Is there some reason why so many people are struggling to get a restful night sleep in the modern world. It seems as though more and more of us are staying awake later under the premise of ‘I’m just a night owl’ unaware of the potential downside to our health.
It seems that in a world filled with technology where just keeping up with what everyone else is doing is causing a great deal of mental stress. We are constantly barraged with information about what is happening in the world and are plugged into a worldwide network. The way we do this is by using a device (smartphone, tablet, computer or TV) which all create artificial light.
Commenting on the effects of light on our health, one neurologist has stated that “light works as if it’s a drug” George Brainard, a neurologist at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and one of the first researchers to study light’s effects on the body’s hormones and circadian rhythms.
Our natural body rhythms are set up to support our health and in years gone by when the sun went down most people retired to bed. However since the invention of electricity we are now able to use the night time hours to be ‘productive’.
A major sleep hormone, melatonin, is effected by this light exposure ‘delayed the onset of melatonin production by as much as ninety minutes after the lights were turned off’. What this means is that when we are using devices at night they actually wake up our brain and work against the natural rhythm of the body. More research is being directed toward this and a recent studied showed ‘that those exposed to light at night gained more weight than those exposed to normal amounts of daylight, even though both groups consumed identical amounts of calories’.
This means that there is stronger link between not sleeping well and the increasing belt size in the modern world, however the WHO has stated that “shift work” is a probable carcinogen, especially for breast cancer. This is perhaps partly attributable to the disruption of basic natural rhythms, and also to the fact that most of these jobs are performed under intense, artificial fluorescent lighting.
All of this suggestive that sleep is a foundational pillar to maintaining good health and should be made a priority for your normal routine in order to get optimal health. There are some easy steps that will help you to get into the habit of good sleep
- There is technology now that can help to reduce the amount of blue/white light (the ones that wake our brains up). You can download the ‘twilight’ app (android uses) which applies a filter only at night time takes out the harmful light.
- Go to bed 15 minutes earlier every week until you’re are in bed and asleep by 10pm. Our bodies really love routine, so setting up a pattern that our body can follow is a great step.
- Some herbal teas like Chamomile or Passionflower tea help to relax the body and nervous system as we get ready for bed. Be careful to not drink too much liquid so that you have to get up through the night to
use the bathroom.
- Get into bed with an empty stomach. This means that you are having a smaller evening meal that is easy to digest so that when you get ready to get into bed your body is focused on sleep and detoxification rather that digestion. Aim to have your evening meal at least 2 hours before bed.