In these industrious times that we live in, proper rest is usually the first thing to go. We seldom get enough quality sleep at night and the ageless tradition of the mid-day siesta (or “power nap”) is simply not practical for most people. Granted, as we adhere to a first-rate nutrition and exercise program, we usually find that we require less sleep. But that doesn’t nullify our body’s need for a particular amount, especially if we’re engaged in any kind of rigorous training regimen like weightlifting.
As we rest, the body has a chance to repair and replenish itself, while the mind gets a well-needed break from the daily turbulence that it shoulders. We think more clearly and our bodies function at a higher level when we’re well rested. And as logical as all of this seems, most people are unaware of how to sleep properly.
One of the main prerequisites for proper sleep is darkness, simply because it is one of our brain’s main signals to produce the sleep hormone, melatonin. Being exposed to any kind of light during our sleeping cycle can disrupt this signal and affect the quality of our sleep. With this in mind, consider the following:
• Avoid falling asleep with any kind of light on, including the TV.
• If you have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the restroom, try to do so with minimal lighting so as not to disrupt the cycle.
• Arrange for ultra-dark curtains or shades if you routinely sleep during the morning hours or in the afternoon.
• When possible, hang out in a low lighting situation an hour before you crash. This actually helps your body prepare for the sleep cycle. If this dim lighting arrangement conflicts with anyone else at home, considering wearing sunglasses indoors for this time period. (Sound whacked? Sure. But this recommendation comes directly from Dr. Andrew Weil, a guy who knows a thing or two about holistic health.)
Bottom line? Sleep in the dark as much as possible. You’ll feel the difference. A case in point for me is my LA office/practice room. There are no windows in the place, so all I have to do is hit the lights and it goes pitch black, even in the middle of the afternoon. Sometimes I’ll hang out and work there for days at a time, living off of power naps as needed, and I’ve noticed that I get really good quality sleep there, largely because it’s so dark. Generally speaking, fewer hours of this kind of deep sleep will serve you better than a typical “full night’s rest” where intrusive lighting or sunlight is involved.