With our ever-changing societal demands, we are becoming more and more exposed to factors that influence our sleep patterns. Not only is getting to sleep important, but staying asleep throughout the night is key to allowing our body’s natural restoration process to take place.
Ever tried to sleep in broad daylight?
Sleep is impacted by blue wavelength at night. Artificial lighting and electronics at night can be detrimental to both your quality and quantity of sleep. When it gets dark in the evening, our brain produces a hormone called melatonin, which signals to our bodies that it is time to get tired and go to sleep. Blue light, whether from the sun, laptop, ipad or tv screen, is very effective at disrupting melatonin production. This means that the blue light from these devices, tricks our brains into thinking that it is daytime thus impacting both the quantity and quality of our sleep.
If you find it difficult to sleep in broad daylight with direct exposure to blue wavelength light, then you may also find it difficult to sleep after being exposed to blue wavelength light from technological devices.
Why is sleep important?
Positives of sleep:
- Decision making
- Problem solving
- Motor skills
- Reaction times
- Physical restoration
- Ability to learn
Negatives of not enough sleep:
- Psychological stress
- Risk of health problems
- Emotion disregulation
- Risk of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
What gets in the way of a good night’s sleep?
Here are some factors that affect our quality and quantity of sleep.
- Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other delightful substances. Some people believe that these substances aid in relaxation and preparation for sleep. Although these substances may get you to sleep initially, they actually interfere with the quality of sleep and often interrupt your ability to stay asleep.
- Prescription and over-the-counter medicines. These medicines may contain ingredients such as decongestants and steroids that can keep you awake.
- Daytime naps. Often sleeping during the day means we are not tired at bedtime.
- ‘Clock watching’. Frequently checking the clock during the night can wake you up and reinforces negative thoughts “I have only slept for 5 hours, this is terrible.”
- Lifestyle factors such as exercise and diet. Exercise keeps your body regular and also makes you tired. Little exercise and exercise before sleep time can impact the quality of sleep you receive. Likewise, a balanced diet will help you to sleep well, but timing is important. A heavy meal soon before bed can also interrupt sleep quality.
- Environmental factors such as distracting noises, bright lights, a phone, uncomfortable mattress or pillow, and the bedroom temperature, can all affect the quality of your sleep.
- Unhelpful worry about sleep. Unrealistic expectations about how much sleep is needed, assuming the worst about sleep deprivation and selective attention about the type of sleep you have had, can all interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep. How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?
The ‘snooze’ button. Alarms and the snooze button often disrupt your normal sleep process. Fragmented sleep can impact the restorative effects of sleep. Should You Use The SNOOZE Button?
What to do about it?
Here are some alternative ways to help you improve your sleep.
- Install a program on to your devices which adjusts the color and brightness of your screen. https://justgetflux.com/
- Purchase blue-light blocking glasses and wear them 2-3 hours before sleep time (yes this is a real item you can purchase online)!
- Dim lights in your home 1-2 hours before bedtime.
- When you go to bed, keep your bedroom completely dark or use a sleep mask.
- Expose yourself to enough blue light during the day. Natural sunlight is best.
- Get regular. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends and days off!
- Keep your bed for sleeping only so that your body can associate bed with sleep. Say goodbye to eating, watching TV, checking emails, paying bills, and playing Candy Crush in bed!
- Get a sleep app. Apps such as Sleep Genius (https://itunes.apple.com/app/sleep-genius-revive-cycle/id873376319?ls=1&mt=8) or Sleep Better (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sleep-better-smart-alarm-clock/id922541792?mt=8) help you monitor your sleep cycle so that you wake up when you’re sleeping the lightest, and not when you are sleeping the deepest!
- A warm glass of milk, which contains tryptophan, can act as a natural sleep inducer. It works for babies!
- And when you wake in the morning, open some windows and get some natural sunlight so that you can feel refreshed and alert.
BSC Adv. Sci (Psychology) (Honours)