Lighting & Sleep

Some of my health ideas have made me feel like the guy on the Discovery Channel talking about aliens interacting with ancient humans. I can tell when people are listening to me (to be polite) but think I’m crazy. Now, though, optimizing sleep is a common topic in Paleo forums and podcasts. You may even find an occasional article about it from your usual news source.

Artificial lighting at night concerns me. I live in a studio style apartment with everything in one room. I’ve taken serious measures to blacken my room for sleep. I put electrical tape over the standby lights of my TV, PS3, modem, and wireless router. I got thick curtains that block the lights from outside. I have an intercom and gas/hot water control center in the kitchen. I turn them off at night because they emit a faint light. With everything taped, shut, or off, my room is a perfect dark. You can’t see anything. Friends who spend the night at my place always say something like, “It’s so dark! It’s literally pitch black.”

Why did I go to such an extreme for a dark sleep environment? I started noticing light affecting my sleep quality in my mid twenties. I became more sensitive in my late twenties. Now in my early thirties, I can’t get a good night of sleep unless my room is near black. I have no trouble falling asleep in sub-optimal conditions, but the lights and flickering leave me feeling slow and sore the next day. I don’t feel fully rested.

Why not just use an eyemask? In one study, researchers shined a light behind the subjects knees (so it couldn’t be detected by the subjects’ eyes). There was a correlation with poorer sleep quality and light on the skin. It seems our skin has photoreceptors. This is true for the sun and also artificial lighting, especially LED. When they shine on our skin, it reduces our production of melatonin. This sleep hormone affects our circadian rhythms and thus impacts our sleep quality. Consider how sunlight can affect hormones, mood, and circadian rhythms. I think artificial lighting in excess and at the wrong times is detrimental for similar reasons. Read more here.

“Aliens, man. They’re comin’ for us.”

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