Are you afraid of the dark? I was for most of my lifetime. With the help of a very traumatic childhood event and a chronically inflamed body due to poor diet and toxins, I could not get comfortable in the dark to save my life. It would send me into fear and panic. I eventually changed my diet and lifestyle to remove my anxiety, but I couldn’t even sit with my eyes closed until I finally acknowledged and worked through my body trauma. It sounds crazy, but I finally, only a few years ago began to feel comfortable enough to sit in silence— alone and in public with my eyes closed. The first time this happened was a big deal. But before then, I always had some sort of light source on— even through the night, while I would sleep. Little did I know that this was affecting my overall health.
You guys know that I’m a big promoter of sunshine. I truly believe it’s one of the (many) missing elements to health these days. But what about darkness? Did you know that darkness is equally as important?
Nature doesn’t mess up.
There are day (light) and night (darkness) cycles for a reason. For our species and for many others. In our current time, there is so much light pollution outside and inside our homes, that it’s affecting us in more serious ways than we can realize. (And sadly most animals too).
Darkness is vital for our existence and our health. But how? There are a lot of processes at play when the darkness rolls in. The biggest one? It signals our brains that it’s time to shut down, relax, and recover our bodies. Sleep is the time to restore and heal. It’s when our body doesn’t have to use its energy to move around, to digest food, to do whatever it is we need to do to make it through our day.
But more than that, darkness signals our brains to make melatonin. Why is this important? Well, melatonin is a hormone. And like all hormones, it is vital for how every process in our body works. If even one hormone is off, it affects all other hormones creating a cascade of problems in the body.
That means that if you’re not producing enough melatonin — by too much light at night (and not enough light during the day) — all other hormones that affect your stress/cortisol, reproductive, insulin/blood sugar levels, etc will be unbalanced too. Anxious? Not losing weight? Low immune system? Everything in the body needs to be balanced. And proper day/night schedules are a critical part of this natural balance. Again, nature doesn’t mess up— we just get in nature’s way! And think about how low melatonin levels can affect our growing kids. Ooof.
So now we’ve talked a little bit about light affecting our sleep, let’s try something new:
Sleeping in complete and total darkness for better sleep.
I’ve always hated blackout curtains. I like to be able to wake up with natural sunshine each and every day. But if you’re like me and you have neighboring lights outside your window, it’s time to consider purchasing some. Not wanting to make a curtain purchase right now? Try hanging extra drapes— a blanket, towel, whatever thicker fabric you can over your existing curtains to make your room darker. Try it out (that’s the post theme, isn’t it?) for a week, maybe two, and see how it affects your sleep. Then decide if you’re going to upgrade to blackout curtains or stick with the extra fabrics.
But what if you already have black-out curtains? Or if you live far enough from neighbors that you don’t experience much outdoor light pollution? GREAT! But what about inside your home? Do you have a hallway or bathroom light coming into your bedroom? Let’s shut those off too. If you find it necessary to have a hallway light on (maybe you’re like us and have to be careful of stinging scorpions if you get up for a midnight pee)— try a red light night light instead. A red light (while pretty ugly, IMO) is the less evasive color for nighttime awakenings. And/or you can always keep a redlight flashlight or a redlight headlamp by your bed (it’s our plan for the farm).
Anything else? Why yes, there is. In general, you shouldn’t sleep with any electronics in your bedroom (turning off the breaker at night would be great)— so remove as many electronics as you can. But if there are some that you require, make sure to remove all lighting sources from these as well. That pesky blue or green light is not one your brain understands in nature. A simple piece of tape, a sticker, or just dropping some fabric over the device will help.
Still can’t make it dark enough?
When it’s below 85F degrees in our house (you read that temperature right), I just wear my regular beanie and pull it down below my eyes. You can always wear an old-school sleep mask too. You can always decorate one for kids 🙂 Paint or stitch on some sleepy eyes or shapes 🙂 We always travel with a sleep mask for M– makes travel sleep SO much better for her!
If you pay attention too— you’ll notice how you sleep less during the time of the full moon— this can be for a few reasons (mainly parasites- learn how to cleanse parasite in THIS POST), but shutting the blinds will help for this too. Sometimes I skip the blinds during the full moon though— you never know, maybe that full moon has a purpose too (No studies on that yet– I’ve looked). But synthetic light certainly does not.
There are other factors in play to getting a really restful night’s sleep. I mentioned some above and hope to do a post specifically on increasing your sleep soon— I have A LOT of useful tips. In the meantime, stop confusing your brain with nighttime light and try this out! It’s an easy one– you just gotta set it up and let the darkness do the work 😉 Let me know how it goes! 🙂
PS. That daytime sun is equally important for melatonin production <3
PPS. I DO NOT recommend taking melatonin supplements. Synthetic hormones are NOT designed by nature for our bodies and can affect us negatively long term.
Do you have a “Something New” idea for a future week? Send me an email below! I’d love to hear your thoughts!