Sleeping in the recent hot weather has brought with it the conundrum of open velux windows to feel cooler versus the early morning sun waking me up or staying in the dark but being too hot. Luckily for me this is a time limited difficulty-the British summer time being what it is! And throughout my life so far I have not experienced too many episodes of waking in the early hours due to pain or worries, or difficulties getting off to sleep.
In my work as a counsellor I meet with individuals who are stressed, scared, worried, in pain and fearful, and the subject of being tired, exhausted and just plain old knackered is often present in my consulting room. For sure, our problems and life events may be niggling away in our minds preventing us from sleeping or waking us from sleep. However, there may also be other factors in our lifestyle which are also conspiring against us and our desire and need for sleep.
What I am noticing more and more in my work with people of all ages, not just young adults, is the use of electronic devices in bedrooms or immediately before going to bed. Electronic devices include TVs, computers, tablets and mobile phones.
Maybe you have heard of the blue light which these items emit? The blue light suppresses melatonin production ( a naturally occurring hormone which regulates a natural sleep pattern as part of our circadian rhythm).
So, how does this happen?The blue light from electronic devices mimics the same blue light found in daylight and the photoreceptors of the eye once stimulated by the light trigger the “get up and be alert” biological process, over-riding the “feeling sleepy” natural response to red light found in the evening light.
One way then to help yourself to sleep might be to reduce your screen time an hour or so before bed? There are also free apps for blue light filters which can be used across all mobile devices…they don’t filter out all the blue light.
Nutritionists might also suggest things such as avoiding heavy evening meals, and avoiding the stimulating effects of spicy foods. Drinking more than two glasses of wine is also a suggested no-go due to the sugar content interfering with your sleep. And as for chocolate (my daily evening treat) it is suggested that eating chocolate earlier in the evening is better due to the sugar content (even in dark chocolate)…and don’t forget the caffeine content in chocolate!