An exploration of sleep and insomnia, with a single destination in mind:
a good night's sleep.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Want to Sleep Better? Brush Your Teeth in the Dark

By Ken Mallows

If you've read this blog for a while you already know that in order to sleep well, you have to ease yourself into it. Just before you retire, turn off electronic gadgets and don't do anything that stimulates your brain. Boring things are perfect for getting yourself primed for bed.

With this idea in mind, an Oxford, England neuroscientist believes that the bright fluorescent lights of bathrooms wake us up when we should be shifting into sleep mode. As Russell Foster,  professor of circadian neuroscience, notes in a UK Telegraph story, “Often people will turn their lights down at night which helps to get the body ready for sleep, but then they will go and brush their teeth and turn their bathroom light on. That is very disrupting. I often think someone should invent a bathroom mirror light which has a different setting for night time.”

Foster notes that light plays a vital role in telling our bodies when to be awake and when to sleep and that artificial light plays havoc with our natural daily rhythms. He suggests that the reason so many people have trouble falling asleep is that we bring light into our lives at the wrong time of time. For example, researchers found that sitting too far from a window – and not getting enough natural light during the day – knocks off about 46 minutes day off our night time sleep period. He says that by keeping our homes dimly-lit, our bodies are again thrown off kilter by thinking that night time is approaching and we become tired at just the wrong time of day. This means that people who have trouble getting to sleep may not be experiencing enough bright daylight so their internal clocks are out of whack. Did you ever notice how an overcast day makes you logey? 

The bottom line is that during the day time, drink in the sun – or enjoy  a brightly lit office – if you want to sleep well. And, when the time comes to wind down for sleep, don't brush your teeth in a bright bathroom light. Dim the lights, light a candle or better yet, brush in the dark.

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