Power Down for a Better Night’s Sleep

Doctors recommend getting seven to eight hours of sleep daily. Unfortunately, two out of three adults fail to get enough sleep. The result can be impaired physical and mental functioning and, over time, possible lasting health damage.

If you’re getting less sleep or having more difficulty falling asleep than you used to, your electronic devices may be to blame. New research from Harvard Medical School demonstrates that certain wavelengths of light commonly produced by cell phone and other portable device screens can disrupt the brain’s production of melatonin (the hormone that triggers sleepiness).

Engaging with brightly lit, highly stimulating devices late at night can throw off your body’s circadian clock. To help trigger your body into preparing for sleep, dim ambient lighting and avoid fast-paced activities or over-stimulating entertainment. If you like to watch TV before bedtime, watch from a good distance with the volume low.

Here’s what sleep experts consulted by Bloomberg (January 7, 2014) advise: “Setting a technology curfew and using yellow-based lighting in the evening that can be dimmed and switched off completely by 10:30 p.m. will improve chances of a good night’s sleep.

Soothing Light for a Restful Night… Is Now Illegal?

Unfortunately, the warm, yellow glow of incandescent light bulbs has been declared illegal in the United States. A ban on the production of new incandescent bulbs all the way down to 40 watts goes into effect this year. Retailers are expected to run out of all inventories of existing conventional light bulbs 40 watts and higher sometime this spring. Once they do, Americans may never be able to obtain conventional light bulbs again, except on the black market.

The alternatives – mainly halogens, CFLs, and LEDs – tend to give off a harsher, more industrial-looking light. They are also much more expensive (which is why GE and other light bulb manufacturers actually got behind the incandescent ban) and tend to perform poorly with dimmer switches.

Consider stockpiling incandescent light bulbs if they are still obtainable at the time you’re reading this. Maybe public outrage will force Congress to repeal the ban. But if not, useable incandescent bulbs will only become scarcer (and more valuable on the black market) over time.

Natural Ways to Conquer Sleeplessness

A simple way to combat problems sleeping at night is to get vigorous exercise during the day. You’ll work off stress and spend pent-up energy, which will cause you to sleep better at night.

Another way to help cue your body to slumber is by taking melatonin supplements. Melatonin is derived from a hormone excreted by the pineal gland into the blood system. Though not effective for everyone, research suggests that supplementing with it will ease you into sleep, on average, about four minutes sooner and add an extra 12 minutes to your night’s rest. Melatonin supplements are available at major nutrition and vitamin stores. They may help just a little without the morning grogginess caused by harsh over-the-counter or prescription sleep medications, which can be habit-forming.

If you’re on prescription medications, make sure they aren’t keeping you up or causing excess fatigue. Check the label, or ask your pharmacist for information.

Finally, consider valerian root. It contains two powerful chemicals with significant and proven sedative properties: valerenic acid and valepotriates. Valerian root supplements are widely available through vitamin/nutrition stores.