Sleep is essential for our bodies to be able to function at their best level. It’s not just “down time;” sleep allows muscles be able to repair and rebuild from the day’s stress. It also helps the muscles to release growth hormones for children who are still growing. Sleeping an adequate amount helps the brain because cerebral spinal fluid is pumped more quickly and helps to remove “waste products.” (This is why after a good night’s sleep things usually seem clearer when you wake up.) Finally, sleep helps our hearts. While we are sleeping the heart isn’t under as much stress, which helps to reduce blood pressure.
Those are physical benefits of getting a good night’s rest, but there is even more to the story. Sleeping the recommended amount of time, and getting good quality sleep helps to improve learning abilities, developmental health, and memory.
A problem that has surfaced in the last decade or so is the use of devices/technology before bed. Yes, it is convenient that you can check email, or the kids can play on the tablet while in bed, but this is likely doing more harm than good. The ‘blue’ light that emits from a phone, tablet, game or TV screens interfere with our sleeping schedules.
So how does this whole blue light affect the quality of your sleep? It’s simple and complicated all at the same time. Melatonin, which is made in the pineal gland, is a hormone that tells the brain it is time to go to sleep. When there is too much of the blue light from electronics, it reduces the ability of the pineal gland to release melatonin. This can make it harder to fall asleep, leading to a less well-rested night and fewer hours sleeping.
1) The National Sleep Foundation suggests having a 30-minute window before when you want to fall asleep without any devices or screens. This will allow your brain or your child’s brain to start sending signals that melatonin needs to be released and its time for bed.
2) Make your bedroom a technology-free zone. This does include the TV. It is difficult to have the TV or other devices within reaching distance not be tempted to use them. Instead, watch TV or use phones while in another room and then go to your room as soon as you’re ready for bed. Don’t go to bed and watch TV for 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep.
3) Some prefer some noise when they sleep, and that is why they have a TV on at night. A constant stream of sound can be helpful, as it drowns out outside noises or snoring partner. Instead of TV, invest in a noise machine or run a fan at night. This “white noise” can also be helpful for those who say its “too quiet” to sleep
In the next blog, we’ll talk about other common issues that can keep you from getting good rest. These include sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.