Can’t Sleep? Four Must-do’s to Solve the anti-Sleep Effects of Light Pollution.
It’s winter and the harbor is bare of boats.
I look out my window at the beauty of a calm ocean reflecting lights, the gentle ripples creasing the surface. In the distance, the red, white, and blue water tower stands its ground.
This view is one of the reasons I pay the extra money to live on the ocean, brave the rising tides, flooding, and the damp, brisk wind that shoves me back with icy tentacles, chilling me to the bone.
The rewards are cool relief on a stifling summer’s day, a place to swim, and a view like no other.
Except for the lights.
The glare from across the cove is akin to high beams in my face from oncoming traffic. I shield my eyes, catch a glimpse, and pull the shades. Sadly, this is my only recourse.
Day is done, gone the sun.
Hello light pollution.
What is it?
Light pollution is the brightening of the night sky by street lights and other man-made sources. It is one of the lesser acknowledged pollutants, but like its sibling, noise pollution, it is on the rise.
Kind of like the song, Signs, by Five Man Electric Band, though lights, instead of signs, “block-up” the scenery, mainly because all you can see is glare.
We are blessed with the sun during the day, but at night we’re bombarded by multiple, sources of artificial light from street lights, computers, cell phones, televisions and a myriad of outdoor sources.
And in urban areas, they are everywhere.
Light interferes with our circadian rhythms, aka our 24-hour biological clock, or sleep-wake pattern. Light means day, and day means work, not sleep.
Darkness is a signal to our bodies to produce melatonin, and melatonin is a signal for our bodies to slow down.
Our bodies are truly miraculous and were designed to work in sync with nature. The sky lightens at dawn and decreases melatonin levels as we begin our day.
When the sky darkens, our melatonin levels rise as we slow down and prepare to go to sleep.
It makes sense. The design is perfect. Unfortunately, this is also the time the street lights go on and other sources of artificial light begin to come to life.
For many of us, this lack of dark, means lack of sleep.
The Dark Sky Association states that the widespread overuse of artificial light affects our environment (nocturnal animals), safety (lighting dark spaces may actually invite intruders and illuminate belongings), energy consumption (waste!)and health.
Components of overuse include:
Glare — excessive brightness.
Skyglow — brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas.
Light Trespass — light falling where it is not intended. (This is what’s ruining my view!)
Clutter — bright, confusing, and excessive groupings of light sources.
John Hopkins Medicine suggests that we need melatonin supplements for ‘sound natural sleep.’
In short, no dark, no sleep.
So, is it any wonder our bodies don’t slow down at the end of the day in preparation for sleep? Or that we toss and turn?
Think of it this way, if melatonin really is the cure, the “miracle” for sleeping disorders, and out bodies produce it naturally, why do so many of us have a deficiency?
Our need for melatonin and the method by which our bodies produce this hormone certainly hasn’t changed.
Just a guess, but could it be the environment?
Your doctor knows you best, so never disregard his/her advice, but perhaps making small changes in your home can increase your melatonin level, naturally, and result in a better night’s sleep.
Here’s a list of four simple things you can do to potentially boost your sleep quotient.
1/ Change the light bulbs in your home.
Use warm white sources with a color temperature of 3000 (Kelvin) K or lower. This is the light bulb’s color temperature that produces the look of the light.
As previously stated, lower light equals more melatonin. Packaging for new CFL and LED light bulbs provide this color temperature information.
2/ Lower the lights.
Keep the lights low in the evening. Use dimmers, if you have them. If not, turn some lights off. Again, mimic nature.
3/ Use filters on electronic devices.
Using filters will help screen out blue and green wavelengths, which your brain interprets as daytime light.
Zagg has shields you can purchase on-line or at a Best Buy. Reticare brags that is has the only scientifically proven eye protector to protect your eyes from the harmful effect of blue light from device screens.
4/ Prepare for sleep.
Melatonin levels rise about two hours before bedtime, so choose a regular one and prepare. Don’t decrease melatonin levels by exposing yourself to daytime-type light.
Stop using electronic devices and turn off the television. If you must watch television, try to stay at least six feet away.
As in my situation, you can’t get rid of street lights or other sources of light trespass, that flood into your home. Control what you can in your home and see if anything changes.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, but if trying one or two of the the things listed above can help you sleep, why not give it a shot?