are fantastic! If I have to go in there for some reason in the middle of the night, I can turn them on and disturb my daughter very little. –  Meg Coates May 15 '13 at 19:40
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The usual recommendation is that bedroom decor should be blue for a calming atmosphere, so I would guess that blue light would have a similar effect. And red should be avoided for the opposite reason.

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