The Color That Makes Cats Sleepy


Cats are known to be masters of sleeping throughout their lives. In fact, domestic house cats sleep an average of 15-20 hours per day![1](

But did you know that the color of light exposure can greatly impact a cat’s sleep patterns and quality? Cats have specialized retinas that allow them to see colors vividly, especially shades of blue, green and red. Manipulating these colors in a cat’s environment can help promote restful sleep or daytime alertness.

In this article, we’ll explore how different light colors affect cat sleep and behavior. You may be surprised at just how dramatic the effects can be! By understanding these color cues, you can create an optimal sleep environment for your feline friend.

Why Cats Sleep So Much

Cats are known for being avid nappers, with the average cat spending around 12-16 hours a day asleep. This sleep pattern is innate to felines and different from human sleep cycles. Several factors contribute to cats’ marathon snoozing sessions:

Cats tend to sleep during the day and become more active at dawn and dusk when prey animals are abundant. As natural hunters, cats conserve energy during lean daylight hours to prepare for periods of hunting and feeding. Their bodies are hardwired for this sleep-wake cycle.

Cats sleep lightly and have shorter sleep cycles than humans. They alternate between periods of light dozing and deeper REM sleep throughout the day rather than consolidating deeper sleep at night. This allows them to respond quickly to stimuli.

Because cats are smaller, they require more overall sleep than larger animals to support their high metabolism and energy requirements. kittens in particular need even more sleep to aid their rapid development.

In summary, cats’ heavy sleeping aligns with their natural rhythms as hunters. Their light, intermittent dozing gives them environmental awareness while still getting necessary rest.

How Light and Color Affect Cat Sleep

Light levels and wavelengths play an important role in regulating cats’ circadian rhythms and sleep cycles. Cats, like humans, have internal body clocks that sync to light input and prompt feelings of sleepiness or wakefulness. Light detection happens through special photoreceptors in cats’ eyes that are most sensitive to blue and green wavelengths.

Exposure to bright light during the day helps keep cats alert and active. But at night, cats need dimmer lighting and specific colors that don’t disrupt their natural sleep-wake cycle. Too much artificial light at night can prevent cats from getting enough deep, REM sleep and leave them feeling tired during the day. Optimal lighting conditions allow cats to get the continuous, uninterrupted sleep their bodies require.

Studies show green and blue light have the biggest effects on cats’ circadian rhythms. Green light has a calming effect and can help lull cats to sleep. Blue light, on the other hand, signals wakefulness and suppresses melatonin production, making it harder for cats to fall and stay asleep. Red light has minimal impact and allows cats to follow their natural sleepiness cues.[1]

By understanding the science behind how light and color influence cat sleep, pet owners can optimize their cats’ environments for restful, healthy slumber.

Green Light Calms Cats

Studies have shown that green light has a calming effect on cats and can help improve their sleep. One study found that cats exposed to 2,000 lux of green light for 10 minutes per hour while sleep deprived showed reduced anxiety and fatigue ( The green light exposure allowed the cats to maintain alertness while also reducing signs of stress.

Researchers believe that green light interacts with the retinal ganglion cells in a cat’s eyes, which influences melatonin regulation. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep cycles. Green light exposure at night seems to attenuate melatonin output, helping cats avoid restlessness or sleep disruptions. This allows them to maintain healthy sleep patterns even when sleep deprived.

The calming effects of green light can be very beneficial for anxious cats or those suffering from insomnia. Proper implementation of green light therapy could provide cats with a better quality of sleep and less stressed demeanor.

Red Light Keeps Cats Alert

Research has shown that exposure to red light can suppress the production of melatonin in cats, leading to increased alertness and wakefulness. One study found that red light exposure at night significantly reduced melatonin levels in cats compared to controls kept in darkness (Hanifin et al., 2006). Another study confirmed these findings, showing that red light exposure blocks melatonin synthesis in the pineal gland of cats (Poeggeler et al., 1995 [1]).

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain that helps regulate sleep cycles. When melatonin levels are low, cats tend to be more energetic and awake. Exposure to red wavelengths of light at night inhibits natural melatonin production, signaling to the cat’s body that it is still daytime. This disruption of the circadian rhythm keeps cats alert and stimulated.

