By Mylinh Nguyen BSc DNM® R.TCMP R.Ac
According to most sleep experts, a typical adult requires at least 6 hours of sleep in a day and it is commonly recommended that a person get 8 hours. Unfortunately, for many, getting a greater quantity of sleep does not translate into a better quality of sleep. It is not uncommon to hear people complaining about fatigue even after receiving 8+ hours of sleep. Why does this happen?
Over the past decade, science has revealed that the solution to achieving truly restorative sleep actually lies in the amount of light in the room. Experiments have shown that quality sleep is achieved when a person sleeps in complete darkness. Below is a list of some of the top benefits scientists have found with people who sleep in the dark.
Regulation of Melatonin Production
It can be argued that one of the most important hormones in the body is melatonin. Proper levels of melatonin are required for a person to experience rejuvenating sleep. This hormone is secreted from the pineal gland during the night. Studies have shown that sleeping while exposed to light may reduce or delay the production of melatonin, which in turn disrupts the sleep cycle. Apart from encouraging healthy sleep, melatonin is also beneficial for regulating other hormones in the body, including those that direct a woman’s menstrual cycle.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism supported the findings that sleeping with the lights on delayed the production of melatonin, leading to increased risk of diabetes, obesity and sarcopenia (muscle loss).
Enhancing Mental Focus
Sleeping in the dark not only reduces insomnia, but it also improves your mental focus and alertness during the day. The average sleep cycle is about 90 minutes in length. A healthy sleep cycle can improve your emotional well-being and has been linked to a reduction in mental illnesses such as stress, anxiety and depression. Given the actual length of a sleep cycle, it is ideal to aim for 6, 7 ½ or 9 hours of sleep each night. Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle leads to fatigue and poor concentration the following day.
Anti-Aging and Anti-inflammatory Benefits
Apart from its relaxing effects, sleeping in the dark has known anti-aging benefits. Studies have shown that cellular regeneration is more active when the body is in a complete resting state with the absence of light. This greater level of regeneration leads to anti-inflammatory and hormonal balancing effects which in turn enable the body to heal faster and slow down the aging process.
Given the tremendous health supporting benefits of sleeping in the dark, if you are not already doing so, you will want to strongly consider making quality sleep a priority in your life.
The first step to take in eliminating light exposure at night would be to invest in a good set of blackout curtains or blinds. There are many different varieties on the market today and this will help you in choosing the ideal option for your bedroom.
The next step would be to remove anything in the bedroom that gives off light, such as a digital clock or night light. It is especially important to avoid using a night light in a child’s bedroom. Doing so can interfere with their quality of sleep and can result in impaired growth and development.
Because we have photoreceptors on our skin throughout our entire body, simply wearing an eye mask overnight will not be adequate. To gain full advantage of the health benefits of sleeping in complete darkness, it is important to ensure that the entire room is free from all light sources.
Taking the few simples steps listed above and improving your sleep hygiene will be one of the best investments you could make towards supporting your health and longevity.