What do perfectly manicured square pictures have to do with how well you sleep?
So last night I was awake. Not just awake, I was owl eyed, wriggly worm wired. And today there was no chance of that bird getting any kind of worm. Anyone who has ever experience this kind of awake knows the perils that follow. Crazy impossible thoughts on all the things that could happen, but probably won’t, a conveyor belt list of all the things you have forgotten to do in the last 12 months and the random panic about whether you turned the oven off or not…better go check.
But the worst part of it all was, that it was my own fault.
You see, in the hour before my bed time, I scrolling. No, I was not rolling up lengths on ye olde parchment. I was mindlessly, endlessly, addictively scrolling through all the perfectly styled 1080px by 1080px squares on Instagram. And I know better! I spend more time than my fair share of talking to clients about the importance of sleep hygiene to get a better night sleep. And what pray tell is sleep hygiene I hear you say? More than just washing before bed, sleep hygiene refers to the list of things you can do before bed to set yourself up for the best chance at experiencing that honey-heavy dew of slumber which Shakespeare so passionately wrote of. A list on which turning off screens is on top. I will explain why…
Our wake/sleep cycle, or Circadian Rhythm as the ‘Sleepsperts’ call it, is regulated by the hormone Melatonin. It’s kind of like the celebrity name you would get if there Mel Gibson and Tony Abbott were to somehow find themselves in a relationship- weird thought…let’s move on….
Melatonin is produced by a teeny glad in the brain called the pineal gland (not to be mistaken for a pinenut in name, size and in shape). Melatonin production is triggered by low light. Production begins in the early evening as the sun goes down, and peaks during the night, gently wearing off in time to stir us from slumber.
The light with is emitted from screens, specifically the 470nm blue light, including that from TV’s, laptops, tablets and phones, have the capacity to disrupt this production, resulting in a delay in the production and/or a reduction in the amount produced. The end product being that monkey brain kind of sleep described above. A study completed in 2013 by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute reported a 22% decrease in melatonin production after 2 hours of screen exposure. However no effect was seen when participants used goggles with orange filters or for exposure for less than 1 hour.
It also seems important to note that Melatonin receptors are also found in the cells of the ovaries, with melatonin playing a role in the regulation of the female menstrual cycle. Receptors also act on cells in the gut, pituitary gland, testes and blood vessels, and has a strong anti-oxidant and immune boosting capacity. In a related manner, but not so directly link to melatonin, poor sleep also plays a role on weight maintenance. It is becoming increasingly clear that adequate sleep is a MUST to reduce risk for obesity, diabetes, depression and cardiovascular disease. For weight loss particularly a chronic lack results in altered appetite regulating hormones, reduced self-control and increased drive for the sweet sugar kicks we normally associate with 3pm.
So you can see why I harp on about the screen thing quite a bit, but at this stage of reading this you are probably thinking something similar to ‘Blah blah blah, get to the point, what does this all mean how I stop it?’
Cliff notes? Turn off your screen at LEAST an hour before bed, if you want to have a good night sleep and experience all the aforementioned benefits thereof. There are now some IT products offering light filtering screens which could be a goer, however, short of covering your current phone in orange cellophane, there is still nothing wrong with a good old paper back or part taking in some pre-bed relaxation exercises. The take away for me? Walk the walk and do as I say to my clients (slap on my own wrist essentially) and resist the call of the insta-scolling!