Your body is designed to operate in complete darkness at night. If your body is not enveloped by complete darkness at night, it could be impacting your sleep. What do I mean by that?
The Why: As a species we did not always have the power to control the night. Since the invention of electricity and the lightbulb, we have been able to blur the lines of day and night. This is having a major effect on our health if abused, which for most of us is. Your body is regulated by a circadian rhythm clock. This clock influences mood, hormone secretion, sleep-wake behavior, and gene expression. Your circadian clock is controlled mainly by light and darkness. There are other influences like eating, exercise, and stress that can also have an impact, but light/dark are the main players. We as a species are now living in a reversed light cycle world. We spend most of the day inside where the lux (a measure of brightness) is low compared to outside and then at night we are lighting up the inside of our houses counter to the darkness outside.
The body is equipped with light sensors in your eyes and in your skin. A natural cycle that used to occur before electricity lit up the night was as the sun set, the body would sense the dimming light and start releasing melatonin to start making you sleepy. You would cash out shortly after sundown, sleep great through the night, and as the sun started to rise, the rays would hit your skin and filter through your eyelids. Your body then would stop the production of melatonin and start producing cortisol. The cortisol would wake you up ready to go with a ball of energy to attack the day. Along with waking up your digestive system, energy cycles, and other cellular processes would all be lined up on the right time so that they work in harmony.
Fast forward to present day. Light pollution is not talked about, but it is having an impact on our health and even animals in nature. As the sun sets you flick on your indoor lights. Your eyes and skin pick it up as prolonged daytime. The release of melatonin is delayed later and later until you are just exhausted and fall asleep. For many, they are falling asleep because they are exhausted as opposed to following a natural sleep-wake cycle. The bedroom should be completely dark. If you can see your hand in front of your face it is too light. This light can penetrate your eyelids which you guessed it will trigger or interfere with the quality of your sleep and your circadian rhythm.
I have an Oura ring that is a sleep tracker. I noticed an interesting trend when we had our room painted a few months ago. We removed our drapes to paint the room and decided not to put them up, opting to install blackout blinds. We were a little slow at getting the blinds. On my Oura ring I was able to see my REM sleep decreasing each week due to the morning light coming in. The interesting point to make is that I sleep with a sleep mask so my eyes were not exposed to the light. Light receptors on my skin were being activated and my sleep was being disturbed.
Stray light can come from hallway lights, standby lights on TVs, phones, laptops, and outside lights. Those standby lights are like little LED laser beams and they are wrecking your sleep. Have you ever gotten up to go to the bathroom and flicked on the light and then couldn’t fall back to sleep? I will give you a second to connect the dots. That short flash of light hitting your eyes and skin just told your body it is time to wake up and so a release of cortisol flooded your system.
You are probably thinking to yourself, I fall asleep just fine with the lights on and right you are, but what is the quality of your sleep? Are you falling asleep because you are running on completely empty? Hey, if you are truly exhausted you probably can fall asleep on the airport floor if needed. The goal of the Build Better Sleep Blueprint is to move away from just getting by, to optimizing and maximizing the things that will improve and increase your sleep and health.
How to make a darkspace
So here is a list of solutions you can try for creating a darkspace in your bedroom.
- Put up blackout shades or a super cheap option, but lacking in style would be black plastic over the windows. This is really important for those that work the night shift and need to sleep during the day.
- Purchase an eye mask. I l really like the ones made by Mantasleep (www.mantasleep.com)
- Cover all of the standby lights with black electrical tape or better yet unplug them or move them out of the room.
- Replace any night lights with red led night lights. Red light has the least impact on melatonin levels. Make sure to get ones that are an actual red led opposed to one that is a white led with a red filter. Put these in the bathroom to avoid turning on the light.
- Remove the tv and electronics from the room. The flood of blue light right before bed hitting your skin and eyes even with blue blockers is not ideal.
- Put a towel over alarm clocks or purchase ones that have red numbers.
Try This: Your actions to take for this brick are to check the darkness of your room at night. Can you see your hand in front of your face? If yes, where is the stray light coming from? Refer to the above solutions and start reclaiming your room as a dark space.