I’m not sure if it’s the time of year (hello summer solstice!) or the almost full moon (woo-woo bosses unite!) but a lot of my clients and patients have been dealing with some temporary insomnia.
Even I’ve been waking before my alarm clock and tossing and turning a bit before falling back asleep.
And for me, I know exactly what’s causing it: Light.
Our bedroom has two windows in it and only one of them has room darkening shades. So, since the days are getting longer and the sun is rising earlier, we’re getting a lot more morning light in our bedroom now, versus the rest of the year.
Total darkness is the biggest key to getting a deep night of sleep. [CLICK TO TWEET!]
See, your body needs melatonin to get a good night’s sleep and melatonin is only produced when it’s dark. Problem is, we live in a world of artificial light. Indoor lighting and back-lit screens have bombarded our eyes and our brains with a constant stream of blue light. Ack! This blue light affects our sleep by inhibiting the melatonin production in our brain. And when melatonin is inhibited, we stop feeling sleepy and wake up.
Now, maybe you’re familiar with melatonin - and maybe you even take a couple milligrams at night to help you fall asleep. But that doesn’t help you stay asleep. Melatonin is constantly being produced in the pineal gland all night long and carefully released to keep you in a restful slumber. But as soon as natural or artificial light hits the spot between your eyebrows (your third eye or yin tang acupuncture point) your brain stops all melatonin production - and boom! You’re awake.
You’re probably thinking to yourself “This info is all well and good Amy, but I live in the real world - where electricity, and screens, and working ‘till 1am actually happen on the daily!”
Yeah, I get it. I live there too. Sometimes. So here’s a list of my favorite ways to keep our melatonin production high and our sleep deep.
Find out my top 4 ways to sleep better this summer! [CLICK TO TWEET!]
Four ways to eliminate light in the bedroom:
No screens in the bedroom
No, I’m not going to chastise you for shutting down your laptop way past your bedtime, but I will recommend that you keep that laptop (and phone for that matter) out of the bedroom. Defining your sleeping space as a room for sleep and sex only will help your brain stay out of “work mode” when you’re falling asleep at night. (Yeah, I see you tossing and turning at night with thoughts of your next big thing!)
Also, it will keep you from scrolling Instagram in the middle of the night if you do wake up. Instead, grab your headphones and iPod (you probably still have one of those laying around somewhere, right?) and try listening to a podcast or a guided meditation. It will still entertain your brain, but keep you from looking at a blue screen at 2am.
Remove or cover all small appliances with LED lights from the bedroom
LEDs are small but powerful and bright! Imagine how much light is produced from the LEDs of a TV set, cable box, DVD player, fan, alarm clock, humidifier... The list goes on and on. LED lights brighten your bedroom with powerful light pollution. Try to remove as many of these unnecessary appliances as you can. For anything left that makes the cut and stays in the bedroom, cover the LED lights with a piece of black electrical tape. It works like a charm.
Swap out CFLs with a soft red bulbs
Screens aren’t the only type of blue light affecting sleep. Your basic compact fluorescent light-bulb in your bedroom is probably affecting your sleep as well. As soon as the sun goes down outside, consider using only lamps with soft red bulbs. It’s more in tune with your body’s natural rhythm. Plus it helps set the mood!
Do you read at night before bed? Try using a sleep-ready light bulb instead of a CFL in your bedside lamp and see if it helps you feel sleepy faster.
Sleep with a sleep mask
Want a totally dark room, but don't want to mess with moving around electronics? Wear a sleep mask. Seriously, this is my favorite option of all. I recently got this Blinks Luxury Bucky Sleep Mask and I’m in love. Not only does it completely darken my vision, but the mask has a hollow shape to it so I can blink with it on and it doesn’t bother my eyes or smash my lashes against my face (the reason why I hated masks before this one)
Plus an extra tip...
Help your circadian rhythm by getting natural sunlight within your first hour of waking. Some of my favorite ideas are to go for a walk outside or enjoy your morning coffee or tea in your yard or on a porch. In the winter, when we often wake up before the sun has risen, you could use a sunshine mimicking light such as this Happy Light to help regulate your internal clock and combat any seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Still having trouble sleeping? Try downloading one of my five-minute guided meditations below and listen to it in bed. It will help you shift back to a restful mental state - making it easier for you to fall back to sleep sooner!
**The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
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