WHAT CAUSES SLEEP PROBLEMS?
Many Canadians experience difficulty having a good night’s sleep, either occasionally or chronically. Much of this is due to stress and the modern environment, including artificial light and electromagnetic pollution. Electro-magnetic fields, such as those from cell-phone towers, smart-meters, and wire-less signals, have been shown to cause a lowering of serotonin levels in the body. Serotonin is a calming neurotransmitter that shuts down an overactive brain in order to prepare us for sleep. Serotonin is also responsible for helping the body to produce melatonin, the hormone that runs our sleep cycles.
Living outside of the cycles of natural light causes our melatonin levels to become disrupted. If we were to go to bed when the sun went down and rise with the sun, as our ancestors did, most of us would not have sleeping problems. In fact it is still important to try and get at least one hour of natural daylight, outside, in order to maintain any sort of natural melatonin production. Because we often stay up way past sunset, using artificial light, and do not always rise with the sun, our melatonin cycles become disrupted. Melatonin serves other important functions in the body as well as regulating sleep, including maintaining fertility, and serving as an antioxidant. One study even linked artificial light, for those working night shifts, to an increase in breast cancer, due to disruption of melatonin levels.
Lying in bed unable to fall asleep, due to constant thoughts or worries, is a common problem, and is linked to a deficiency in serotonin. When our serotonin levels are too low, we are both anxious in the daytime and unable to relax at night.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO IMPROVE MY SLEEP PATTERNS?
There are certain lifestyle adjustment we can make that will further help us to regain normal sleeping patterns. One of these is to have the head of our bed facing North, if possible, and if not, the next best option is to have it facing East. This aligns us with the natural magnetic field of the earth, and it has been discovered that most animals face north when they sleep. Another scientific fact is that we sleep best in a dark room, since light dissipates melatonin from the body. Getting up to use the bathroom and turning on the lights will also cause your body to think the sun has come up, and the melatonin will dissipate. Red light does not affect melatonin however, so using a red night-light would not be a problem.
Avoid electric-magnetic pollution as much as possible by not having an active cell-phone by your bed, shutting off wire-less routers in the house, unplugging mobile phone bases, and not trying to sleep with an electric blanket on. Also a clock radio that is plugged into the wall (not those that are battery operated) will put off a 4 foot wide electro-magnetic field that can interfere with your sleep.
In Chinese medicine two things are suggested that can help with sleep. You should be able to see the bedroom door from your bed, as this relaxes the instinctive brain, knowing that nothing can sneak up on you. Locking the door would have a similar effect. And one should only read fiction before trying to fall asleep as non-fiction engages the analytical brain, and can stimulate too much thinking.