A few weeks ago we discussed how important a good’s night sleep is to reaching your weight loss goals. In today’s modern lifestyle, getting a good night’s sleep is getting more and more difficult to come by. There are several reasons for this – high stress levels, too much technology, etc., but today we’re going to focus on LIGHT. Yes, you heard that right. The light you’re surrounded by – from electronics and lamps in your house – has an ENORMOUS impact on how well you’re sleeping. When you’re exposed to too much light at night – and not enough during the day – it disrupts your sleep patterns, making it more difficult for you to nod off when the time comes. We’ll explain exactly how this happens and what you can do about it to make sure you’re getting those 7 to 9 hours per night.
Your Circadian Rhythms
Your Circadian Rhythms are certain physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These rhythms respond primarily to light and darkness in your environment. Your natural sleep cycle relies on the proper functioning on these circadian rhythms. Before modern technology came into play, the rise of the sun – and the resulting daylight – signaled your body that it was time to wake up and the setting of the sun – and the resulting darkness – signaled your body that it was time to go to sleep. Nowadays, we have lamps, nightlights, cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions. All these things emit a bright and very unnatural light. This light interferes with the circadian rhythms and sleep patterns by disrupting the release of melatonin.
What is Melatonin?
The rising and setting of the sun was able to tell your body it was time to wake up/go to sleep by triggering the release of melatonin, which is often deemed “the sleep hormone”. The release of melatonin told your body it was time to go to sleep, while dropping levels said it was time to wake up. Melatonin is HIGHLY sensitive and the presence of bright light, especially the blue light emitted by light bulbs and electronics, disrupts its natural rhythm. When you’re on the computer late into the night or watching TV in bed, the release of melatonin gets delayed and, as a result, you have difficulty falling asleep.
So What Can You Do?
In a perfect world, you would hit the sack as soon as the sun goes down and get out of bed at the crack of dawn, but we both know that’s not going to happen, so instead, you can follow a few tips to get enough light during the day and minimize the impact of light on your sleep rhythms and get the good night’s sleep your body needs.
- Go outside more. The goal is to get at least 1 hour of sunlight every day. The exposure to this bright, natural light helps regulate your circadian rhythms and can help reduce the impact that nighttime exposure to bright light has on your sleep patterns.
- Use technology wisely. It’s best to shut off all electronics at least one hour before you go to bed and keep all technology – including your cell phone – out of your bedroom. Get in the habit of reading near a soft light or spending some quiet time meditating before bed.
- Consider adding an app like f.lux to your computer and tablets. F.lux is an app that masks the blue light emitted from these electronics. It gives the light more of an amber glow, which is more natural for the nighttime – which brings us to our next point.
- Use only amber lights at nighttime. Amber lights filter out blue and white light, which are the brightest, most stimulating colors on the light spectrum. When you use amber-toned lights, your body will produce melatonin and it won’t disrupt your circadian rhythm. You can also purchase amber colored glasses inexpensively that you can wear at night while looking at electronics.