Lights Out

On the MyFitnessPal blog a couple of months ago: “the surprising connection between obesity and artificial light.”

Years ago I convinced the spouse that we needed to kick the TV out of the bedroom, but we still keep substantial “night-lights” on in the bedroom and hallway for the elderly dog, There are also glowing LEDs from a modem and a router (I try to block them in various ways, but the light still spills around). There’s a streetlight outside our bedroom window. And because we don’t close the bedroom door – also for the sake of the elderly dog – light randomly blasts in through other windows from our neighbor’s monstrous motion-activated security lights.

I sometimes feel like we’re trying to sleep under stadium lights. The spouse claims not to be disturbed by it (I beg to differ), but I most certainly am. I’ve tried sleeping masks and have “broken” three of them in just a couple of years (the elastic bands always tear off) and eventually took to draping a t-shirt or hand towel across my eyes at night. But when I finally get access to a truly dark room for sleeping (such as when I’m staying at a hotel), what a difference it makes! I used to joke that I must have light receptors in my skin, but it turns out that may not be a joke!

This is not new news, right? We know we need sleep for our brains to function during the day, and you’ve probably also read that inadequate sleep is associated with weight gain — even if you’re exercising and trying to eat “right”! (Yeah, it may be specifically harder to lose fat when you’re sleep-deprived.) The Centers for Disease Control considers sleep deprivation to be a public health crisis. And those of us “of a certain age” know we spend less time in deep sleep, and wake more easily and more often through the night.

So what would it take to make more and better sleep a priority in our health and fitness routine? Here are some suggestions from the National Institutes of Health:

  • “A light bedtime snack may be helpful. Many people find that warm milk increases sleepiness, because it contains a natural, sedative-like amino acid.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine (found in coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate) for at least 3 or 4 hours before bed.
  • DO NOT take naps during the day.
  • Exercise (moderately) in the afternoon.
  • Avoid too much stimulation, such as violent TV shows or computer games, before sleep. Practice relaxation techniques at bedtime.
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time each morning.
  • Use the bed only for sleep or sexual activity.
  • Avoid tobacco products, especially before sleep.
  • Ask your provider if any of the medicines you take may affect your sleep.
  • If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet activity, such as reading or listening to music.
  • When you feel sleepy, get back in bed and try again. If you still cannot fall asleep in 20 minutes, repeat the process.
  • Drinking alcohol at bedtime may make you sleepy. However, it is best to avoid alcohol, because it can make you wake up later in the night.”




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