With all our focus on the importance of bright light to “wake up your brain,” we must not forget how important it is to dim down the lights to fall asleep naturally. We can get a bit addicted to the excitement that bright light gives us (and to our having just a little more time to do the things we enjoy), so we often leave our lights on late into the night and then expect ourselves to fall asleep “on a dime” when we’re finally ready. We have talked to so many people who stay up much later than they mean to because “there is so little time in the day for me.” It’s a chance to do the things they really crave doing, from reading to watching TV. Then when they have stayed up way past the time they would need to go to bed to get a good night’s sleep (most people need about 7 hours for good functioning), they precipitously turn off the light and wait for sleep to hit them.

After 20 minutes have gone by and they’re still not asleep, they wish they had a pill that to help them sleep. We would suggest that instead of reaching for a pill, they begin to turn the light down low an hour before they plan to go to bed, get away from their TV and computer screens (or install f.lux, which we described in an earlier blog), and do some relaxing reading. They’re likely to find that their eyes will want to drift shut at just about their real “bedtime” and that they wake up more rested and clear-headed. Sleep researchers have found that even fairly low levels of light at night decrease the melatonin spike that tells our bodies it’s time to sleep. Let us not over-emphasize bright light and productivity so much that we forget about the blissful sleep and rest we need for enjoyable living!

Meanwhile, check out this short article on celebrating Daylight Savings Time this weekend by re-setting your sleep habits. (And while on the topic of habits, let’s not forget, three months into the year, about the symbolic importance of New Year’s resolutions to improving our daily routines as well!)