Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and wandered to the bathroom to find yourself blinded when flipping on the light? People respond negatively to too much light when the body wants sleep. Light and dark have major influence on hormone production, body temperature regulation and the circadian rhythm.
Light affects our circadian rhythm or biological clock in accordance with light and dark. Darkness also affects our pineal gland’s production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps induce sleep. Light signals your body to produce less melatonin. If you are working a night shift in artificial lighting, your body is likely producing too little melatonin. 1
This effect is readily seen in those suffering from jetlag. Once exposed to a new light-dark cycle in a different time zone, it takes the body a few days to adjust the circadian rhythm to the new schedule. 2 Jet lag is commonly combated through the use of melatonin supplements to compensate for slowed natural melatonin production.
Many Americans use television or other electronic devices to help them wind down and coax them to sleep. This idea is incorrect. In the National Sleep Foundation’s Annual American Sleep Poll in 2011, 95 percent of individuals surveyed between 13 to 63 years old reported going to sleep with the television on. 3
How to Keep Your Biological Clock Ticking:
- Make sure to get out in the sunlight at least once a day. Natural light allows your body to understand it is awake.
- Do not use a computer, tablet or watch television too close to bedtime. These activities can be too alerting for the mind and may reduce melatonin production. 1
- Do not sleep with the television on before bed. The brightness from the T.V. will slow melatonin production making it difficult to get to sleep.
- Use dim night lights in the bedroom and bathroom so as to not blind yourself if you must get up in the middle of the night.
- Keep the lights in your home dim or use only lamps for a few hours before bed to increase melatonin production and signal to your body that it is time for bed.
- Purchase “black-out” or extremely dark curtains or drapes to prevent morning light from pouring in your window and potentially disrupting sleep.
Knowing that light affects the body’s ability to sleep is vital to getting a good night’s sleep. It is important to give the body the sleep it needs and make getting to sleep as easy as possible. Simple efforts to avoid light late in the day and regulate your circadian rhythm can help to avoid self-inflicted insomnia.
1. National Sleep Foundation—Lights Out for a Good Night’s Sleep; http://www.sleepfoundation.org/alert/lights-out-good-nights-sleep
2. Carskadon, Mary A. Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. New York: Macmillan Pub., 1993.
3. National Sleep Foundation—Annual American Sleep Survey (2011); http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/press-release/annual-sleep-america-poll-exploring-connections-communications-technology-use-
Fibromyalgia is a disorder associated with joint and body pain and tenderness as well as nonrestorative sleep. 1 Fibromyalgia is not technically a sleep disorder, but is characterized by affected individuals’ extreme difficulty with insomnia and problems waking up. Those with fibromyalgia report being woken up by pain and sleep deprivation making their pain worse. Also, those affected tend to feel exhausted from day to day due to waking up throughout the night. While the cause and prevention methods for fibromyalgia are still relatively unknown, treatment is possible and can be successful in controlling fibromyalgia-related pain and complications.
The most disturbing aspect of fibromyalgia is the nonrestorative sleep that results in a nearly constant feeling of exhaustion. 1 Fatigue is brought on because the body and mind rarely have the ability to heal as they would during deep sleep. This exhaustion can lead to severe depression and inability to do simply daily tasks.
The best way to combat fibromyalgia is through improving quality of sleep. Sleep recommendations for those suffering from fibromyalgia are similar to those for insomnia. They include things like making the bedroom conducive to rest and avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the afternoon. It is also recommended to keep the bedroom cool at night as hotter temperatures tend to interrupt the sleep cycle. 2 Developing a sleep routine is the best way to insure better and longer sleep. Additionally, regular activity and exercise helps to relax the body when bedtime comes. Exercises proven to help with join problems are low intensity such as walking and underwater aerobics. 3 It has also been recommended that those with fibromyalgia buy a latex or memory foam mattress in order to reduce pressure points causing tossing and turning and joint pain. Additionally, mattresses and pillows that tend to release heat will help with continuous sleep throughout the night.
It is also recommended that individuals with fibromyalgia keep a sleep diary based on what actions they take to fall asleep, how often they wake up and overall tiredness during the day. It may also be helpful to become a part of a support group where they can share success and effective treatments in a positive environment. 2
There are certain medication prescribed to help with the symptoms of fibromyalgia; however, many are not entirely successful on their own. Muscle relaxants and pain killers have been used to combat joint pain. Antidepressants have also been used to improve sleep quality and overall mood. Overall, fibromyalgia weighs heavily on the sleeper whom it affects and can cause major disruptions in his or her life; however, with an effective combination of treatments, the individual can achieve optimal sleep.
1. Carskadon, Mary A. Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. New York: Macmillan Pub., 1993.
2. National Sleep Foundation—Pain and Sleep: What is Fibromyalgia? http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/fibromyalgia-and-sleep
3. WebMD—Fibromyalgia and Sleep; http://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia/ss/slideshow-fibro-coping-tips