Coach Bryan Miller catching his recovery zzz’s when he can.

Shut Off the Lights
Written by Cat Blatner

Most of us can probably agree that nothing beats a solid night of sleep. When you wake up after a long night of rest, you feel ready to attack the day head on. Not only does a good night of sleep feel amazing, it also is vital for our day to day functions. Sleep is our body’s time to recharge and recover. In order for us to function both mentally and physically it is vital that we get enough rest each night.

The problem we all face is that we are living in a world full of electronic dominance. Everywhere we look there are iPhones, Androids, iPads, tablets, computers, and televisions – just to name a few. Electronics have many benefits and make our lives much easier in numerous ways, however, that same technology could be hurting our ability to get a good night of sleep.

Our Brains and Sleep

The human brain has a very important internal clock. This clock is vital in regulating our sleeping patterns by controlling something called the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm can be considered our “biological schedule”. This biological schedule regulates when our bodies should be awake and active and when we need to rest and recover. However, our circadian rhythm isn’t always 100% timely and thus, our bodies will adapt to external signals such as light and darkness to regulate sleep.

Sleeping in the Dark

When the sun goes down, it should mean that our day is winding down and it’s almost time to get some sleep. Our brain recognizes this and adapts. It responds to the light and darkness accordingly. Light triggers activity in the brain and signals brain cells to activate [1]. This is why sunlight can wake us from a deep sleep. On the opposite side, darkness is a trigger for our brains to rest and become inactive. Our bodies will secrete melatonin, a hormone responsible for signaling to us that it is time to get some rest [1], when it is dark around us.

Disrupting our Sleep Before Bed

When we are ready to wind down at night, it is very important that we let our body’s natural clock do it’s job. In order to do this we need to allow our hormones to level so that our body can secrete melatonin and tell our brain that it’s ok to shut down for the night. When we grab a computer or phone to send one last email before heading to bed or to look through Facebook because we are having a hard time falling asleep, we disrupt our sleeping pattern. Our body responds to the light from the screen as if it was daylight and tells our brain that it is time to be up and active.

How can you get a Better Night Sleep?

Commit to shutting off all electronics – including the tv – at least one hour before bed. Use this time to recover from your day, unwind and let your mind be at rest. You will be amazed at the increased quality of sleep that will come with disconnecting from your gadgets and cell phones. I challenge you to make an electronic fasting schedule. Give it a try and see how much better you feel!

 

References

[1] Duffy, Jeanne F., and Charles A. Czeisler. “Effect of Light on Human Circadian Physiology.” Sleep medicine clinics 4.2 (2009): 165–177. PMC. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.