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Why sleeping in darkness is essential to your health
We’re all familiar with the repercussions of a bad night’s sleep. Feeling tired the next day, being grumpy, finding it nearly impossible to be productive and having difficulty concentrating are just a few of the side-effects we may experience.
Sleep deprivation doesn’t just affect our physical health however, it puts us at risk of serious medical conditions including heart disease, obesity, diabetes and it can even shorten your life expectancy.
In order to get the quality of sleep that our bodies depend on to function properly, we need an environment which is conductive to this. This means no noise disturbances, a good quality bed and complete darkness.
Why is sleeping in darkness so important?
Sleeping in total darkness helps our bodies to produce the very important antioxidant hormone, melatonin.
Melatonin is responsible for regulating our sleep cycles and plays an instrumental part in regulating our body’s internal clock. It tells us what time of the day it is and it’s when this is out of sync that we struggle to fall asleep at the right time.
Melatonin can have a significant impact on a number of different health conditions. It has been recognised in preventing diseases such as breast cancer, Alzheimer’s and fibromyalgia as well as sleep disorders such as insomnia and chronic fatigue. It can also be helpful for children who suffer with developmental disabilities such as ADHD and autism.
Unbeknown to many, melatonin also plays a role in regulating the female menstruation cycle and it can affect the onset, frequency and duration of it.
Because melatonin production increases at night and decreases in the day, it’s vital to sleep in complete darkness if you want to avoid missing out on this important hormone. Believe it or not, even a small amount of light that filters in through curtains can interrupt production.
How to improve the quality of your sleep
- Ensure that your bedroom is in complete darkness when you go to sleep. A great trick to find out if your room is dark enough is to put your hand in front of your face when you turn the lights off. You shouldn’t be able to see your hand.
- If your room is too light, think about changing your window dressings. Solid shutters are fantastic at keeping out any light infiltration and can be far more effective that curtains or blinds.
- Sleep wearing light, loose-fitting clothing to avoid getting too hot. An increase in your body temperature can intervene with the release of melatonin while sleeping.
- Many of us find ourselves doing a final check of our emails and social media accounts before we go to sleep but try to avoid doing this if you can. The blue light emitted by screens from televisions, computers and mobile phones supress melatonin levels and make it more difficult for us to fall asleep.
- Waking up in the middle of the night because you need the loo can be frustrating but if you turn on the light while navigating your way to the bathroom, this can be very disruptive to the quality of the sleep you get for the remainder of the night. If you do find that you need to get up, try to use a torch or nightlight because a bright light will stop the production of melatonin.