One of my favorite results to come out of the Sleep Experiment so far is quick and easy, completely free, and doesn’t require specialty ingredients.
What is this wonder remedy? Lighting.
In great-grandma’s day, we woke up with the sunrise. We went to bed when it got dark. In the summer, we stayed awake later (to work in the garden!), in the winter, we sat around the fire and went to bed early.
Daily cycles like these were the norm for thousands of years. And then we invented electricity. And suddenly bright lights, computer screens, laptops, iPads, blackberries, and televisions made our body completely confused.
Now, I love technology as much as (or probably more than) the next girl. But it can get a bit out of control. When the last thing I do at night is check my email on my iPhone (oh, and check the progress on a few of my game apps), I know it has gone too far.
Because even if I’m relaxed after my warm lavender bath and chamomile tea – when I just do one last check of my email, we all know what happens. 75% of the time that one last little peek at email uncovers a crisis at work, or warrants just a quick reply, and suddenly your brain is back in overdrive again, making your to-do list for the next day. Not the best mental state to fall asleep!
So the initial, overwhelmingly positive, results from the sleep study show that adjusting your lighting and screen time has a HUGE impact on your quality of sleep. Curious to try it yourself? Read on.
If you want to really impact your sleep quality through lighting, you need to make some adjustments in three areas: sunlight, evening light and screen time.
Getting some natural sunlight during the day can help reset your circadian rhythms. If you can get this sunlight in the morning, even better! If you live in a gray northern climate (like London!), you might want to get a SAD (Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder) light to use for a few minutes every morning.
If you make only one adjustment – this should be it. Starting 2 hours before you go to bed, dim the lights. Dim all of the lights. This puts your body into a more relaxed, winding down mode to get you ready for sleep. Although it didn’t work for every reader, the results from this change alone have been amazingly positive.
“I usually remember staying awake for an hour or more each night, but in general I can’t remember anything past going to bed.”
“It felt like adjusting the lighting set the mood for sleep even before I was in bed so my mind was slowly starting to slow down and relax.”
Adjusting the lighting can also help get your entire family in ‘bedtime mode’. Not having children, I haven’t tried this myself but love the idea! One reader shares:
“Doing this simple thing really created a different atmosphere and I decided to try it throughout my house to see how it would affect my kids. My husband and I dimmed lighting after dinner, this is the perfect time of year to experiment with this as there are lights on our tree and decorating our house that create a soft glow. Everyone seemed to just naturally tone it down a bit when the lighting was lower.”
One reader even combined the lighting with some other lifestyle changes and saw improvements in her skin (as someone who likes to scrutinize her pores in the mirror I think I will be trying this tip too!):
“I started taking showers in the dark. With the bathroom door open and the hall light on, I had just enough light to see by but the mirror was in shadow. I should mention that I have moderate-mild acne. I still wash my face (oil cleanse before the shower) but I don’t ‘worry’ at it, not because of will power but because my skin looked pretty good in the dim light! After this week I can reduce my label to very mild. I attribute this to more sleep, the castor oil treatment I’ve been using, and the dim light at night. I’ve always known that less is more for my skin, mbut I haven’t had the willpower to carry though before now!”
(If you’re curious about a “castor oil treatment” check out the oil cleansing method!)
Reduce screen time
I’ve written before about reducing digital overload in your life. I’m addicted to my screens. For years checking email was the first thing I did in the morning, and the last thing I did at night (ok, it still is, sometimes. I’m working on it!)
Try shutting down all the screens (TV, computers, iPads, phones etc.) about an hour before bedtime. What can you do for that hour? Read. Crochet. Talk to your partner. Read to your children. Work on a puzzle. Draw. Write in your journal. Have a cup of tea. Listen to music. Any activity that is relaxing and not too mentally intensive.
OK this is simple, but not easy. It’s a big lifestyle change for many of us. But reducing screen time has had great results:
“The no-screen-time thing was the lynchpin for me and I’ll be continuing it. I usually check my e-mail just before bed; consciously closing my laptop and not opening it at a certain time both calmed me down and the routine of it helped my body get ready for sleep.”
“At the beginning of the week I found it really hard to mentally turn off my mind chatter. I had decided to not use my computer at all after a set time because I do notice the lighting in the computer ( even when turned down to the lowest setting ) seems to affect my ability to sleep when I use it right before bed. So changing this habit was tricky and something I would like to keep trying …I am sure that will have a profound affect on my ability to sleep.”
Curious to try this yourself? The sleep experiment is going to stay open for awhile to collect more results and experiences, so sign up today!
Have you noticed that lighting and screen time impacts your sleep? Share your experiences in the comments!