Skip to Content

What color helps with sleep and headaches?

Color can have a significant impact on our mood, emotions, and even physical symptoms like sleep and headaches. Certain colors are known to be calming and promote rest, while others can worsen headaches. In this article, we’ll explore the science behind how color affects sleep and headaches. We’ll also provide actionable recommendations on what colors to incorporate into your home, clothing and lifestyle to get better sleep and prevent headaches.

How Color Affects Sleep

The colors around us can greatly impact our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. This is because color wavelengths of light affect levels of melatonin, our sleep hormone. Melatonin is triggered by darkness and inhibited by light. Exposure to certain colors, especially bright and blue light, can suppress melatonin production and disrupt circadian rhythms.

Cooler, softer colors like blues, greens, and purples are recommended for the bedroom. These colors have calming, relaxing properties that ready the mind and body for rest. Blues and greens mimic the natural blues and greens found outside during dusk when melatonin levels begin to rise. These cooler hues reduce stress and anxiety levels that can interfere with sleep.

Warmer, brighter colors like reds, oranges and yellows have the opposite effect. They are stimulating and can increase heart rate, body temperature and thoughts of the day ahead rather than winding down for bed. Bright white light as well strongly inhibits melatonin. It’s best to avoid these colors in the hours leading up to bed.

Best Colors for Sleep

Here are the top colors to help promote healthy sleep:

  • Blues: Shades like indigo, navy and royal blue conjure up images of nighttime and have a calming effect. Blue can help lower blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Greens: Earthy, natural greens like sage green remind us of nature and elicit relaxation. Green is thought to balance emotions.
  • Violets/Purples: Soft lavenders and lilacs have meditative qualities to prime the mind and body for sleep.
  • Grays: Neutral grays work well in moderation combined with other sleep-friendly colors. Avoid bright whites.
  • Pinks: Soft, muted pinks like blush can have a gentle, soothing effect on the nervous system.

Aim for lighter tints rather than vivid, bold shades of these colors. Pastels, muted and natural earth tones allow the body to more easily transition into sleep. Incorporate these sleep-promoting colors through paint colors, bed linens, curtains, rugs, lamp shades and night lights. Keep your bedroom a technology-free zone and limit light pollution that can interfere with circadian rhythms.

How Color Affects Headaches

Color can also impact headaches, including migraine. This is because color wavelengths of light can trigger neurological and physiological responses that either alleviate or worsen headache pain.

Bright, intense light is known to exacerbate headaches. Sun glare, fluorescent lights and harsh LEDs cause pupils to constrict and trigger headaches in many people. Cooler, softer colors tend to relieve headache symptoms, while warmer and brighter colors increase symptoms.

During a headache attack, photophobia or light sensitivity is common. Exposure to certain colors and bright light can increase pain. This is why those with chronic headaches often wear sunglasses even indoors. Managing lighting and color in your surroundings can minimize headaches.

Best Colors for Headaches

Here are the best color choices to prevent and reduce headaches:

  • Blues: Cool blues like air force blue and denim blue can have pain-alleviating effects on headaches. Blue light also relieves eye strain.
  • Greens: Green is considered the most soothing color for headaches. Sage green, mint and forest greens are calming colors.
  • Violets/Purples: Light violets and lavenders have anti-inflammatory benefits and can ease headache pain.
  • Grays: Low-contrast grays minimally stimulate the brain during a headache attack compared to white.
  • Neutrals: Colors like beige, tan and light peach are gentle on the eyes and brain during headaches.

The key is avoiding extremely bright colors and contrast. Low-contrast environments can help prevent migraines in particular. If you’re experiencing a headache, try surrounding yourself with soft, cool-colored surroundings or wearing blue light blocking glasses.

How Our Eyes and Brain Process Color

To understand how color affects sleep and headaches, it helps to look at how our eyes and brain process color wavelengths of light.

Visible light consists of different wavelengths along the color spectrum. Shorter wavelengths are cooler, higher energy colors like blues and purples. Longer wavelengths are warmer, lower energy hues like reds and oranges. Our retina contains photoreceptor cells called rods and cones. Cones process color and light. Rods handle peripheral vision and brightness.

Signals from photoreceptor cells are sent via the optic nerve to the brain. The hypothalamus region of the brain regulates hormones and circadian rhythms. It also controls the dilation and constriction of blood vessels including those linked to headaches. The hypothalamus is strongly influenced by visual input from the eyes processing light and color.

Exposure to certain colors, especially brighter colors and lights, generate neurological, hormonal and circulatory system responses. This is how color can affect sleep and headache symptoms based on how the eyes and brain interpret and react to specific color wavelengths.

Color Psychology and Health

Color psychology examines how color influences behavior, mood and physiology. Studies show that color can elicit both positive and negative reactions in the brain that cascade through the central nervous system. This can directly impact sleep, headaches, heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, respiration and more.

Here is an overview of how different colors are believed to affect health according to color psychology:

Color Psychological Effect Potential Health Impact
Blues Calming, soothing, peaceful Lowered heart rate and blood pressure, relief from pain
Greens Balanced, refreshing, renewal Elicits relaxation, balances emotions
Yellows Uplifting, optimistic, confidence Increased heart rate and eye strain
Reds Intense, energetic, stimulating Increased heart rate, respiration, and body temperature
Purples Spiritual, meditative, wise Induces relaxation, relieves pain

While reactions to color vary by individual, these general principles can guide appropriate color choices to improve sleep and headache symptoms.

Tips for Using Color to Improve Sleep and Headaches

Here are some tips to incorporate sleep-promoting and headache-relieving colors into your home and lifestyle:

Bedroom and Sleep Environment

  • Paint your bedroom walls cooler blues, greens, grays or violets
  • Choose bedding, rugs, curtains in soothing, muted cool colors
  • Select a darker colored headboard vs. bright white
  • Use dimmable salt lamps or colored night lights vs. bright whites
  • Install blackout curtains and minimize light pollution
  • Set phone/screens to Night Shift or blue light blocking modes

Clothing Choices

  • Wear sunglasses and blue light blocking glasses when headaches strike
  • Choose cooler colored clothing and accessories over bright reds, oranges, etc.
  • Wear a blue light blocking amber tinted sleep mask

Home and Office Environment

  • Paint walls soothing greens, blues, grays vs. bright reds and yellows
  • Select muted paint colors and wall art for visual comfort
  • Install daylight and temperature adjustable LED bulbs
  • Use lamp shades and curtains to diffuse bright light
  • Position computer screens away from sunlight glare

Be mindful of color choices in your surroundings at home, work and in nature. Notice how different lighting and color environments affect your sleep, headaches and overall comfort. Avoid bright fluorescent lighting and opt for full spectrum natural light during the day. Seek out darker, cooler colored settings in the evening.


Color can be a simple yet impactful tool to improve sleep trouble and headaches. Cooler, softer hues of blues, greens, violets and grays have been shown to promote sleep and calm the mind. These colors can also prevent and ease headache pain by generating relaxing neurological responses. Warmer and brighter colors of reds, oranges and yellows can disrupt sleep and exacerbate headaches.

Aim to surround yourself with sleep-friendly and headache-relieving colors. Incorporate these color psychology principles into decisions on paint colors, lighting, decor, clothing and more. Be observant of how different color environments affect your sleep quality, headache symptoms and general well-being. Adjust the use of color in your home, office and lifestyle habits as needed to improve health.