Light tells your body when it’s time to sleep. Light controls your body’s “internal clock”. Light makes us feel awake, alert and energetic.
It’s supposed to be dark at night. It’s supposed to be dark whenever people want to sleep.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. At home, we are surrounded by light emitting devices.
The problem is, even artificial light is enough to suppress the production of Melatonin. And now, more than ever, we are surrounded by artificial light. Having the television on, the light from an alarm clock, cell phones that light up, the panel on a TV cable box, lights on a modem, nightlights and the light on a burglar alarm control box can hinder the production of Melatonin.
Outside of hotel rooms there are usually lights on all night and curtains are not always thick enough to block it all of the light. Travel is even harder. Planes, trains and automobiles all emit lots of light of their own and that of devices used by other passengers.
Trying to sleep on an airplane is even harder. Cabin lighting may be dimmed, but is not completely off. People all around are watching TV’s, using computers, tablets and phones.
Whether it’s real darkness or simulated darkness with an eye mask for sleeping, people produce a hormone called Melatonin. Melatonin is produced in your brain’s pineal gland. Melatonin sends sleep and wake signals to your brain. As Melatonin levels rise, your brain tells your body it’s time to go to sleep. Muscles relax, body temperature drops and you become drowsy. That’s why Melatonin is sometimes referred to as the “sleep hormone”.
After about 3am, Melatonin levels begin to drop so, by day break, you will easily awaken and feel refreshed. With the light of the day, Melatonin levels remain low until evening, when the cycle repeats.
When your body’s natural wake and sleep cycle, known as the Circadian Rhythm is interrupted, you can suffer from insomnia and other medical problems such as depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
Light is the method by which a body knows when to sleep and when to wake up. Light is registered by light sensitive cells in your eyes. Those cells tell your brain whether it’s daytime or nighttime, and this controls the production of Melatonin.
By understanding how light affects the chemicals that tell a body when to sleep and when to wake up, you can control your environment to ensure your best night’s sleep. About an hour before bedtime, turn off the TV. Reduce and eliminate as much light as possible.
It’s not an accident that people sleep at night. It’s biological.