It seems so obvious. Who in the world needs to learn how to go to sleep at night?
We just get into bed and go to sleep. Some people think it’s crazy that anyone would have to learn how to go to sleep.
Wealthy people pay a ton of money to lay down in a dimly lit room and practice sleeping!
Our culture is chronically stressed, sleep deprived, and overworked. While I think this is done on purpose to keep us consuming and not thinking, it is what it is.
Hard work and lack of sleep are badges of honor in our society. How many people brag about sending emails at 2am? Have you ever had someone share with proud declaration that they’ve been getting 4 hours of sleep a night so they can work on their business?
Our movies have made sleep into something only pot heads and slackers would do.
Well, it’s come full circle. Sleep is now the new status symbol. If you can afford to sleep 8 hours at night you are probably independently wealthy!
What We Know
We know sleep keeps us stay healthy. It helps us age more slowly, be more creative, fight cancer and so much more.
And yet STILL, most of us do not get enough sleep.
There are too many great programs on TV, too much social media to catch up on and too many late night functions to stop and sleep at a reasonable hour.
Sleep is not complicated. You don’t need expert hacks and expensive devices. Just follow a few simple rules. Adhering to the sleep rules while living in our modern society is the difficult part.
Do You Need More Sleep?
One-third of Americans do not get enough sleep.
68% of Americans report having trouble falling asleep at least once a week and even those of us getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep every night often report waking up tired and groggy.
That means you fall asleep quickly and wake up 8 hours later but either feel tired or your body has not done the internal cleansing necessary to stave off disease and maintain health.
Stay Out of the Light
The benefits of sleep are destroyed if you expose your eyes or your body or both to light at night.
Your eyes are the most important part to protect.
Your smart phone, TV, and even the new LED streetlights are destroying your body’s ability to fight cancer. All these lights prevent us from getting the right signals to our body to promote sleep.
We live in a modern world that lights up our homes, offices, and cities as if it were daylight in the middle of the night. This is not in sync with the way our biology works.
By the way, many of the photos in this post were produced by a talented graphic designer Samantha Nienow from Red Zest Design for a TEDx presentation I gave on Light Hacking in April 2017 at TEDx Gull Lake in Minnesota. If you ever need a graphic designer for a critical presentation, Samantha is totally amazing!
We need to do more to minimize the modern world’s impact to our health and maximize our lifestyles by living as close as we can to nature.
We can’t and won’t all live in the woods in a tent. Some of us have partners unwilling to make changes and others aren’t ready to move out to the woods. We have to understand how to fix our sleep in the place we live, regardless of our environment. Actually, we need to modify our environment enough to set us up for optimal sleep and thus health.
We want to strive for the ideal
- Cool sleeping environment
- Dark sleeping environment
- Connected to the Earth
- Away from non-native EMF (electromagnetic frequencies)
- Immersed in nature
- Free of stress
- Surrounded by loved ones in a safe environment
- Using proper light at night or blocking improper and poor lighting that stresses our biology
- Free of loud sounds that can stress you and keep you up
Most of us do not meet any of those criteria.
I know we all love our lifestyle and modern convenience, but creating daylight when it’s supposed to be dark is making us sick and tired. This is one of the worst things we could do to our bodies at night. We pound ourselves all day with pollutants in the air, chemicals in our food and unnatural stressors from sitting to poor lighting and then when it comes to rejuvenate and relax at night, we just make things worse.
The way our bodies are designed is that we’re supposed to experience firelight at night or darkness. Firelight does not destroy our sleep or our health when we use this type of light at night. And the infrared and red light from the fire is healing to our body. That radiant warmth you get coming from a fire is the infrared energy that our body uses for health among other things.
There is a reason we can’t sleep well at night. The reason we wake up tired, even though we got plenty of sleep and the reason we’re harming our health at night is because we’re stopping our body’s natural production of melatonin.
The hormone Melatonin is released from our pineal gland, gut bacteria and other cells shortly after sunset and is responsible for many of the benefits we get from sleep.
Melatonin is a potent anti-cancer agent, helps us fall asleep quickly each night, and reduces inflammation and supports our immune system while we sleep.
Melatonin and it’s opposite, cortisol, are produced in our body based on the light and dark cycles of the earth. The light and dark are actual biological signals to our body and brain that give us the information we use to determine what hormones to produce based on the time of day.
This is called our circadian rhythm and humans have based their life and health on this rhythm in sync with our planet for millions of years.
Melatonin is thought to help us fall asleep and supports our body in recover and repair during sleep. Cortisol helps wake us up and keep us alert during the day. We do not want to reverse these cycles or produce one of the hormones all the time while suppressing the other.
When we expose ourselves to light at night, we destroy our melatonin. Our bodies need to be in darkness to produce melatonin.
Light at night signals to our body that its daytime. This signal shuts off our production of melatonin. Now we have lost the benefits of melatonin, we have trouble falling asleep, we wake up tired and groggy, we don’t perform well at work the next day and we lose patience more easily. We’ve also just increased our risk for cancer.
Studies have shown that women who work at night are at an increased risk of breast cancer and men who work at night are at an increased risk of prostate cancer. These are just the only cancers we have so far studied and exposure to light at night is the most likely cause of this. We’re disrupting our natural circadian rhythm.
It’s not just any light at night that can stop melatonin production and destroy our health. As we noted, firelight, what we would have been exposed to for all human history, does not stop melatonin production.
It’s the blue frequency of light that stops melatonin.
Our modern LED and CFL lights are too high in the blue spectrum of light. Our devices and TVs also use LED technology based on high blue light. It’s this spike of blue light at night, and too much blue during the day without the other light spectrums that’s an issue.
The American Medical Association even issued a warning letter against replacing streetlights with LED lights based on their health risks, and both Harvard Medical School and the NIH have released studies linking light exposure at night, and blue light to cancer and other health impacts.
Artificial light at night is making it harder for us to go to sleep and it’s harming our health!
Firelight does not stop melatonin production. Candles and fire are what our body expects to see, other than total darkness. If you are doing anything in between, you are harming yourself.
It’s also likely that soon, we will work out the right frequencies in LEDs to make them useable and compatible with biology, but I’m not holding my breath. Most LED lights on the market are downright harmful for health.
If you want to get the benefits of sleep without moving to the forest, living in a teepee and lighting with candles, then check out our