Light Attitude


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8 Tips to Improve Your Sleep

More than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep. It is recommended that adults aged 18–60 years sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and mental distress. 

The odds of being sleep deprived have increased significantly over the past 30 years, as our modern lifestyles have brought fundamental changes to our daily lives. While many of these changes have certainly added convenience to our lives and boosted our productivity, they have wreaked havoc on our sleep.

One reason we sleep less today than in the past is that the lines between work and personal time have become blurred. Most of us are almost always available by phone or computer and it has become difficult to have distinctive and separate times allotted for work duties and for personal activities. But our bodies and minds need periods of rest at the end of the day to decompress and process the events of the day.

Unfortunately, our ever-busy lifestyles can keep us overactive and over stimulated which can be hard on our bodies and devastating to our sleep. 

Another major culprit which is robbing us of precious sleep is modern technology; namely electric lights and digital devices – staples of our modern lifestyles.

Benjamin Franklin brought the electric lightbulb to the masses and although it was a great invention of convenience, it has had a profound and adverse effect on our ability to sleep. 

If we are surrounded by too much artificial light from electric bulbs and the blue light waves emitted from those bulbs 1-2 hours before bedtime, it interrupts our body’s natural release of melatonin and disrupts our sleep cycles. Every evening, approximately 1-2 hours before bedtime, we release melatonin which naturally prepares our body for the night’s sleep ahead. We must limit our exposure to bright lights and specifically blue light waves if we want to reclaim quality sleep. 

In addition to being overexposed to artificial light sources in the evening, we are often surrounded by the disruptive blue light waves from our personal electronic devices which can also disrupt our sleep patterns, if not managed. In fact, The National Sleep Health Foundation reports that the blue light emitted from our mobile phones, tablets, computers, and televisions blocks the release of melatonin, after only 1.5 hours of using these technology devices in the evening before bed.

Deep, restorative sleep is imperative for our good health. It is during sleep that our bodies repair and restore themselves, it is when memory formation occurs and when what we learned during the day is reinforced. It is also the time when our bodies produce antioxidants which protect our brains from the inside. All of these essential events occur while we sleep and allow us to sustain a conscious life.

But we can take back a better night’s sleep. Below are 8 things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep.

A Dark Room. We are often surrounded by electric lights 24/7 leaving us dark deprived. Our eyes and brain register even small amounts of light which can disrupt sleep. Dim the lights in your home and especially in your bedroom a couple of hours before going to bed and give yourself a break from those blazing lights and disruptive blue light waves.

Regular Sleep Schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time. This helps to support your natural circadian sleep cycle and is fundamental in securing quality sleep.

A recent review of sleep research in animals and humans suggests there is little truth to the concept that we can sleep more one night in order to ‘catch up’ on a previous night where we had little sleep.

As most of us have experienced, after a night or two of poor sleep, we often feel groggy and can have trouble concentrating.  This brain fog which often follows a night or two of poor sleep, is attributed to a chemical called Adenosine, a neurotransmitter that actually inhibits electrical impulses in the brain, hence the groggy feeling. Adenosine spikes have been observed in sleep-deprived rats and humans. And it is true that Adenosine levels can, be corrected after a few nights’ of good sleep. It was these findings that gave credence to the scientific consensus that sleep debt could be forgiven or caught up on with a few nights of good sleep.

However, the recent review article published in the journal, Trends in Neurosciences, contends that the concept of sleep as something that can be deprived one night or more and then be caught up on later with no long term downside, is simply not true. The study, which reviewed over two decades of research on the long term neural effects of sleep deprivation in both animals and humans, led to a different conclusion. This study supports the building evidence that getting too little sleep can actually lead to long-lasting brain damage as well as an increased risk for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. 

Stay Cool. It can be difficult to fall asleep if we are too warm. Your body actually needs to drop its temperature to fall asleep. The ideal target range bedroom temperature for quality sleep is 65-68 degrees fahrenheit. Your body temperature naturally starts to fall by a couple of degrees about one to two hours before bedtime in preparation for sleep and continues to decline while you are sleeping. This internal cooling helps us achieve a deep, restorative sleep.

Limit Exposure to Blue Light 1-2 Hours Before Bed. As discussed above, if you are looking at your phone or your computer before bed, be sure to turn on the night-view features on the devices such as flux or Redshift to reduce the amount of blue light emitted from your screen. Also, dim the lights in your home and bedroom a couple of hours before bedtime to limit your exposure to blue light waves which are very stimulating and can prevent you from falling asleep. Better yet, consider putting down your electronic devices a couple of hours before bed and enjoy time with loved ones or read a good book.

Light Exercises. Exercise can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and reduce the occurrence of waking up during the night, according to numerous clinical studies. In addition to regular exercise, gentle stretching as well as meditative movement like yoga has been found to improve sleep quality. These types of exercises and movements elicit the relaxation response during which the body experiences a flood of calming hormones that quiets our nervous system.

Avoid Caffeine. Try to avoid caffeine after 2:00 pm.

Avoid Sleeping Pills. We sometimes reach for sleeping pills to help put us to sleep. The most commonly used sleeping pills are part of a group of drugs called ‘sedative hypnotics’ which don’t actually produce naturalistic sleep but rather sedation; sedation is not sleep. Sedation does not give you the healing and restorative benefits of actual sleep. Another concern is that regular use of sleeping pills have been linked to higher risks of death and cancer. This may be correlation and not causation but there are certainly  inherent risks of long-term use of sleeping pills.

Avoid Alcohol. The idea that drinking alcohol before bed will somehow help you get a good night’s sleep is a complete misnomer. Alcohol is a sedative so drinking a lot of alcohol will initially put you to sleep more quickly, however, this is not a restful sleep and it is usually only for a brief period of time. After you drink alcohol, even a small amount, your body must work to metabolize the alcohol which leads to a highly disrupted, light sleep, not the deep REM sleep your body needs to rejuvenate. 

As your body works to metabolize the alcohol, it tends to fragment and interrupt your sleep and because you drank alcohol, you often don’t remember all the fragmented wakings but we certainly feel the difference the next morning. When we experience horrible hangovers, we are usually feeling both the effects of both the alcohol as well as the sleep deprivation. 

Try these 8 ideas to reclaim your sleep!


(1) Gradisar, M., Wolfson, A. R., Harvey, A. G., Hale, L., Rosenberg, R., & Czeisler, C. A. (2013). The sleep and technology use of Americans: findings from the National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 Sleep in America poll. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 9(12), 1291-1299.

(2) Bryce A. Mander,Joseph R. Winer,William J. Jagust,Matthew P. Walker (2016). Sleep: A Novel Mechanistic Pathway, Biomarker, and Treatment Target in the Pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease? Trends in Neurosciences. Retrieved (March 1, 2023).

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