Therefore, having red lights on at night, whether from lamps, televisions, or other devices, can overstimulate cats and make it difficult for them to relax and fall asleep. It’s best to avoid or limit red lighting at night to allow your cat’s melatonin levels to rise naturally, helping them wind down and get the quality sleep they need.

Blue Light Disrupts Cat Sleep

Several studies have shown blue light exposure can disrupt cats’ circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles. Blue light, which has a short wavelength compared to other colors, can suppress melatonin production in cats’ eyes. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleepiness.

According to a report by the Feline Health Center, exposure to blue light at night has been found to negatively affect cats’ melatonin levels and sleep quality (source). When cats are exposed to blue light in the evenings, it can trick their brains into thinking it’s daytime, making it harder for them to fall and stay asleep.

One study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine found that cats exposed to blue LED lights at night experienced more disrupted sleep compared to cats exposed to warmer incandescent light. The researchers concluded blue light has the potential to disturb cats’ circadian rhythms if exposure occurs at inappropriate times (source).

Other Colors’ Effects on Cats

Research has also looked into how other colors like yellow, orange, and purple may impact cats. One study found that purple light has a calming effect and can help cats sleep better at night ( Purple targets the pineal gland which regulates sleep. Indigo light has also been shown to benefit eye health, sinuses, and the pituitary gland. While more research is still needed, initial findings suggest that colors on the cool end of the spectrum like purples and blues have a calming, sleep-promoting effect on cats.

Tips for Using Light to Improve Cat Sleep

Here are some actionable tips cat owners can follow to use colored lights to help their cats sleep better:

Expose your cat to bright white or blue light during the day to keep them alert and active. Try using daylight bulbs or smart bulbs that can produce a bright blue light. According to research, blue light suppresses melatonin and keeps cats awake [1].

Dim the lights and use soft amber or red bulbs at night before bedtime. The red light will help prepare your cat’s brain for sleep by not suppressing melatonin production. Studies show red light has a calming effect on cats [2].

Avoid white and blue light at night, as it can disrupt your cat’s circadian rhythm and melatonin production, making it harder for them to fall and stay asleep [3].

Use motion-activated night lights to provide a soft glow if your cat needs to get up at night, rather than keeping bright lights on. The low illumination will allow them to see but won’t hinder sleep.

Experiment to find the right balance of light exposure for your individual cat. Observe their behavior to see which colors work best at encouraging sleep and wake cycles.

Potential Downsides of Colored Lights

While colored lights can have benefits for influencing cat behavior and sleep, there are some potential downsides to be aware of when using colored lighting long-term:

Eye strain – Cats have excellent night vision, but colored lights could potentially cause eye strain, especially very bright or flashing lights. It’s best to use soft, steady lighting. According to one source, “Colored LED light bulbs, including red ones, are generally safe for cats.”1

Disruption of circadian rhythms – Exposure to blue light at night can disrupt cats’ natural circadian rhythms and melatonin production, potentially affecting sleep. Red light is less disruptive at night. It’s best to avoid blue lights at night.

Stress – Flashing lights or abrupt color changes could potentially cause stress or agitation in some cats who don’t like environmental changes.

Lack of natural light – Relying solely on artificial colored light and blocking natural sunlight could deprive cats of natural light important for physical and mental health.

The key is moderation. Brief periods of colored light to influence behavior are likely fine, but prolonged exposure to only colored artificial light could have downsides. Make sure cats also get plenty of natural light during the day.


In summary, different colors of light can have varying effects on cat sleep and behavior. Green light tends to have a calming effect and help cats sleep better. Red light keeps cats more alert and active. Blue light can disrupt normal circadian rhythms and healthy sleep patterns for cats. While more research is still needed, using dimmed, color-changing LED lights strategically could potentially help improve cat sleep and reduce nighttime activity. The key is keeping lighting gentle and avoiding harsh or overly bright lights at night. More study is still needed on how factors like a cat’s age, breed, environment, and personality interact with light exposure. With some observation and experimentation, cat owners may find an optimal lighting approach that promotes better rest for their feline companions.

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