Why Does Sleep Matter?
“Get Better Sleep.”
That’s a phrase that pretty much everyone has heard, but no one knows quite how to do it. Sleep is one of those things that is also largely misunderstood. People — especially in the more developed countries — don’t get enough of it. Those who try don’t set themselves up for a successful night. Hence….they may in bed for 7+ hours, but they toss/turn for a majority of it. Those who continually have trouble sleeping may just give up and get up.
In fact, lack of sleep is one of the main causes of stress and sickness in the world today!
What Is Sleep….Really?
Sleep is not a time of rest.
Many people — including myself — assume that sleep is a time for the body to do nothing. And — pun intended — nothing can be further from the truth.
- Sleep is a time for the brain to review/catalog information learned — and seen — during the day
- It’s a time for the body to recover and repair
- The body’s immune system is able to repair and rebuild itself
- The brain “bounces” back and forth between different stages of sleep.
- The different stages of sleep are “pieced” together in 60 to 90-minute intervals, called “sleep cycles.”
- Assuming a person sleeps for 6 – 8 hours, the brain will experience 4 – 6 sleep cycles.
All in all, not that much is known about sleep. You hear about light sleep and REM sleep, but that is about it.
Different Stages of Sleep
Non-REM Sleep is the vast majority of sleep that a person will get. There are three stages to this type of sleep, and this is where a person is “out,” but the brain starts to get to work at this stage. Coupled with REM sleep, these stages of sleep are what allow the brain to analyze, catalog, and store information from the previous day.
How much does the brain do? Some studies have shown that a student who studies for a test — then gets a good 7 – 9 hours of sleep — does better than the student who “crams” all night long!
In other words, if you can at least review/study the information, your brain will silently do the rest while you are “asleep.”
Deep Sleep is the stage of non-REM sleep that is still largely misunderstood. Many people hear about it, but don’t know how much it does.
Deep Sleep is the brain’s — and body’s — chance to do some repair. The body releases growth hormones that repair and relax the organs and muscles. It is also — at this stage — that the immune system repairs and recovers.
Also, as people get older, they get less deep sleep. So, a person who is young tends to get a lot. A person who is approaching 80 or 90 may only a little.
Either way, the more a person can set him or herself up for a good’s night sleep, the better!
Blue Light: What Is It And Why Does It Matter
It is that thing that is almost always around. Blue light is “created” when the Sun’s yellow light passes through the Earth’s atmosphere and the atmosphere fractures the light. That is — simply put — why the Sun looks white…..because all of the blue light has been removed. It is also why the sky looks blue.
Therefore, short, blue light is the driving force behind how humans work, and our waking/sleep cycles. The Sun comes up, our bodies “sense” the blue light and wake up. The Sun goes down, the blue light disappears from the sky, and our bodies start to prepare for sleep.
Similarly, there are man-made sources that produce blue light twenty four hours per day, if we let them. Those sources are (1) computer monitors, (2) televisions, and (3) lights.
The Affects Of Blue Light
With these sources bombarding our senses our eyes, brains, and bodies are being hit with blue light all the time. This can have two major effects:
- The body may think that it is always daytime! Hence, the natural process that our body undergoes to prepare for sleep may be delayed…if it happens at all.
- Part of the body’s natural sleep prep process is to produce a natural chemical called melatonin. This is the substance that helps us to fall asleep and stay asleep. Excess blue light stops the body from producing this all-helpful substance.
Result? A person can’t sleep, and if she does sleep, she’s almost guaranteed to wake up in the middle of the night.
So, how do we mitigate these extra sources of blue light and help to protect — and improve — the quality of our hard-earned sleep?
Turn Everything Off One Hour Before Bedtime
The simplest way to improve one’s sleep is to limit — or turn off — all electronics, especially at night. A rule of thumb that I’ve seen recently is to turn off electronics an hour or more before bedtime.
For example, turn off the TV, talk with your family, and put away your phone. Read, relax, or wine. Electronics may have the secondary effect of stimulating the brain in other ways. Shut everything down. You’ll help to “jump start” the brain’s natural sleep prep process. Also, eliminating TV or social media — which are filled with negativity, violence, or political arguments — will also help the brain and body to calm down.
Read, relax, or wine.James Brewster
If You Can’t Turn Everything Off, Block Blue Light With Anti Blue-Light Computer Glasses
When I first started looking at anti-blue light computer glasses, I thought, “No way…these are stupid!”
However, I was able to obtain a couple of pairs — one for $10 and another for $25 — and I gave them a try.
Let’s just say that I wear them all the time!
First, I am a computer nerd. I love computer games and and I also write/blog at night. Having the computer on until 10 or so — then trying to get to bed before midnight — was impossible. Even then, I’d tend to wake up several times a night.
The computer glasses helped to “block” the blue light, helping to keep me from continually waking myself up with the computer screen.
The Unintended Side Affect: Increased Productivity
There was also a second effect: I was more energized and more productive during the daytime!
Think of it this way: computer monitors — and bright lights at work — are harsh. Sure, it may be daytime, but the amount of blue light that a person can be bombarded with in the workplace is staggering.
In my former role at work, I was in the call center. I always had to stay (1) ready for a call or (2) taking calls. That meant staring at the screen all the time.
