Turn off those Blue Lights at Night

Posted by Maria on August 22, 2012 under 31 Blog Posts in 31 Days, Green Living, Pop-Psychology, Sleep, Spa and Sleep Dictionary, Uncategorized, Wellness | 2 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Did you know that blue lights (like the lights from your tv, computer, cell phone and even your alarm clock/radio) dim your chances of getting a good night’s sleep? As it turns out, blue lights tamper with our circadian rhythms and therefore our melatonin levels and therefore our sleep cycles.

Circadian Rhythms

The circadian rhythm is an innate daily fluctuation of physiological and behavioural functions, (including sleeping and waking), that is generally tied to the 24-hour day/night cycle. Our rhythms are regulated by external cues (also known as “Zeitgebers”) such as sunlight and night sky, temperatures, what we eat (including medicines), when we eat, and our social interactions with others.

Light (and the absence of light) has always played a significant role in our daily lives and it affects our activities, hormone levels and sleep cycles. As humans, we have intuitively sought shelter and a safe place to sleep at night and we use the illumination and safety of daylight for hunting, gathering and travelling.

Blue Light

For millions of years, blue light (like the light from mid-morning sky) has meant daylight and time for us to be busy and productive. When we sense blue light, the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, is limited, and we stay alert and awake.

We have also evolved over millions of years to have the deepest, most restful sleep in a very dark environment that does not expose us to any light (especially blue and green wavelengths) while we are sleeping. The absence of blue light cues the melatonin and we get sleepy.

Have you ever watched tv in a room that doesn’t have any other lights on? Everything becomes blue. Manmade blue lights, like those eminating from your tv or computer screen, mimic broad daylight and also disrupt our sleep patterns and sleep hormones. If we are getting ready to go to bed at night but continue to “work” under artificial lighting, the blue lights will send mixed messages to the brain and the brain won’t know whether to 1)relax and go to bed or 2) suppress melatonin, stay up and be alert. This may be a good time to rethink having a tv in your bedroom or checking your Twitter and Facebook one last time before midnight.

Curiously, reddish light (like from a candle or fireplace) doesn’t effect melatonin production, so it’s fine to use in the evening hours or as a nightlight in the middle of the night.

Here are some tips of how to turn off the blue lights at night and sleep better:

  • Seek yellow light and avoid blue light after dark;
  • Minimize or eliminate the use of electronics that emit blue light after dark;
  • Trade your blue/green digital alarm/clock radio to one with red lights;
  • Pay attention to the time you start feeling sleepy and honour it — Don’t let that second wind kick in;
  • Go to bed earlier;
  • Take a bath by candlelight and see how much better you sleep. (The bath and the candlelight will work synergystically and I don’t recommend taking your iPhone with you on this occasion :) ).
  • Keep your bedroom as dark as pitch when you are sleeping.
  • Try falling asleep with a pair of eyeshades to block out more light.
  • Spend at least an hour a day in direct sunlight.
  • Try to decrease the light in your bedroom gradually in the hours before you hit the hay;
  • Try to time your wake up with light;
  • Spend less time watching tv or playing/working on the computer in the evening, especially within an hour of your bed time.
  • Use a reddish light as a nightlight if you need to go to the washroom in the middle of the night.

I hope this helps with your insomnia. Please leave a comment and let us know if this was new information to you or if you knew about blue light and insomnia already.

Top off your day with a cherry

Posted by Maria on July 1, 2009 under Books, Magazines, Music, Home spa, Homespunspa, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Ingredients, Photo gallery, Recipes, Sleep, Uncategorized, Weight Management | 3 Comments to Read

Happy Birthday Canada!

To celebrate this year, I’m going to go to a cherry stand in my rural neighbourhood and buy a basket full of fresh local cherries.

Locally-grown cherries.

Locally-grown cherries.

They’re totally in season right now and they match our beloved maple leaf Canadian flag. And everybody knows that it’s not a sundae until there’s a cherry on top.

But did you know that cherries are also a wonderful sleep aid? As much as I like having a holiday from my day job in the middle of the week on a Wednesday, it might disrupt my sleep patterns by sleeping in and staying out later. I’m hoping that eating some fresh cherries tonight might help keep me on track.

The secret is melatonin.

Do you ever wonder how your body knows what time it is? As we go about our life, day by day, our body is constantly monitoring the environment and is making infinitesimal calculations and adjustments that we don’t have to consciously think about – thank goodness, because I already have enough on my plate. Studying circadian rhythms is complex and fascinating and sunlight is one of the elements that cues our bodies to function. And sleeping is an important part of that whole process.

Nightfall triggers an increase in the production of melatonin which prepares the body for sleep. Melatonin is a potent antioxidant and hormone produced in the pea-sized pineal gland, which regulates the body’s circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles. As people age, melatonin levels decrease and that may account for some insomnia in adults. Of course, living in a world where artificial light is available 24-hours a day, has screwed up our internal clocks to a certain degree also.

Melatonin production is stimulated by darkness to induce sleepiness and low melatonin levels at night will contribute to insomnia or jagged sleep. So, even increasing your melatonin levels slightly at night can improve the quality of your sleep.

Russel J. Reiter, Ph.D. of the University of Texas has been researching the effects of melatonin for 30 years and is co-author with Jo Robinson of the book, Melatonin published in 1996 by Bantam. Dr. Reiter proposes that eating a handful of tart cherries, (a good food source of melatonin) before bedtime, may help increase melatonin levels in the blood, which will promote restful sleep.

So share some cherries with your neighbours as you watch the fireworks tonight in celebration of Canada’s birthday and you will sleep more soundly later. Let me know if you’ve tried this tip and have noticed a difference.

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