What colour should I use for darkness therapy?

By now you may be feeling rather overwhelmed by all the colours I talk about for darkness therapy.  Between my own visual comfort and what is actually available, I use products in a variety of colours.  The one thing they all have in common is that they either block/filter out blue light, or they product light which does not have any blue in it.  This means you can use yellow, orange, amber, red, or brown.  You may find that you have strong preferences concerning colour to the point where the wrong one for you makes you feel unwell, particularly if you have dyslexia, migraine, ME/CFIDS, Meares-Irlen Syndrome, epilepsy, and possibly severe myopia (short-sightedness).  Make sure you can try out a colour before committing to anything expensive.

Yellow

This is the lightest colour of the set.  When used to tint glasses, it increases contrast in a way some people can find disconcerting.  It’s often available as a standard tint for sunglasses, though be sure to ask your optician whether it blocks 100% of blue light.  I have seen some websites selling yellow lenses that claimed that they would work for darkness therapy, but this study suggests that they may not.

I’ve seen two shades of yellow used as a coating for incandescent light bulbs.  Most often it’s the slightly more orangey one.  The light is a little more orange than you’d expect from looking at the bulb coating, and may be described as a marigold yellow.  I personally find it very pleasant.

Reflector bulbs can be sold with a yellow coating, but unless you are going to be using tinted glasses as well, I don’t recommend these as the coating is only translucent and I think it permits some blue light to come through.

Fluorescent bulbs can be bought with a yellow coating as well.  I don’t know what they’re like as I’ve never tried one.  They’re often sold as “bug lights”.

Yellow is rarely used for LEDs, and on the two occasions when I bought something that was sold to me as containing yellow LEDs, they turned out to be a horrible orange.  I’ve been told by lighting specialists that yellow is a tricky colour for LEDs, which is why you don’t see it often.

Candle flames are mostly yellow, although these is a small amount of white light in there as well which may or may not be enough to influence your circadian rhythm.

Orange

This is the colour I chose for my tinted glasses, mainly because it’s directly opposite blue on the colour wheel and I already knew that I got on with it from using an orange monitor filter on my laptop.  Objects viewed through orange lenses appear golden yellow, for some reason.  I find it quite a pleasant colour for lenses, it doesn’t increase contrast, and as apparently is true for many people, it makes it easier for me to read.  The colour distortion may bother you, however.

Orange-coated incandescent lightbulbs are likely to be sold as “amber”, but the coating looks pinkish-orange to me.  The light is a fair bit darker than that produced by yellow-coated incandescent bulbs, being an orange that is almost closer to pink.

Orange-coated reflector bulbs are also usually sold as “amber”.  The coating is again translucent, but I think it probably cuts out most, if not all, blue light.  It’s not the best light source, though, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Orange LEDs are commonly used for appliances, such as on electrical sockets.  Again, there seems to be difficulty in getting a pleasant colour, although the light on my kettle is not bad.

If you wish to buy a salt lamp for decorative purposes, the thick layer of salt looks pink when it is not illuminated and glows orange when you put a bulb in it.  I suspect that a small amount of white light is still getting through mine, so I put in a pink-coated 15W bulb instead and it nows glows a deep salmon colour.

Amber and brown

Amber may be used to refer to orange, or it may be a shade of brown (orange + black).  Amber and brown are common colours for sunglasses, although it has been suggested that not all sunglasses which claim to block all blue light actually do so.  I have no idea whether this is true, I suspect that it may be a marketing myth, but again, check with your optician.

The main advantage of brown is that it doesn’t distort colour in the way that orange does, and the disadvantage is that in order for it to be strong enough to block blue light, it will be quite a bit darker than the equivalent orange.  I tried a pair of amber fitover blue-blocking glasses and not only did everything appear very dark through them, but they completely hid the parts of my face which were behind them.  My orange glasses do nothing of the sort.

Red

Red is the darkest pure colour of the set, and anything viewed by red light or through a red filter will appear monochrome.  This will be off-putting for many people.  On the other hand, there’s a school of thought that red is far more effective than orange or yellow for darkness therapy, so you may prefer to use it for that reason.  However, this site claims that “red is a very uncomfortable color to look through”, so you may prefer to restrict its use to light bulbs.

Red-coated incandescent bulbs exist, but I have not tried them.  You can also buy incandescent bulbs with red (translucent) glass called “fireglow” which will give off more light than the solid-coated bulbs, but I don’t know if the translucent coating is enough to filter out blue light.  Red reflector bulbs are probably similar to these.

Red LEDs are cheap to produce and give off a pleasant colour, so they’re commonly seen in remote controls and so forth.  If you want to use a bike light as the equivalent of a torch, it will probably be red.

