What Makes a Good Night's Sleep?
Why is Sleep Important?
The brilliant cartoonist Matt Groening depicted a searingly funny series in his “Life is Hell” compilation where, across about 16 panels, the character spends his/her day exhausted at the breakfast table, the commute, their desk, commuting back home, and dinner in front of the TV with the tell-tale “zzzzz’s” always buzzing above his head. The entire day exhausted. No amount of caffeine can dent the fatigue. The last frame is the character staring at the ceiling trying desperately to get to sleep.
How many of us live that experience? My guess - a lot…an awful lot. Do an internet search for sleep, fatigue, exhaustion, focus, brain fog, circadian rhythms, and productivity and you will spend all day reading piece after piece and more than likely spend the evening staring at the ceiling.
While the Groening creation is funny (in a sort of make-me-cry sort of way), the subject is not. As one who has been surgically treated for obstructive sleep apnea, I can attest to the debilitating effect of sleep quality deprivation. Our mind, our bodies, our spirit are all influenced by the quality and quantity of our sleep. To put it plainly…it sucks. And it is deadly.
The contributing factors are many and include diet, exercise, stress, binge-watching, social media etc. In fact, artificial light and especially the “blue light” that is emitted from our smartphones is a major factor. T.S. Wiley and Bent Formby, PhD reveal research from the government which demonstrates the role of sleeplessness in diabetes, heart disease, cancer, infertility, mental illness, and premature aging.
Further research has shown that the color of light also contributes to these effects. Blue light, mentioned above, has the strongest negative impact. Be honest, do you scroll through your smartphone in bed at night? Stop. You are bathing in blue light. Other light spectra have different effects. Red light has no effect on our circadian clock. Colors can influence mood, emotions, and even behavior. Different colors can be used to evoke certain emotions — from aggressiveness and anger to calmness and happiness. Our brains are influenced by the light around us.
Suzy Chiazzari, of the HOLISTIC DESIGN & COLOUR INSTITUTE says that “your bedroom decor can certainly have an impact upon your quality and quantity of sleep per night.” Because color can make you feel a certain way, why not fill your bedroom with shades that can emit calmness and promote positive energy flow?”
Casper, the mattress company, devotes a web page to the colors we use in our bedrooms. They even developed the following color wheel!
Enter the Znie Lamp.
This product, developed by Honey IT, incorporates the science of light waves into a simple device that emits different spectra of light according to your preference. At your desk, while meditating (they call it “chilling”), or by your bedside at night, the different settings may be adjusted, via the app, based on your need.
Green light waves are emitted in the “desk” mode. This has been shown to help with concentration and focus. It is important to note, you don’t get green light waves from a green light bulb that may have various spectra of light including that pesky blue light mentioned above. In desk mode, it emits only green light waves.
The “chilling” mode emits a neutral light…kind of a beige or eggshell color shown to help with relaxation.
Lastly, the “sleep” setting emits light in the red spectrum shown to help with sleep therapy. This setting is timed so the lamp simply turns off after a set period. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it works.
While no one thing is going to cure what ails us, it helps to have a useful tool that can reinforce the good habits we try to incorporate into our lives.
What Kind of Influence Does Light Therapy Have on Your Capacity to Sleep?
Your circadian rhythm determines when you feel sleepy, when you feel awake, when you feel hungry, and when other biological processes occur in your body. It also controls when these feelings occur. Because the natural rhythms of your body tend to mimic the sun's 24-hour cycle, scientists came up with the term "circadian rhythm" to describe this phenomenon. Light therapy is a means of resetting your body's internal clock by exposing your eyes to artificial light that simulates natural sunlight. This is done in order to treat conditions such as jet lag and seasonal affective disorder. Because of this, you probably feel sleepier as the sun goes down and more awake when the light comes up.
The light coming from the sun is recognized by the retinal cells in your eyes, which then causes a change in the chemical composition of your brain. Melatonin and serotonin are examples of neurotransmitters that are responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle of a human organism. Light perception causes a delay in the production of melatonin in the brain, which not only helps you feel more awake but also lifts your mood.
The biggest trigger for resetting your circadian rhythm is exposure to bright light, so make sure you get plenty of it. It is utilized by medical professionals and sleep specialists in order to develop the most effective light therapy treatment plan for each individual patient, even down to the particulars of when and for how long the light box should be utilized.
Many people who have trouble sleeping because of issues with their circadian rhythms or depression are in a state known as "phase-delayed," which is the condition in which light treatment is most useful.
What are the Benefits of Light Therapy?
Light therapy can be used to treat a variety of sleep disorders, including insomnia, issues with the circadian rhythm, jet lag, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and depression.
People who suffer from insomnia have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting sufficient amounts of quality sleep on a consistent basis. If you get it at least once a week over a period of at least three months, then it is considered chronic. Insomnia is linked to a wide range of mental health problems including anxiety, depression, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and even other physical illnesses. In a number of these scenarios, the use of light therapy can be of assistance in reducing the symptoms of sleeplessness.
Lack of Quality Sleep Caused by Disruptions in Circadian Rhythms
A problem with a person's normal sleep cycle, often known as their circadian rhythm, might cause them to have difficulty falling or staying asleep. People who are naturally night owls have a greater risk of acquiring certain sleep disorders but working overnight shifts can also bring on these disorders in people who are otherwise healthy. Circadian rhythm sleep disorders include even jet lag. Light therapy is becoming an increasingly popular option for the treatment of various disorders.
After flying, you may experience feelings of disorientation.
The symptoms of jet lag appear when an individual's circadian cycle stays in sync with their prior location, while traveling through many time zones, which causes the individual to experience the effects of jet lag. Until it adjusts to your new location, you may find that you are wide awake at three in the morning or feeling sleepy in the middle of the day. Because it helps your body's internal clock readjust to the daily cycle of sunlight and darkness, spending time outside can be an effective treatment for jet lag. This is because spending time outside helps your body adjust. However, in extreme cases of jet lag that occur after traveling through multiple time zones, light treatment may be able to speed up this process.
Seasonal affective disorder, sometimes known as SAD
During the winter months, depression is frequent, and people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder may feel the impacts of depression much more acutely. Even while it affects some people during the spring and summer months, the fall and winter seasons are when it is most prevalent. The intensity of seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is caused by seasonal changes in the amount of sunlight that is received. People who have issues falling asleep or staying asleep often struggle with hypersomnia, which is defined as the inability to shake feelings of sleepiness even after ten hours of sleep or more.
Those who struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) have difficulty managing their serotonin levels and overproduce melatonin, both of which contribute to feelings of depression and weariness. Their disposition can be improved because of the antidepressant effects of light therapy. Light therapy is quite helpful for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and even just one hour of treatment can significantly reduce depression scores. There is also the possibility that light therapy could be used to help prevent seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Patients diagnosed with SAD who participate in light therapy throughout the winter months had a 36% lower risk of experiencing a depressive episode when compared to patients who do not participate in light therapy.
Sleep issues such as insomnia, hypersomnia, and excessive daytime sleepiness are common among people who suffer from non-seasonal depression. There is some indication that people who suffer from non-seasonal depression may also benefit from light treatment, albeit the data is not as robust. These people can benefit from light therapy even when it's taken on its own, but it works even better when it's combined with another treatment for depression.
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