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Blue Goggles

A new study conducted by Swiss researchers at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel has found that special glasses that block only blue wavelengths may help us sleep better.

Our body is more sensitive to light then we might imagine. That computer screen in front of you could be the reason you had trouble sleeping last night. Excessive blue light is one of the leading contributors to poor sleep. Blue light wavelengths are produced by many of the devices that we rely on every day. Absorbing excessive amounts of these rays after sunset can make it hard to fall asleep.

Natural daylight keeps our body aligned with the environment. During the winter, when we experience less daylight, our body produces increased levels of melatonin, so we can fall asleep easier. During the summer, when we have more daylight hours to be productive, natural light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, allowing us to stay awake longer.

This dynamic pattern is part of our personal set of circadian rhythms. These rhythms aid in our sleep.

Unfortunately technology has the potential to disrupt these rhythms.

The Swiss team found that teenage boys who wore the glasses and used computers and hand-held devices before bed were much more likely to feel relaxed and tired before bedtime than when wearing clear glasses.

The glasses were effective in blocking the wavelengths that suppressed melatonin. The researchers were careful to also suggest the results may have been caused by an overall dimness. Not just the blue light.

Celebrate the Light

It all started on Canada Day – A fifteen-minute display of light streaks, shimmering arcs and deafening explosions. Then we had a short break and then BAM! The skies were alight again for the Fourth of July. Then it was the bike ravers on Saturday night.

“When will the explosive madness subside?!?!” Said no one.

Bring on the free light parties!

If you are a firework enthusiast living in the Lower Mainland, you will be happy to know that the annual Celebration of Light Festival (formerly the Symphony of Fire), will be returning to English Bay. This year’s naming rights were past to the Japanese auto manufacturer Honda.

Competing this summer will be the USA, France and Japan. The Americans will get the party started on the 26th of July, followed by French on the 30th and finally by Japan on Saturday, August 2nd.

If you have not been to the summer fireworks before, here are a few basic facts and tips for Vancouver’s Celebration of Light:

  • The fireworks are shot from a barge approximately 500 metres from shore.
  • One of the best views for the fireworks is from the water. If you have a friend who owns a boat, send them a quick message on Facebook today. Plant the seed.
  • Don’t plan on getting out of the downtown core quickly. Your best bet is to use public transit and then plan to spend a few hours, post fireworks, walking around downtown or visiting a pub or restaurant. This will give the crowds a chance to disperse.

The Fireworks start at 10 p.m. If that’s past your usual bedtime, make sure to get as much rest as you can the night before.

Bedtimes

Bedtimes are a constant struggle for parents with young children. Sometimes it seems that the little ones’ internal clocks are reset daily. One night they fall asleep as soon as you put them down, the next they fuss and cry for two hours before closing their eyes.

A team at the University of Colorado is looking to shed some new light on this topic. Actually, their findings show that ‘less’ light may be the key to a more even sleeping schedule.

The research team, working under the leadership of lead scientist Monique LeBourgeois, studied the sleeping habits of 14 healthy toddlers to learn more about children’s circadian rhythms. They used wrist activity monitors to track the children’s sleeping patterns over the course of six days. They also used cotton swabs to monitor the levels of melatonin in each child. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps our bodies slow down at the end of the day.

They found that children who’s melatonin levels surged 30 minutes before bed, were far more likely to fall asleep when they were put to bed. Children who did not experience this surge, or received it later in the evening, were far more likely to remain restless once tucked in.

So now the question: How do we control the surge of melatonin?

Science has proven that melatonin levels are directly related to the amount of light the body receives. As light levels dip in the evening, levels rise.

The team from Colorado found that a progressive dimming of the house lights was an extremely effective way of controlling the hormone release in the children’s bodies. They also concluded, that allowing natural morning light was just as important for maintaining a proper sleep schedule.

Exposure to unnatural light from electronic sources like iPads, the television and laptops was strongly discouraged during the lead-up hours before bed.

Back-To-School Sleep Ideas

As summer winds down and the days slowly become shorter, the family focus shifts from summer activities, to prepping for back-to-school. The kids maybe dreading it, but your countdown to Labour Day has probably already begun.

One important part of getting your children ready to start school is establishing formal sleep routines.

Back-To-School Sleep Patterns

Here are a few tips from Simmons Mattress Gallery:

1. Start putting the kids to bed at a set time each night. Try for 8:00. It will probably still be light out, but if you model the behaviour yourself, the kids will mimic your habits. Once they’ve fallen asleep, you can enjoy the last light of summer with a nice glass of wine on the patio.

2. Begin to limit television and video game use, at least before bed. Start a regular pattern of reading before bedtime. This will get them back into school mode and excited for new literature.

3. Remove distracting elements from their bedrooms. Slowly start moving their toys to another area of the house and away from their sleeping sanctuary.

4. Prepare dinner earlier so that their stomachs have more time to digest their food before the earlier bedtime. Also limit their junk food intake, especially the amount of pop and candy they are eating. It is suggested that children should not be given caffeine within six hours of their bedtime.

5. Establish weekday patterns. Let them stay up a few hours later on Friday and Saturday, but return to the scheduled bedtime on Sunday.

Good Luck and Goodnight!

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