When I started to wear my current pair of computer glasses, my productivity and stats went up. Why? I realized that I was no longer taking 3 – 5 minutes between calls not taking calls. (I was standing, resting my eyes, rubbing my eyes, and trying not to get a headache.)
With the computer glasses, my eyes were no longer strained. That meant that my head was no longer hurting. With less pain and discomfort, I was able to jump back into queue and take another call immediately; I no longer needed that 3 – 5 minutes in between calls to rest!
Benefits of Anti Blue-Light Glasses
All in all, benefits of computer glasses include:
- Less eyestrain
- Eyes are more moist
- Less strain = reduced chance of headaches
- Less strain = better concentration, more energy, and better productivity
- Reduces chance of body’s sleep cycle being disrupted
- Less blue light = more melatonin production
- Less blue light = better sleep quality & duration
To summarize, anti-blue-light computer glasses are an economical way to reduce strain/stress on your eyes while protecting your sleep cycle while helping you to improve your productivity during the daytime!
Lastly, check out some of the styles of anti-blue-light computer glasses below. As you can see, they range from inexpensive to expensive, and super-nerdy to normal.
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Natural & White Light Bulbs: How They Might Be Disrupting Sleep
Ironically, a new trend in lighting may also be contributing to our lack of sleep quality: natural light bulbs.
These bulbs have been cropping up everywhere. Even our remodeled apartment has them.
Natural light — or white light bulbs — are all the rage. And, they have a lot of positive aspects, including bringing out true colors in your decor and enabling you to figure out what your clothes actually look like before getting out into the sun.
Above all, those same natural light bulbs produce a lot of harsh blue light. This means that if you have one or more in your bedroom, forget about going to bed at a normal time, unless you are lucky.
Therefore, the solution here is three-fold:
1) Limit the use of natural-light bulbs in the evening.
2) Replace natural light bulbs in the bedrooms with soft white bulb.
3) Replace natural light nightlights with soft white nightlights.
Soft white bulbs, produce yellowish light. This light is not as harsh on the eyes as natural light. Thus, soft white bulbs do not “wake up” the body or disrupt the production of melatonin.
I’ve linked to a couple types of soft white bulbs and lamps below. These are easy to find in any store. It’s highly recommended to have a few on hand.
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Smartphones: The Blue-Light Producer
I’ll be the first to admit. Smartphones are awesome! They are used for communications, messaging, games, and work. Sometimes, they are even used to make phone calls!
What are phone calls, you ask?
Obviously, smartphones are an awesome tool. People are also addicted to them, for various reasons. That means that you have yet another source of blue light that can potentially disrupt your sleep cycle. This isn’t even counting the fact that people sometimes check their phones in the middle of the night. Guess what you’re doing? You’re telling your brain that it’s time to wake up even though it’s 3 AM!
In short, if you can’t ignore your smartphone all night — or if you use your smartphone after nightfall — consider an app that changes the color of your smartphone’s screen from blue-ish to reddish. This will eliminate most of those blue light rays and help your body to get to sleep!
For Android Users, consider apps like “Twilight.” They can change your phone’s screen from blue to red after dark, eliminating one source of blue light and helping to keep you from accidently waking yourself up at night.
For iPhone users, consider apps like “f.Lux“ or “Redshift.” These are the iPhone equivalent of “Twilight“ and can help to save your eyes.
Ditch the “Snooze” Button
This is a great piece of information that I learned about thanks to Mel Robbins.
Ditch the snooze button. It’s that simple.
Why? Let’s go back to those sleep cycles we discussed earlier in this article. Each one lasts 60 – 90 minutes.
After 3 – 4 sleep cycles, the brain begins to “prep” itself to wake up. However, if a person’s alarm sounds and that person hits the snooze button, something very normal happens.
The brain starts another sleep cycle.
When the alarm goes off again … or again … or again — depending on how often the snooze alarm is utilized — the person gets up, yet usually has a very hard time waking up.
The reason? Once the brain starts another sleep cycle, it becomes very difficult to wake up. It’s the equivalent of driving a car, and jamming on both the gas and the break at the same time!
The car may still move, but it may do so much more sluggishly.
In the same way, once the brain enters another sleep cycle, it becomes very
difficult to “break” the brain out of an interrupted cycle. The result is that the individual will be half-asleep — or sluggish — for 2 to 4 hours! That’s up to half of a
The solution? Either (1) wake up the first time or (2) don’t use snooze at all, and let the brain wake up the body naturally.
If you must use snooze? Mel recommends a cold shower. That should wake up the brain, but that should be a last resort.
Putting It All Together
All in all, we’ve covered several the reasons why blue light exposure should be reduced and reviewed several ways that a person can reduce — or eliminate — blue light exposure at work and at home.
How quickly can a person expect to see results?
Of course, your mileage may vary, but it may depend on the person. Some may start to see results immediately after implementing one or more of the suggestions listed above. Others — those who have had their sleep cycles disrupted — may have to wait a week or two.
In conclusion, keep working to improve your surroundings and your situation. Your body will — in the then — appreciate being able to sleep on schedule and ore consistently. And, there isn’t a down side to that!