Along with warm weather and guidos in tanktops, summer also brings longer days. These longer days are great, don’t get me wrong, but they can have a negative effect on the quality of your sleep. Humans are just like any other animal; we are all controlled by a circadian rhythm, which is an internal 24-hour cycle of biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes. We are programmed to recognize blue light as daytime, thus it has a waking effect on us. Not only do we no longer sleep and rise with the sun, but our brains have no way of differentiating from the blue light of the sky and the blue light which emanates from electronic devices such as your computer monitor, television, or even that blue LED of your DVD player. When this blue light enters our eyes at night, it disrupts the production of melatonin and thus one’s overall sleep cycle and circadian rhythm.
Sorry folks, but eyelids just don’t cut it anymore. Sleep experts recommend that you stay away from blue light electronics an hour before bedtime, that means no late night surfing of television or YouPorn—I mean YouTube. They also recommend sleeping in a pitch-black room. The easiest way to obtain this? Sleep with a mask on. I highly recommend this one I got off Amazon a month ago for $15. It’s done wonders to limit those groggy mornings and a quality sleep provides much more energy throughout the day.
I have simply replaced my pre-bed ritual of movies and net surfing with reading (a little fiction before bed puts you to sleep in no time), but if you really need late night movies on your laptop before bed, there’s a program called F.lux which adjusts your computer’s light depending on the time of day. I’ve yet to try it, but heard good reviews. It’s free to download here.
Bathroom in the middle of the night? If you have a weak bladder and don’t want to take a chance with your aim in the dark, experts say that dim red light has little to no effect on your melatonin, so perhaps a red light bulb in the bathroom might be worth the investment for an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
Beyond a better sleep and a more energized day, several studies over the past decade have suggested that artificial light at night increases one’s chance of breast or prostate cancer (due to hormonal disruption). Now, I’m not one for the old “you’ll get cancer” scare tactic, but if it provides lifestyle benefits and potentially lowers your risk of disease, why not practice safe sleeping?