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Darkness is Important for Deep Sleep and Hormone Balance


Written by Dr. Chris Smith, Updated on April 8th, 2021
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One of the most crucial factors in preserving Hormone Balance is a good night's sleep. While modern conveniences allow us to stay up all night, we're ultimately diurnal beings. We're meant to be awake during the day and to sleep at night. For most people, nightfall triggers reduced brain activity and induce feelings of sleepiness.

Artificial light disrupts this natural system, however. Bright lights, like those of a cell phone or laptop screen, can disrupt the brain's natural bedtime rhythms. There's lots of evidence out there that exposure to bright lights just before bed makes it a lot harder to experience deep and restful sleep. Sleeping with the television on can be even worse.

Blue Light Wavelengths Make It Harder to Sleep Well

Not all light is created equal, however. The ultimate culprit is blue light. Blue light is associated with the sky on a sunny day, which tricks our brains into thinking that it's daytime. Melatonin is the hormone that triggers drowsiness. Many people take it as a sleep supplement, but it's naturally produced by the human brain. Blue lights keep us awake by suppressing melatonin activity.

When the sun goes down, the body is free to produce melatonin which puts us to sleep. This makes 100% sense from an evolutionary perspective. Humans have terrible night vision, so our bodies are designed to shut down in the dark. There's even evidence that long-term late-night blue light exposure increases the risk of depression. One common strategy to improve sleep quality is to eliminate artificial light in the bedroom.

How Does a Good Night's Sleep Promote Hormone Balance?

If you're looking to maximize your wellness, it's critical to do everything you can to get a great night's sleep. Ideally, your brain should go through the four phases of sleep each night. Fitful sleep prevents you from experiencing the full benefits of deep sleep.

Stage 3 NREM Sleep is essential to Hormone Balance, memory, and immune function. It's during this phase that your body produces the highest levels of Human Growth Hormone, which repairs muscles and other tissues from the wear-and-tear of daily activity. It's estimated that 1/4th of your night should be spent in deep sleep.

Lightproof Your Bedroom for a Better Night's Sleep

This not only means turning off the cell phone and television in the bedroom but removing all sources of blue light from the bedroom, including LED alarm clocks and other minor sources of irritant light. Before bed, one night, turn the light off and look around. How dark is it, really? Do your curtains let in the street light?

How many annoying blinking lights are there? Make an effort to block these aberrant sources of light pollution. Put up curtains that are more effective at blocking outside light, or consider buying a sleep mask.

If you consider yourself somewhat of a tech buff, consider downloading an effective fitness/sleep tracker. Many of them can fit on your wrist, and they can do a great job of monitoring how well you are sleeping.

These tools keep a log of how much time you spend a night in restless, fitful sleep, often caused by outside influences.

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