A group of us were chatting at the yoga studio the other day, when the f.lux app came up. Now if you haven’t heard of f.lux yet don’t worry, it’s not like you’ve been living under a digital rock, it’s a fairly new idea. Here’s the concept in a nut shell: in this fast paced, internet world we’re often staring at bright computer screens, or cell phones until the wee hours of the night – Come on, you can’t tell me you’ve never fallen asleep to the glow of your lap top, and the sound of Lena Dunham wining about how everything around her is suppressing her creative talents. It’s all too vivid, isn’t it? – The f.lux app helps your body to adjust gradually through the day by projecting a warm organgy hue onto the screen.
I have a few friends who have used this app for a while and swear by it, saying they get a better night sleep, and their eyes feel generally less strained by the end of the day. Although I have only used f.lux for a short time, I have to agree. The orange glow takes a little getting used to, but overall I notice I go to bed feeling calmer and fall asleep faster.
Why does getting a better sleep really matter?
A key part of our daily functioning as humans is regulated by exposure to light, and darkness. Exposure to light triggers a nerve pathway from the retina in the eye to an area in the brain called the hypothala-mus. The hypothalamus is like the command center of the brain. Along with the supra-chiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the hypothalamus initiates signals to other parts of the brain that control hormones, body temperature and other functions that play a role in making us feel sleepy or wide awake. [Source]
Melatonin is a natural occurring hormone in the body and is regularly released around 9pm, and thus forward for approximately 12 hours (or through the night). Melatonin makes us sleepy, restful, and allows our body to recover. If you’re exposed to bright light in your home that replicates the sun at nighttime, your body may not release the melatonin it needs to slow the body down and get a good night sleep!
Some research shows that melatonin is crucial for proper functioning of the metabolism, and can play a role in obesity when levels are low. Lower levels of melatonin can also be contributed to short term memory loss, and lowered immune functioning. If you’ve ever had a bad night sleep and found yourself leaving your car keys in the fridge, you’ve felt the effects of unbalanced melatonin levels.
To sum up…
I’m slowly learning that sleep is an obvious, yet crucial part of overall health, and the quest for feeling best. The 20 year old in me pushed this idea aside for many years, the realistic 30 year old me is reminded not to overlook the importance of a good night sleep. Tools like the f.lux app can be helpful to ensure your body’s clock is on track, and you wake up feeling rested. Switching your lights to a dimmer, or shutting down your devices an hour before bedtime can also help. What are your tricks for catching your zzz’s?