Hi, all! This is the continuation of my short series how to sleep well during the warmer and longer days of summer. As mentioned in Part 1, people generally find a dark, cool, quiet environment most conducive to sleep. Today’s entry is devoted to improving your sleep by keeping your sleeping environment dark.
By way of background, light is an extremely potent outside influence on your “body clock,” which regulates the timing of certain biological functions of your body. Exposure of your retinas to light stimulates a neurologic pathway through your brain, essentially telling your body clock it’s time to be awake. As such, exposure to light shortly upon arising in the morning can cause you to feel more awake and alert, and bright light exposure late at night can cause insomnia. Even relatively modest light can have a stimulatory effect. It makes sense, then, that shielding your bedroom from bright light is important during the summer, when the sun often shines relatively late into the evening, carrying both light and heat into your room.
Here’s a couple of considerations to darken your room.
1. Sleep in a room without windows. If you can. Basements are great for that, for example, and some of my patients simply migrate to a basement bedroom each summer to sleep better.
2. Sleep in a room which has windows that don’t face westward. The sun sets in the west.
3. Cover your windows. I recognize this seems obvious, but it’s amazing how many people sleep in bedrooms with bare windows.
4. Cover your windows with something dark (preferably black) and thick, such as black curtains. Venetian blinds generally don’t do a great job of shielding the room from light.
5. Turn your bed away from your windows.
6. Turn off all the lights and the television when you’re ready to go to sleep. Again, I’m stating the obvious here, but many people sleep with lights and other electronics on.
7. Turn around or turn off glowing electronics, like digital alarm clocks. If you’re an insomniac, turning your nightstand clock around will have the added benefit of keeping you from the deadly habit of “clock-watching,” which I’ve written about in previous entries. It would also be helpful to turn off the lights one night and simply look around the room, looking for electronic lights. You might be surprised about how much glowing, blinking stuff coinhabits your sleeping space, from your DVR, stereo, laptop, cable box, or whatever. Turn off or hide whatever light sources you can, even if they’re small. Turn down brightness levels as well if possible.
8. Reconsider your nightlight. Some people have long slept with a nightlight without problems, but bed partners may be bothered by this. Discuss this with your spouse or bed partner. If a nightlight is absolutely necessary, consider getting one that can be dimmed.
9. If necessary and if all else fails, sleep masks or even dark sunglasses can help. Hopefully, however, you can keep your entire bedroom dark throughout the night.
Sleep well, everyone! The third and final entry in this series: how to keep your bedroom quiet during the summer. Enjoy these months of warmth: winter is coming.