Sleep Experts Say to Kill the Lights
The natural light of each new day told our ancestors’ brains it was time to rise and shine. And the loss of that light at night told them it was time to close their eyes and go to sleep.
With the birth of all variety of artificial light sources since the beginning of the 21st Century, natural light has become less and less able to tell us clearly when it’s time for bed.
Turns out the artificial light emitted from the screens of televisions, computers, smartphones, tablets, clocks, and such, actually tell your brain the opposite of what its supposed to do when the sun goes down.
How the "Light Thing" Works
Natural light tells your brain to release hormonal melatonin, which causes you to get “sleepy,” so you can start making preparations for bed, and soon lie down to a long and deep night’s rest.
Artificial light, the “blue light” that flows from all our screen-based electronics, tells your brain, as long as they remain on, that no melatonin is necessary, and that you actually need to stay awake, despite all the efforts of your tired body to convince otherwise.
Instead of the impression that watching tv or playing on the computer before bed helps you relax and drift off to sleep, the reality is that the natural sleep process is interrupted, causing you to take longer to fall asleep, and then to not sleep as deeply as you should when you do actually drift off.
What Research Says
Research shows that children who watch shows on the tv or their computer tablets as they went to sleep, went to sleep much later than those who had no monitor or screen to watch, and that they had much more difficulty advancing to the REM-portion of their night’s sleep, severely compromising the quality of whatever sleep they managed to get.
It is “bad” to watch any kind of screen before bed, or while trying to go to sleep. It robs you of both the duration and the quality of your much-needed nightly sleep.
Further, the temptation to stay awake longer to see how a program ends is just too great, and violence and scary stuff only rev up your anxiety even more and work to make sure you do a lot of tossing and turning instead.
Kill the Lights
Sleep experts say emphatically, “Kill all electronics at night.” For adults, they say we should do this at least one-half hour before bedtime, and for children, one to two hours before they are supposed to sleep.
They recommend chatting with one another, listening to a story being read aloud, reading silently on your own, or writing on paper, or even coloring. No blue light is needed in the wind-down, because all it does, in reality, is wind key parts of the brain up.
Give it a try. Read a story at bedtime, aloud or silently. Try it for a week. See if you don’t see a difference. See if you don’t get a much better night’s sleep.