by Leon LackSleep Researcher and Emeritus Professor at Flinders University24th May, 2016
Poor sleep can be caused by many factors, but for a large number of people, a better night’s sleep is as simple as switching on a light
Are you one of those people that find it hard to get to sleep? When you finally do drift off to sleep, does the alarm always seem to go off? Do you always wake up tired or find it particularly hard to get out of bed? Chances are your circadian rhythm (body clock) could be delayed.
Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal 24-hour clock. It influences the timing of all your sleeping and waking patterns, alertness, performance levels and even metabolism. Mis-timing of your circadian rhythm leads to poor sleep quality, insufficient sleep duration, fatigue, impaired overall well-being and decreased motor and cognitive performance.
If any of the above sounds like you, chances are you’re not receiving enough light in your life, or you’re not receiving it at the right times.
Light plays a crucial role influencing our circadian rhythms. If you do not receive light at the proper times, your body clock can get out of sync with the rest of the world. When our eyes sense light, our brain receives a signal to be awake and nudges the circadian sleep period away from it. So morning bright light will help you wake up and gently nudge your body clock to an earlier time allowing you to fall asleep and wake up earlier getting more adequate sleep.
During the dreary winter months, it’s easy to miss bright natural light all together. But, you can use certain kinds of artificial light to help reset your body clock to cure your sleeping problems and avoiding many other health problems.
Here are four light related tips that can help you secure a good night’s sleep, or fight the winter blues:
1. Different kinds of light affect our body in different ways
Some coloured lights operate at a frequency that are better at re-timing the body clock. Standard interior lights are not strong enough to change the body’s circadian rhythm. Shorter wavelengths, colours such as blue and green light, are more effective at re-timing the body clock. White light includes all colours, including red which is ineffective. UV-free blue/green light has been proven to be the safest and most effective light source to influence the sleep cycle.
2. Avoid certain lights when trying to go to sleep
Bright light in the evening can nudge your body clock later in time making it more difficult to fall asleep. Some devices such as mobile phones and tablets are sources of blue lights, which can delay the body clock, so avoid staring at them for too long before going to bed.
3. Seek light if you wake up feeling tired or lethargic
The same principle applies. If you wake up feeling tired or it takes you a long time to feel alert after waking up, it may be because your body is still in the sleep phase of the circadian rhythm. Exposure to some lights in the morning can help you wake up and become more alert after you wake up.
4. Try light therapy
If simply avoiding or seeking light in the evening or mornings isn’t convenient (or possible), light therapy could be the solution for you. Light therapy involves scheduling the use of a wearable light-emitting device into your daily routine to help you re-time your circadian rhythms to suit your sleep cycle or lifestyle.
About Professor Lack
Professor Leon Lack is the principle researcher in the development of Re-Timer, a device worn like glasses to shine UV-free blue-green light into the user’s eyes, altering a person’s circadian rhythms and promoting a better sleep cycle. The device was invented following 25 years university research to provide people with a safe and convenient way to receive light at the right wavelength and at the times they needed it. Using the device for 30 minutes a day provides the most effective light to help people overcome sleep issues based on circadian rhythm mis-timing including insomnia, the winter blues and jet lag.
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