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When you go to bed tonight, after all your lights are turned off and you’re snuggled down, open your eyes and look around.
How dark is it?
How quiet is it?
How comfortable is the environment where you’ve nestled yourself for the next (hopefully) at least eight hours of important slumber?
When it comes to sleep, when was the last time you thought about the impact of light in your home and the way it affects your rest?
I have the unfortunate problem of being up and down many times most nights. More often than not I find myself staring at the clock at 2 and 3 a.m. instead of making it into a dream-deep sleep.
Several hours ago when I was doing my best to drift off to sleep, thoughts of writing this column were spinning in my head. Sugarplums would have been easier to count.
As I struggled with the frustration of this looming hole on a page, a tiny green light caught my eye. It was from the smoke detector in the hall. Below it, a green light was glowing on the home alarm.
My eyes then followed a trail of lights from outside my bedroom door, around the room and across into the bathroom.
Two red-faced alarm clocks lit up the room. A red light noted a power source to the television. There were three more red lights glowing from various surge protectors. Several electronic devices including cell phones were plugged in and charging. More than a few of them were glowing some form of green.
Green flashing. Solid green. Green blinking. Red. Red. Red. And beyond that, through a window, a hue of light glowed from exterior lights used to brighten the outside of my home.
I wondered how long it had been since I had really been in true darkness.
Modern technology may be helpful, but for some of us, it could be affecting our health.
Being in the dark is an important part of what your body needs to sleep.
Internally we all have a natural clock that regulates our hours of sleep and being awake. An important factor in this is melatonin production. Naturally, our body starts increasing melatonin production in the evening. That production stays up through the night and starts to taper off in the morning when we wake.
What many of us may not be paying attention to is how light affects the body’s ability to produce this melatonin. The more light you’re exposed to, the less melatonin your body is apt to produce.
If you read or watch television before bed (I’m guilty of both) you could be harming yourself by the very activities you’re doing to relax at the end of a long day. Having those lights turned on when your body is preparing for your sleep cycle could be robbing you from rest.
And all those blinking, flashing glowing electronics in your space? They could be keeping you up all night. And it’s not just the light. Some studies have indicated the electro-magnetic fields created by these devices could also hamper melatonin production.
Yawn. I’m now four cups of coffee into my day and don’t feel any more awake or energetic than I did hours ago staring at all of those lights.
Are you having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Check out the National Sleep Foundation’s website “Inside Your Bedroom” at http://bedroom.sleepfoundation.org. It has lots of good tips about things you can do to get a better night’s sleep.
As for me and zoning out tonight? I could always count sheep, but maybe I’ll count the flashing, beeping, glowing lights around the room instead. Or maybe it’s time for us to turn all of them off and finally get some rest.