This provides us the opportunity to talk about the importance of sleep hygiene. Sleep has become a problem of epidemic proportions in our society. I can not tell you how many people tell me that they have troubles falling asleep, staying asleep and feeling rested. Why is this so difficult? There are a few culprits for sure. Although I will always admire Thomas Edison for inventing the light bulb, this amazing invention has thrown us out of “wak” with our circadium rhythms (which synchronize with the earth’s rotation and the light/dark cycles that come with it). With the advent of artificial light, we now stay up much later than the sun. (Anyone else notice how much earlier they go to sleep when on a backpacking trip with no, or little, artificial light?) Additionally, those back lit devices we seem to like so much (aka. TV’s, computers and iphones), block the release of melatonin in our brains (and healthy melatonin secretion helps us drift off to sleep).
Anyone who sleeps less than six hours a night has an elevated risk of depression, psychosis, and stroke. Lack of sleep is also directly tied to obesity. According to Chiara Cirelli, a neuroscientist at the Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness, “Every cognitive function, to some extent, seems to be affected by sleep loss.” Underslept people are more irritable, moody and irrational.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS (LACK OF) SLEEP PROBLEM??!!
Here’s a few things you can put into practice right away:
1. Consider decreasing your stimulation a couple hours prior to the time you wish to fall into sleep (lower lights, stop being productive and chill).
2. Move out of “productivity” mode, and into sleep time transitions. Consider a bedtime routine that includes things that help your nervous system calm (warm shower or bath, tea, dim lights, calm/low sound).
3. Charge your phone outside the bedroom. (I know you think you can’t do it, but it will do wonders for your ability to fall asleep!)
4. STOP using TV, computers and iphones 2 hours before you want to be drifting off to sleep (this aids in keeping that melatonin helper from being thwarted).
Happy sleep everyone!! Bree
If you’re interested in reading more about how electronics change our sleep patterns, read this article from the Washington Post!