Is it COVID or just a Bad Pillow?
I saw a patient last week who told me that she can't sleep at night. "I watch CNN before I go to bed. Between COVID and the elections, my head is spinning. By the time I close my laptop and turn the lights off, I'm too wound up to sleep. Should I get a better pillow?"
There are two sleep robbers in her story. Can you guess what they are?
Ok, she wasn't drinking coffee at night. But... Computers and CNN!
Computer screens (including our phones) emit short-wavelength, artificial blue light. Although staring at blue lights during the day tends to boost attention and mood, long blasts of those blue light rays at night doesn't do much for sleep. Correction. It does affect sleep, just in a BAD way. Blue light:
Melatonin: The Hormone of Darkness
You've seen commercials for melatonin as a sleeping pill. But did you know that your pineal glad produces melatonin all by itself for no cost?
There's only one problem. Our brain only produces melatonin at night--in darkness. You know where this is going. Exposure to light, prevents the natural release of melatonin that makes us sleepy at night. Even dim light can reduce melatonin secretion. Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher says, "Light at night is part of the reason so many people don't get enough sleep." Short sleep increases your risk for depression, diabetes and heart disease.
So turn off those computers at least an hour before bed. Or if you are truly an addict, dim your screen light to the lowest you can stand. Maybe the frustration of barely seeing the screen will get you to put your computer away and turn on some chill music instead.
What about CNN you ask? You probably already know why watching emotionally-charged, worry-inducing, heart-racing news interferes with sleep.
Do you have trouble falling asleep? Tell us why?