A huge component in promoting healthy sleep is working with our natural circadian rhythms. From fatigue to obesity and even susceptibility to various diseases, many risks are associated with nighttime exposure to light — and especially to blue light, which is used in florescent lights as well as newer energy-efficient LED bulbs and electronic devices.
Basics of Circadian Rhythms
The human body responds to exposure to light by decreasing secretion of melatonin. The hormone melatonin is responsible for regulating circadian rhythms, promoting wakefulness during the day and allowing for nighttime sleep. While melatonin supplements may be the best solution for some adults whose bodies may not naturally produce enough melatonin, they aren’t recommended as a long-term solution for children. Instead, the best cure is a sort of prevention — eliminating what’s causing the body to rid itself of the melatonin it naturally produces.
Influencing your child’s body to produce enough melatonin in the evening begins during the day. In addition to other health benefits of going outside (think vitamin D, improved eyesight, and many benefits of increased physical activity), simply exposing ourselves to the wide spectrum light increases our bodies’ production of serotonin during the day, which in turn helps in its production of melatonin at night.
The more you intentionally expose your children to sunshine and other bright light during the day, the more you’ll help their bodies to establish the rhythms conducive to restful nighttime sleep. Exploring additional connections between serotonin and melatonin can help you guide your children in adopting healthy lifestyle patterns which contribute to healthy sleep with all its health benefits, as well.
In addition to daytime light exposure and dietary considerations, you can promote healthy sleep through circadian rhythms by encouraging increased darkness throughout the evening. As the sun sets outside, former generations have been forced to decrease activity or rely on dim red-toned lighting from candles or oil lamps. With electricity and technology, however, today’s kids are often being exposed to more light during the evenings than they have during daytime hours.
The particular kind of light, blue light, is an especially noted culprit in the decrease of melatonin levels. While the blueness of light in electronics with light-emitting screens can be lessened with some apps, a better solution is to eliminate their use after dinnertime — especially for children. Even simple night lights can also cause disruptions to sleep, making touch lighting (like the included lights in Smartstuff furniture) available in case of nighttime waking as a better idea. You can lessen chances of nighttime waking by using white noise to mask any unavoidable environmental noises and eliminating beverages within 2-3 hours of bedtime.
Encouraging healthy sleep for your children involves light, but it also involves other senses. Bedtime routines that include calming fragrances, relaxing music, loving rituals, and soft, familiar blankets can further enhance the benefits of circadian rhythms.
Bedroom Source Blog
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