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Having trouble sleeping? Light may be the issue....

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Having trouble sleeping? Light may be the issue....

You may want to get rid of the normal night lights in your kids rooms, and to light your hallways and exchange them for red lights!  Recent studies have shown that even the smallest amount of light can be transmitted through your eyelids and cause disturbances in your sleep.  I know that I've talked about sleep aids for sleep, but there is a lot of new research supporting the effects of light on the circadian rhythm (the bodies natural sleep/wake cycle).

How does this happen?
Well, there are light sensitive cells in our retinas and they send signals to the brain letting us know whether it is day or night and if we should be awake or sleeping.  These cells can get pretty confused due to jet lag or off shift work.  So, exposure of these cells to bright white light (from TV's, lamps, etc) at night can cause the cells to overwork and become confused, which can lead to sleeping disorders.  As well, people who work inside with exposure to dull light all day, like from overhead lights and from computer screens, can cause confusion to the cells.

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/how/external-factors

The signals from the cells in the retina push for a drive to be awake, no matter ow tired you are.  After extensive sleep deprivation, that drive wears off and the sleep cycle begins because of a build up of adenosine in the brain, but no one likes to go through the day exhausted and barely getting through, so we drink caffeine which blocks the adenosine and keeps you awake.

So what can I do?
Decrease all light in the bedroom. If you sleep during the day, get black out shades and limit caffeine before bed.  Keep TV's off, and if you do need a nightlight, you can change it to a low red bulb OR get a very, very dim white bulb that is not in your direct vision or area of your eyes.  Also, try to decrease the amount of light stimulation right before bed; so don't read in bed with a bed side light, so that the retinal cells are not directly stimulated right before bed. Also, you may want to make your bedroom temperature a little lower, REM sleep is better attained when temperatures in the room are cool, so you can cozy up and get some good sleep!

Also, not to be overlooked but whether you have a sleep partner that is human, or not (i.e. dog, cat, etc), you need to work with any problems they might have.  So, if there are any snoring problems, or sleeping disorders that they might have, it can affect you!  Sleep studies are covered by most insurances, so it is worth going to your HCP for you or your partner if you have extensive sleep problems that are effecting either of you to get adequate sleep, because long term sleep deprivation can cause obesity, depression, and other issues.  But, try to keep down bright lights, and give yourself time to get to sleep (i.e. turn in about 30 minutes before you "need" to get to sleep so that you decrease light stimulation and give your body time to wind down.)

Yours in Good Health
B

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