As Daylight Saving approaches, it’s an excellent time to evaluate the effects this small change—as well as other habits—has on your sleep cycle.
Dr. Robert Rosenberg, author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, explains the complexities of one’s biological clock, called circadian biology. Circadian rhythms are the natural oscillations that occur within the 24-hour cycle and regulate eating, sleeping, and much more. When this rhythm is disrupted, one may have difficulty with delayed sleep, hormone dysregulation, as well as changes in body temperature and moodiness. Though November 2nd will provide a much-needed extra hour of sleep, it holds up a magnifying glass to some of the larger sleep issues from which many people suffer.
As Dr. Rosenberg states, the circadian biology is incredibly sensitive, regulating human sleep and waking cycles with the outside world. One of the largest factors that affects these sleep rhythms is light, with other stimuli being exercise, noise, meals, and temperature. Though the onset of winter and the loss of longer daylight hours will give one more opportunities for a little extra sleep, other factors could be playing a large role in disrupting your sleep cycle.
Blue Light Pollution
That eerie glow from your cell phone, tablet, and/or computer emits blue light that disrupts our genetically coded natural sleep rhythms. Retinal ganglion cells in the eye respond to light and dark, communicating with the neurons at the brain’s base that sets your daily circadian cycle. Melanopsin is particularly sensitive to blue light and triggers a reduction in melatonin production, which induces sleep. This results in an inability to fall asleep and to wake up, as melatonin levels are inappropriately elevated in the morning. To correct this, try turning off your electronics at least two hours before you plan to go to bed and use red nightlights in the bedroom for illumination. Of all light wavelengths, red light has the least effect on melatonin production. If turning off your electronics is impossible, try wearing blue blocker sunglasses, which eliminates the harmful effects of blue light without inhibiting your ability to interact with the technology.
If you are having trouble sleeping, room temperature could be the culprit. One of the major signals that occur with the onset of sleep is a drop in core body temperature, so a cool room is much better for sleep. The Sleep Foundation puts the ideal room temperature between 54 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Dr. Rosenberg recommends a room temperature of around 68 degrees, as it harmonizes with the drop in body temperature after about four or five hours of sleep.
Believe it or not, room color has a noticeable effect on one’s sleep rhythms. The hotel chain Travelodge conducted a survey of 2,000 guests and determined that pale blue was the ideal color to encourage the maximize length of sleep, as it is normally associated with calmness. The next best color was pale yellow and green came in third, with those surveyed reporting that they woke up “feeling upbeat and positive.”
Sometimes, though, simple fixes are not enough. In the United States, approximately 70 million people suffer from chronic sleep problems. To find out if your sleep issues are the result of one, take this quiz and check out Dr. Robert Rosenberg’s book, Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day.