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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.

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.

Paper Books vs the iPad

One of the hottest gadgets on the market right now is Apple’s iPad. We all have a friend who has made the trek across the border to buy one of the devices before they go on sale in Canada. The buzz is huge and it seems Apple’s new gizmo is living up to the hype.

With web, email, photo, video abilities and a multi-touch screen, the iPad is the, all in one, portable device.

And, unlike your iPod, where the text is more suitable for squinting at than reading, the iPad has a 9.7 inch LED-backlit screen for browsing and indulging in e-books.

This has inspired many owners to replace their bedside ritual of reading a book before bed with scrolling through pages of the latest best seller on their new iPad.

The lamp may be off, your partner may be asleep, but you’re still able to enjoy “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” without a flashlight.

But this medium switch has some sleep scientists worried.

If we were reading a book the light from a lamp would be from behind us onto a page. With the iPad, the light is intensely direct. This light can disrupt the natural melatonin levels produced by the pineal gland. This gland regulates the sleep-wake cycle in our bodies. Artificial light delays the production of melatonin and makes it harder for our bodies to begin a restful state.

Reading a book before bed has also been considered a passive activity, suitable for winding down the day. The iPad experience is much more engaging, especially when you consider the options for surfing the net, checking your email and playing music.

All these extra activities have the potential to increase our anxiety, the last thing we want before sleeping.

Simmons Mattress Gallery knows that sleep is essential for our well-being and that is why we would like to suggest users of the iPad to stick with bound paper before bed.

You’re body may be cradled by a Beautyrest, but your mind needs to be given a rest as well.

Turn off the screen, turn on the lamp and ease into your sleep.

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