If you live in a city and have trouble sleeping, part of the problem may be all those lights in your neighborhood.
The US study
Researchers at Stanford University looked into the question of how artificial outdoor light at night affects sleep. Over an eight-year period they conducted telephone interviews with 15,863 people, asking them about sleep habits, and quality of sleep. They also queried the participants about any underlying medical or psychiatric disorders. Then, using data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, the researchers examined how much outdoor light the people they interviewed were exposed to at night.
City dwellers were exposed to three to six times more intense nighttime illumination than people who lived in small towns and rural areas. The researchers found that nighttime light affected the amount of time people slept and was significantly linked to sleep disturbances. T
hey also reported that people living in areas with more intense light at night were more likely to be dissatisfied with the quantity or quality of their sleep, compared to participants who lived in areas where light at night was less intense.
What’s more, “excessive exposure to light at night may affect how we function during the day and increase the risks of excessive sleepiness,” said lead researcher Maurice Ohayon, M.D., D.Sc., Ph.D. If these results are confirmed by future research Dr. Ohayon noted city dwellers might want to invest in room darkening window shades or sleep masks.
These findings make sense to me and support my long-standing recommendations about sleep environments. Our sleep/wake cycle is regulated by the production of hormones that responds to light. Ideally we should be exposed to bright, natural light for at least part of each day, and to experience a natural level of darkness (with no more illumination than the moon and stars provide) each night.
That means sleeping at night in a room that is as dark as you can make it. Personally, I usually am in bed before 10 p.m., and tend to get up with the sunrise. If you need some illumination to get up at night to urinate, use the dimmest nightlight possible.
If your sleep is often disturbed you might find that bioidentical natural progesterone can help, and for many women hot flushes and bathroom visits at night are a major problem for maintaining good sleep habits. Balancing your hormones can help as can these other suggestions: