the science of sleep

March 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

This week I’m learning there’s a lot more to being a morning person than setting your alarm a few hours earlier. I’m realizing I don’t so much have a problem waking up early as much as I have trouble falling asleep early and then staying asleep. I don’t think I can really be a morning person until I learn how to be a better sleeper.

I’ve never taken sleeping pills or used sleeping aids like sound machines, but the world of helping people sleep better is a pretty fascinating place when you take a closer look. I suppose everything worth something is governed in some form or fashion and sleep is apparently no different. I was surprised to learn there is indeed a World Sleep Federation which holds annual conferences and links all of the sleep federations of the world.

Results from a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation point to technology as a major cause of sleep deprivation. I would venture a step further and say it’s probably Angry Birds. Not surprisingly, in the poll 95% of people use some form of technology in the hour before going to bed. What was interesting was to learn about the effects of that technology on sleep: “Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep,” says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Many researchers are starting to study the effects of what they see as passive vs interactive technologies which may explain why it’s easy to fall asleep in front of the TV but harder to fall asleep after you’ve been on email, texting or playing games.

The National Sleep Foundation offers a little advice I’ll test out this week that supposedly helps with sleep and therefore should help me get up more easily:

I guess I’ll just have to have my glass of wine earlier in the evening.

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