Sleep Like A Caveman & Have Better Mornings
What’s the main difference between life now and life 100, 500, and even 9000 years ago? You probably didn’t hunt the steak you ate for dinner, and hopefully you’ve been sleeping on a cozy Regal mattress rather than a cold cave floor, but today’s Sleep Centre post will focus on another significant difference: light. As you’re reading this, you are bathed in “blue” light, a short-wavelength form of light emitted by the sun and electronic devices like laptops, tablets, and cell phones. This type of light heightens alertness, increases reaction time, and suppresses the production of melatonin, your body’s natural sleep-inducing hormone.
Before the invention of artificial light, the only source of blue light was the sun. Pre-industrial humans benefitted from exposure to natural blue light during waking hours, and with the sunset, enjoyed a gradual decrease in blue light and the accompanying onset of calm and sleepiness. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution embedded this natural light pattern into our functioning, resulting in our biological clock, or circadian rhythm — the system responsible for regulating biological processes within a 24-hour cycle.
As recently as 150 years ago, humans spent the hours after sunset in either darkness or the soft glow of firelight. Harnessing fire and artificial light led to important developments across civilizations, but when it comes to sleep, we’re indulging in too much of a good thing. Today, the average person spends more than 7 hours a day immersed in electronic blue light, often well into the hours leading up to bedtime. Wreaking havoc on our circadian rhythms, blue light before bed makes it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Compared to other forms of light, blue light also increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Though there are many other factors contributing to widespread sleep deprivation in the modern world, including stress and lumpy mattresses, many experts agree that excessive blue light exposure is one of the most serious obstacles to a good night’s rest. Far from just impairing our memory, mood, and reasoning, long-term sleep deprivation is now known to increase our risk of mental illness, obesity, and cancer. Some preliminary studies suggest that overall lower melatonin levels may help explain the link between sleep deprivation and increased cancer risk.
Given all this, what can we do? It’s not realistic to expect modern people with hectic schedules to spend their evenings sitting quietly by candlelight. Thankfully, there’s no need to resort to extremes. If at all possible, avoid looking at electronic screens two to three hours before bedtime. If you absolutely must, install an application that warms up the light emitted by your screen. In the evening, use dim red lights, which are the least likely to affect melatonin levels. Lastly, if you put these tips into practice and still find yourself tossing and turning at night, see a Regal sleep specialist in one of our mattress shops near you for a professional mattress fitting.