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Exposure to artificial light, particularly blue light, after dark can play havoc with your sleep. Poor sleep has negative knock on effects to your mental clarity, stress levels, training performance, energy levels, hunger and body fat, particularly around the navel.
Scenario 1) Picture this, you’ve just finished eating your evening meal, you’re sitting around a fire with your family and friends, the sun has just gone down and the clouds in the sky are a vivid red, orange, pinky colour. Some birds are giving the sun a sendoff and some crickets and frogs are creaking away, but beyond that the only sound is coming from your family and friends sharing stories and a few laughs about their day. An hour later, the stars are out, the fire has slowly dwindled and you retire to a loved one, snuggle up to share some warmth and go to bed. 15 minutes later you are asleep. You wake up at sunrise alert and ready to go.
Scenario 2) Picture this: You’ve just finished eating your evening meal, you’re sitting around the telly with your family watching Rhonda and Katut in the ad break of The Project. You watch for about an hour to ‘unwind’ and then do the dishes. After the kitchen is clean you go to the computer and check out a few of your favourite blogs and websites. After half an hour or so you start to yawn so you decide to go to bed. You start reading but are pretty tired so you turn the light out. You grab your iPhone to set the alarm, but when you unlock your phone you see that there’s a few emails in your inbox, so you tell yourself you’ll just have a quick look.
There’s an email from an important client to confirm a meeting time, so you decide to open it, it will only take 30 seconds. You read the email. In the email they confirm the meeting time, but at the bottom “P.S – I’d like to discuss Brian’s communication with my PA”. You didn’t expect that and your heart rate increases, and you put the phone down and lie there and all you can think about is Brian and what he’s said to your client’s PA. ‘Oh crap I didn’t set the alarm’, phone goes back on, 30 minutes later you are asleep. Your alarm wakes you up 7 hours later and you wish you could stay in bed for another 2 hours.
Our body has hormones that calm us and promote sleep and hormones that keep us alert and awake. In the morning our ‘alert and awake’ hormones ideally should be high and as the day progresses, the evening arrives and it starts getting dark they should decrease to assist with winding down for sleep.
Our hormones that help with ‘calm and sleep’ should be low at the start of the day and as night arrives and it gets dark they should increase. This is what regulates your circadian rhythm or sleep cycle and can be seen in good effect in scenario 1. Excessive exposure to artificial light, particularly blue light, the exact type of light that a back lit screen emits, tricks our bodies hormonal signaling for calming and sleep and creates an environment that mimics daytime.
Our bodies hormonal regulators for sleep become skewed and poor sleep, even sleep disorders are the result, as can be seen in scenario 2. Experts say exposure to artificial light from tablets is causing sleep disorders.
So what can you do?
- Turn the lights off / down. Invest in dimmers or light candles.
- Leave your tablet, laptop, smartphone out of the bedroom. Buy an old fashion alarm clock if you need assistance waking up. Eventually you won’t need to .
- Switch off the TV and computer after dark.
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible. Shut out blinds are a good investment.
- Watch the sun set, light candles, listen to some relaxing music, go for a walk, meditate, read a book, connect with a friend or loved one.