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Sleeping in the dark

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 21, 2012 at 8:04 PM

I've read multiple times on other comments about how people should sleep with blackout curtains or stress sleeping in the DARK. I live in a busy city and there is always a little bit of street light, I also leave the blinds up so I can wake up with the sun coming into my East-facing window, rather than an alarm clock. Is there something un-paleo about this? I've never had any sleep problems so is there any reason I should be sleeping and waking in the dark?

3502f79e2b38fb5ec60ee20c36b1ec8e

on August 22, 2012
at 12:50 AM

I've seen the sunrise alarms work for some people and not for others. I personally don't think they really replicate the same feeling I get when I wake up and the sun is out. But I think they are totally worth a shot if you need a compromise with your partner. Great suggestion!

E40b2fc9ddcf702bab9d61d28b8c8440

(505)

on August 21, 2012
at 09:53 PM

What about getting one of those lights that comes on slowly in the morning to replicate the sun? I've been thinking about getting one since I love the dark at night and my boyfriend loves the sun in the morning... might be a good compromise.

7e36094a0f7a2fbad24290225405220b

(2064)

on August 21, 2012
at 08:10 PM

If it works for you don't change it.

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7 Answers

best answer

1
753e1b824fbe0b11c797a244b1a4c7e3

on August 21, 2012
at 08:16 PM

If you feel well rested and you're happy with how you sleep, I don't see why you should make changes. I need some noise when I sleep, personally, and I know some people who sleep better with a little bit of light. I'm pretty sure Grok woke up to sunshine, not total darkness and quiet!

4
3502f79e2b38fb5ec60ee20c36b1ec8e

on August 21, 2012
at 08:59 PM

For people with insomnia or other sleep disorders, darkening the bedroom at night is often helpful as light hitting our retina inhibits the production of melatonin, an incredibly powerful hormone for health, healing, and sleep. (It's thought that 3rd shift workers have higher rates of cancer for this very reason). For those without sleep disorders, I think a little ambient (in-direct) light in the room is ok, but even if you feel like you're sleeping well, if you are exposed to too much light in the evening or at night, you may have a melatonin deficiency.

You describe a common catch-22 of sleep: we want it dark in our room at night, but we also want our room to brighten with the sun. This allows for much more gradual and natural awakening. I'm not surprised the morning light brightens your mood as well as your room. This is a very "ancestral" or "paleo" idea too.

As a sleep therapist, I recommend as much as possible that bedrooms are set up so that they are dark as possible at night but are open to the sun when it rises in the morning. In rural areas this is easily done by turning off outside lights at night. In urban areas, it's more difficult and I have not found a perfect solution.

Some suggestions that will help:

  1. Reduce evening artificial lighting in your home as much as possible after sunset. Get dimmer switches or lower watt bulbs and as you get close to bed time, dim them as much as is comfortable. This supports melatonin production and sleepiness.

  2. Avoid staring at screens of all types in the later evening -- they emit "blue" light that specifically is known to block melatonin. A nice compromise that I use when I have to stare at my computer late at night is to install a free program called "Flux" that automatically alters your screen to remove the emission of this light at night (Available here: http://stereopsis.com/flux/ - I have no affiliations and as far as I know there's no research confirming this, but I have found it helpful anecdotally). Another option is to wear blue-blocking glasses at night if you watch TV (I know it's weird, but they really work at blocking the blue waves from hitting your retina).

  3. As you suggest, I also recommend allowing in natural light in the morning. If the street light coming in your window is direct, try to cover just that window (assuming you have others). As much as possible, avoid a direct ray of light coming in. If you wanted to get real crazy about it (like me) you could get a good photometer to use at night to actually gauge how much light is hitting you at night.

  4. Melatonin is a very effective and safe natural hormone. Every sleep expert I know takes 1/2 to 1 mg every night, so that says something. Too many companies are selling 5mg, 10mg, and even higher doses and that's just not necessary for most people.

This is not a complete answer, but I hope it gets you started. Good luck!

3502f79e2b38fb5ec60ee20c36b1ec8e

on August 22, 2012
at 12:50 AM

I've seen the sunrise alarms work for some people and not for others. I personally don't think they really replicate the same feeling I get when I wake up and the sun is out. But I think they are totally worth a shot if you need a compromise with your partner. Great suggestion!

E40b2fc9ddcf702bab9d61d28b8c8440

(505)

on August 21, 2012
at 09:53 PM

What about getting one of those lights that comes on slowly in the morning to replicate the sun? I've been thinking about getting one since I love the dark at night and my boyfriend loves the sun in the morning... might be a good compromise.

2
7cf9f5b08a41ecf2a2d2bc0b31ea6fa0

on August 21, 2012
at 08:39 PM

I sleep with a soft t shirt over my head/eyes, works perfectly!

1
45ace03a0eff1219943d746cfb1c4197

(3661)

on August 21, 2012
at 09:12 PM

Whether it's better or not to have a dark room, it's certainly not mandatory. Often, I'm afraid we stress a bit too much about how it should be or what we ought to do. As others have said, if it works for you and you're sleeping well, don't worry about changing your sleeping habits. It would be quite different if you didn't sleep well or had sleep related problems.

1
F694fc245d03b64d6936ddb29f4c9306

(2613)

on August 21, 2012
at 08:45 PM

I used to sleep with the city night light outside, and I've found that I sleep much better and deeper with a blacked-out room. I use Redi Shade blackout blinds that I tape to the bottom of my existing window shades. Waking up without light leaves me groggy, though, so I use a pair of outlet timers that turn on lights starting 30 minutes before I want to get up. The first light is dim, while the second light is a full flood light. After I wake up, I lower the shades and let the natural light in.

1
4b5be253ac1981c690689cab7e4bf06d

(3043)

on August 21, 2012
at 08:20 PM

I used to sleep in a dark room, and found that my mood improved when I opened the curtains to let the morning sunlight in. So, until I get a system that will automatically open my curtains at sunrise, I'll be sleeping with the ambient urban lights. (but, I also don't have any street lights nearby, so it is the front porch lights that I see.)

0
Medium avatar

(3213)

on August 21, 2012
at 08:37 PM

The reason behind sleeping in total darkness is the fact that Melatonin is produced in higher amounts when you do so. Providing you with a deeper sleep and higher amounts of HGH(Human Growth Hormone)

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