Although sleep problems can have a variety of causes, one major cause of insomnia is a disrupted circadian rhythm. Because of our modern, 21st century lifestyle, we’ve become way out of tune with the earth’s normal day-night cycle.
Luckily, there’s a few things you can do about this.
Get lots, lots and lots of sunlight exposure
Since the dawn of time, our ancestors have spent most of their day outside. Whether they worked the fields, hunted animals, or picked nuts and berries, they never holed up inside their cave or dwelling all day long, like we do.
With the dawn of the industrial age, and more recently, the modern information age, more and more people have been sentenced to a life of desk work, and spend their time holed up inside, working at their computers.
Being inside exposes you to very little light, especially when compared to the light you get outside from daylight. The amount of light you’re exposed to can be measured in lux. The amount of lux you’re exposed to on a sunny day can reach to over 100.000 lux.
In comparison, while inside the office, you will probably not even reach 1000 lux. And even on an overcast day, outside daylight can provide over 10.000 lux, which is still ten times as much as inside lighting. As you can see, there’s really no competition for daylight when it comes to proper light exposure.
Here are some strategies to implement that you can use to increase your light exposure, and as a result, improve your sleep.
Get outside and expose yourself to daylight in the morning
The most important time to expose yourself to light by far, is in the morning. Light is the primary signal that tells your brain that day has begun. That’s why it’s important that your brain receives that daytime signaler as soon as possible. Open your curtains and if possible even your window.
If it’s still dark outside, you could use a lightbox that emits strong blue light in the morning. When using this, expose your eyes for at least half an hour to its light. Try to get enough light on the way to work as well. One way to go about it is walk to work, or go to work on your bicycle if possible.
Get enough light during the daytime
This might be tricky if you work a desk job, or some other job that requires you to be inside all day. One way to circumvent this, is to put a blue light lightbox on your desk and turn it on all day. Another strategy is to go outside during lunchbreak and eat your lunch outside, while exposed to daylight.
Avoid light exposure in the evening
Just as you need lots of light in the daytime, you want to avoid getting too much light exposure in the evening. At daytime, your brain needs to get a daytime signal. In the evening, your brain needs to know nighttime is coming. Artificial light interferes with that. Especially watching a lot of TV and spending the evening at your computer screen will mess with your ability to sleep well.
One way to avoid this is to buy blue blocker glasses. These block the light frequencies that interfere with your sleep. Another good way to reduce blue light exposure in the evening is to install f.lux on your computer and cell phone.
Also, make sure your bedroom is completely dark. It’s a proven fact that any nighttime light exposure has a negative effect on your circadian rhythm. Even just 5 lux, and probably even less, has the ability to screw up your circadian rhythm.
If you’re able to implement these things consistently, you’re well on your way to sleep a lot better.
Tom Peeters is a former insomniac who fixed his sleeping problems, and now helps others overcome theirs. These days he blogs on his website The Sleep Strategy to spread the message of good sleep.