Turn off the Lights

Having trouble sleeping?

A week ago I travelled to Las Vegas with my husband to watch him play in a baseball tournament.  Excited….yeah! A bonus to sitting for hours on the hard bench was the thrill of seeing this exciting vibrant city.

The first night we turned in early, tired from the travel and walking…..however I could not sleep! Unusual for me. The second night, the same thing. This time I got up and closed the floor to ceiling screen in our bedroom, blocking out the beautiful brightly colored vista of hotels and turned the alarm clock to the wall. Still sleep eluded me.

For the next three nights we shared a house with 8 other people in the suburbs. Our spacious accommodations with huge bed and cosy pillows was traded for this tiny bedroom with no visible light once our door was shut.  The mattress was hard and narrow, the pillows flat and mushy, no electronic lights at all; both my husband and I slept like a baby.

What was the difference? I wondered did it have anything to do with the 4 TVs and their remotes in our suite all with little lights shining from their panels? Or was it the tiny lights on every light switch? Or was it the humming from the masses of electricity emanating from all the buildings around us lighting up the sky for miles around. Perhaps my husband’s phone which he put at bedside was part of the problem.

It got me thinking about how many people have sleep problems. What was in their bedroom? Was the unlimited access to electronics keeping us awake?   Many people including our children find it difficult to disconnect, even when the day is over. More and more people have, and use, electronic devices in their bedrooms, which is preventing them from getting the rest they need.

A 2011 poll done by the National Sleep Foundation found that an alarming six in ten Americans use their personal computer within an hour of going to sleep, and four in ten Americans bring their cell phone into the bedroom.  A staggering number of people – 87% in the same study – report problems falling asleep at night, and these devices are likely a contributing factor.

Let’s take some advice from Nelly Furtado as she sings ‘turn off the light’ and get the shut eye we desperately need to function effectively during the day.   If you have teens or young children and sleep is an issue, move any electronics out of the bedroom where it can be monitored. Turn off and remove cell phones for the night (yes they will be cranky and panicky initially) and watch for changes.

When it is dark out and your usual bedtime rolls around, the brain tells your body to increase production of melatonin, the sleep chemical that is then released into the bloodstream. The blue light from electronic devices confuses your system by making it falsely believe it is daylight, halting the production of melatonin, and causing a night of tossing and turning for hours.  The bottom line? Turn off your lights!