Red glass is a popular option for tealight holders.  While the jury is still out on whether candlelight is acceptable for darkness therapy, I would guess that putting the candle into a red candle holder should be enough to compensate for the small amount of white light that may be present.

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7 Comments on “What colour should I use for darkness therapy?”


  1. A study by Kayumov et al at the University of Toronto found that subjects wearing glass that blocked the light (and exposed to bright light) made melatonin just as they had in darkness.Our glasses and filters at http://www.lowbluelights.com are designed to block all of the light at wavelength shorter than 530 and transmit about 90% of all other wavelengths. To use these glasses indoors at night it is important to do both things. Light yellow lets through too much blue and dark orange doesn’t let enough of the other colors through. Bess wishes. RLH


    • I did suspect that light yellow wouldn’t be strong enough, although there’s a NoIR pair of light yellow fitovers that claims to block 100% of blue light. My optometrist suggested a certain shade of orange for blocking blue light, which is what I had my spectacles made up in (I don’t get on with fitovers), and it’s certainly worked well for me.

      Could you explain more about dark orange not letting enough of the other colours through?


  2. I would suggest yellow also…it’s not so bright that cause more damage to the eyes…


    • Well, any other colours than yellow are even less bright, and I don’t think any of them have been associated with damage to the eyes! That story seems to be about the blue end of the spectrum, particularly ultraviolet light. With yellow, orange and red, it seems to be more about practicality (can you perform the tasks you need to under that light colour), visual comfort, and how well it aids melatonin production. What were you thinking of?

  3. Zoe Says:

    Hi, I’ve never even heard of Darkness Therapy, I just happened to see your link on a phoenix rising thread. But just in the last week I have been intuitively leaving all the lights off in the evening.. so that I get more in tune with the natural light and darkness. Hasn’t helped my insomnia directly as yet, but it has helped indirectly because it helps me to feel more inclined to go to bed early – as though my brain has got used to the idea that it’s night time now. I’m inspired that you have sorted your sleep cycle out! I know only too well about the 10/11pm peaking and 4 am tossing and turning. M.E is a horrid condition, if for nothing else than for this strange effect on the circadian rhythm, makes it very hard to combat through will power alone. I have found that taking a Melatonin supplement can help with making me feel sleepy, and St John’s Wort can helps with (too)early waking. I hadn’t thought of wearing coloured lenses, but that would help for when my flatmate comes home and starts putting all the lights on again. Also, I like to watch a film about 7pm to help wind me down and perhaps there is white light from the monitor screen?

    Oh, also, I had a thought about the fact that you seem to have less energy now than you did before.. it may be that the energy you have now is real energy as opposed to the over-drive boom and bust energy so characteristic of ME. You may still have a large deficit to work off, or, it might be the sleeping pills.. they used to make me more lethargic in the day, but then I think you said you didn’t need them anymore ?, hope that’s true. I’m going to try creating my own hypnosis recordings as well, which I’ll start off with a few hours of ambient music (to get me off to sleep) and then will put some kind of spokenn NLP type instructions for reducing the psychological and learned aspect of the insomnia on the recording. Hopefully it’ll go straight into my subconscious whilst I sleep. Worth a try, better than any more Benzodiazepines! Thanks for posting your discoveries! x


    • *waves* My sleep hasn’t actually been as good this year, ever since I was put on gabapentin for a few months and had a nightmare time of it withdrawing. But it’s improving gradually, and it’s still miles better than it was before I started treating it in this way. As you said, it can take a while to recover from meds which interfere with sleep (not that I was ever on sleeping pills on a regular basis).

      I find that dimming the lights helps on a psychological level too. Routines can be surprisingly important, and routines can also be the first thing to go when the ME gets bad.

      Yes, TVs emit a lot of white light! Blue light in particular, actually, and the same with computer screens. Ever looked into a house from outside on a dark night and seen a blue glow? That was the TV. I find that tinted specs do the job fine, I don’t need to put filters over my laptop after that, though I can’t speak for how it works for other people. I like to unwind with a film or TV show before bed as well.

      • Zoe Says:

        Thanks for your reply, I hope it continues to improve for you. Not heard of gabapentin but I can imagine.. it’s strange that these things we are given to ‘help’ us so often seem to harm us instead.

        I’m trying 5HTP at the moment for the serotonin-melatonin balance.. worth a go.
        I’m sad to find that candles emit white light, my flatmate seemed to think they’d be alright (he’s a science geek) but I did wonder.
        I guess any reduction of white light is probably of some benefit though, I think it affects more than just melatonin, because I also take that at night and yet the darkness therapy seems to help more than the melatonin does. I’ve really enjoyed having a proper ‘wax and wane’ to my days.. I feel more in touch with the night time in general now.
        I have a bit of orange lighting gel in front of my laptop screen and I think it helps. Thanks for your great informative blog!


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