We all know how to stay healthy right? Exercise, eat right, avoid people you suspect of carrying the bubonic plague. But one major factor of good health is often overlooked: sleep. And today I’m not going to be talking to you about how long you should sleep, I promise. (Even though you should probably be getting around 7-9 hours of sleep.) Today I’d like to talk to you about darkness.
Now here’s the part where some of you might start thinking I’m crazy. Maybe old Johnny has finally lost his marbles. Maybe working with all that leaded solder has finally pushed him off the deep end. WELL I’M NOT CRAZY! And for the record I always wash my hands after soldering; I’m very cautious about lead poisoning. I’m serious, Darkness! It’s important.
It all comes down to something called the endogenous circadian rhythm. It’s that thing in our body that tells us when we should be sleepy, hungry, and other stuff like that. There’s a lot of chemistry in our bodies that is related to chemicals like melatonin that’s how this all works but I’m not going to discuss that here. (Check out this video if you want to learn more about it though.) What I want to talk about is how this ‘body clock’ gets set. And unless you skipped my introduction, you can probably guess that it has to do with light. Well it does! In the ancient times before electricity our circadian rhythms are regulated almost exclusively by the sun. When the sun rises our bodies know it’s morning and when it sets they know it’s night. You introduce things like electric lighting that keep the world bright well past sundown and our bodies get confused. Without the natural cue of darkness to jumpstart our body’s ‘nighttime mode’ it suddenly becomes much harder to fall asleep, get proper sleep, and even wake up in the morning. I honestly haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to how important circadian rhythms are so if you are so inclined, check out the article I just read here. What I will talk about is how you can start making your circadian rhythm work for you. Now with this you have some options…
1. Avoid all electric lighting especially at night. To successfully accomplish this I recommend following in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau.
Okay, that might not be the most realistic solution for most of us that enjoy the finer comforts in life like TV, electric lights, and running water. So for the less determined I suggest…
2. Dimming your lights at sunset or at least an hour before you go to bed, and investing in some blackout curtains if your neighborhood has outdoor lighting at night. Also, don’t use things like laptops and cellphones at night unless you have a blue light reducing app like f.lux installed.
This will do a lot of good in helping your circadian rhythms work properly. And I’m serious about the blue light thing, that’s actually what makes our bodies think it’s day time. Coincidentally I’m writing this after sunset with f.lux setup on my laptop.
Unfortunately I know some of you might be late night people like myself. Believe me I would love to get up at sunrise and sleep at 10 but some of us just don’t work that way. So for those of you like me at least…
3. Download the blue light reducing app, try to only do calm low activity things at night, and keep the bright lights to a minimum late at night. Even if you’re not sleeping at 10, this will help you get a better night sleep.
So that’s all I have for you today loyal readers. And I am both sad and excited to announce that this has been my last required blogpost for English 101. Sadly the sporadic health blogposts will, in all likelihood, cease. But feat not! I plan on revamping this website will many projects that I will work on this summer. More post about things like my forge and probably some cooking posts as well. So, I am not here to say goodbye. Rather, to invite you all to join me in this momentous transition for johnnydelgado.com. I hope you’ll stick around.
Sincerest Regards and Deepest Thanks,
P.S. I’m sorry this was so much longer than usual, but I wanted to end this chapter with a bang.