Most people should be well aware by now that getting enough sleep on a regular basis is an extremely important part of maintaining good health. Getting at least seven (but preferably eight, or even nine) hours of sleep every night can lead to countless benefits, including stress relief, reduced risk of many chronic disorders, improved memory and cognitive function, and possibly even weight loss and a longer lifespan./
But somehow, despite the supporting body of evidence that continues to grow, many of us still aren’t getting enough nightly sleep. Statistics show that 35% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep every night, while 63% say their sleep needs are not being met during the week. Why do so many people continue to have issues at bedtime?
There are a number of possible explanations that can help answer that question—including busy or fluctuating schedules, dietary habits, and insomnia—but in our technological age, one of the biggest culprits may actually be even simpler: light.
Research has shown that too much nighttime light exposure, especially from bright screens, suppresses the production of melatonin, the major hormone that controls sleep and wake cycles. A reduction in melatonin directly leads to sleeplessness, and not enough melatonin over time can impair immune system function and increase the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Short-wavelength, or blue light suppresses melatonin production the most, and it also happens to be the light typically emitted by devices like TVs, computers, tablets and cell phones. Normal levels of room lighting can also have similar effects, meaning a bright room with a bright screen is all around a bad combination when bedtime approaches.
The good news is making some basic modifications to your schedule can lead to some significant improvements in your sleeping habits. Residents of Kings Mountain- physical therapists from Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates recommends the following tips:
- Reserve your final hour before bed as a relaxing time that’s free of too much stimulation, especially any bright screens, including cell phones
- Make your bedroom a sanctuary and keep it cool, quiet and dark, and sleep on a mattress that’s not worn out and comfortable for you
- Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every night; on weekends, try to stick to this and only allow about a one-hour difference
- Spend time outdoors every day if possible and exercise regularly
- Avoid big meals a few hours before and alcohol right before bedtime
- Try software like lux, which makes your computer look like the room you’re in at all times by changing its colors appropriately
- Consider using a pair of amber-lensed goggles like Uvex once the sun goes down, which block blue light; it may be difficult to get over the concept of wearing goggles every night, but these have been proven to be effective
At Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates, with two locations in Shelby and Kings Mountain, NC, we encourage you to take these steps to improve your sleeping habits and overall health. For any aches or pains, call 704-471-0001 to schedule an appointment.