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Sleep - Switch off to switch off. Friday August 9, 2013

Perhaps you have been thinking about it all day; you've looked forward to how you will feel when you finally get it back. You may have even revisited in your mind again and again how it was cruelly taken away from you in your time of need, how just one more hour would have made everything better – promising yourself next time it will be different.

At last, after a long day you're back in your warm bed and soft sheets. However, something is wrong - suddenly you panic, thinking about all those things you have to remember, all the things you might have forgotten. You've been seconds from nodding off all day and now you have your chance and you're wide awake - like a coffee addict who's just received their daily dose, your mind is whirring and once again it won't stop.

There are many factors that can affect your ability to relax at night, one of which is artificial light. Unbeknownst to many people, your body uses surrounding information such as light to determine factors like what time of day it is and how it should react. It's tricking your body into thinking it is still daytime.

Televisions and lights (even those seemingly innocuous red standby ones) after dark can be quietly sabotaging your chances of a good nights sleep.

To ensure you are giving yourself the very best chances of a stress free slumber, try switching off those standby lights (or covering them up). Consider forgoing the last part of your evenings television viewing for a power cut-esque early night and see what happens to your moodscope score.

Personal trainer/lifestyle coach

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Anonymous Fri, Aug 9th 2013 @ 8:57am

Hi Jake, Thanks. Always knew this but you put it nicely. I have problems sleeping, not due to excessive artificial light and more due to crowding thoughts. I do not know here the cycle begins, I mean, do I develop a thought salad because of insomnia, or is it that I cannot sleep because of multiple thoughts?

Jake Fri, Aug 9th 2013 @ 10:38am

Sleep and insomnia are very in-depth topics with lots of potential causes. Its common for people to go without sleep at the same time as having an array of thoughts crop up. However, as you pointed out it is hard to put a causation on these things, some people might feel they cannot sleep and so think about a lot of things, others know they cannot sleep because of the thoughts.

I am inclined to feel that both of these may be caused by a third factor. One of these factors as highlighted in my blog could be artificial light, however it is not limited to this. Without trying to overcomplicate things, it might well be that some people (and this may be you) have a lot on their plate, finding ways to manage this can be crucial. If your sleep problems are chronic and not linked to stress you might be good looking down other avenues. Paul Chek, founder of C.H.E.K institute has some fantastic holistic advice on the matter in his book 'How to eat, move and be healthy'.

Something that a lot of people aren’t aware of is how long caffeine (from coffee, tea and soft drinks etc) is active in the body. Most people are aware caffeine can keep them up, (people have different levels of tolerances) however it has a half life of about 5 hours, meaning that is still active in your body (and able to disrupt sleep) for up to 50 hours. This might be relevant to some people who are unaware of the effects caffeine might be having on them.

I hope this helps.

Anonymous Fri, Aug 9th 2013 @ 11:54am

Am I alone in noticing how often one can correctly guess which posts are submitted by men, and which by women?

Anonymous Fri, Aug 9th 2013 @ 1:12pm


Julia Fri, Aug 9th 2013 @ 2:01pm

The blogs? Yes! Anonymous posts not so sure. Are you both female? Of course although I post as Julia, I could be male Ha!

Anonymous Fri, Aug 9th 2013 @ 2:53pm

Hi Jake,
How about light therapy (as used effectively in seasonal or winter depression), to lower the risk of recurrence of new episodes of depression in recurrent vital depression, resp. major depressive disorder?

Anonymous Fri, Aug 9th 2013 @ 8:24pm

You are correct. I believe it is a vicious cycle. In the past I have suffered from long term insomnia. The more you stress about not sleeping during the day the less likely you are to stay asleep at night. Obviously there is direct link between insomnia and anxiety but I found that the best way to cope was to forget the whole "can't sleep equals can't cope". Try not focus on the sleep you haven't had but on the few hours you did get. Remember that a lack of sleep will not kill you. Afterall some of the worlds most influential people survived on very little sleep every night. It is not the be all and end all. We all focus on it too much right from birth. Obsessing over our baby's sleep and then telling ourselves that our children's bad behaviour is all cos they are tired. Ok I accept that tiredness can affect your mood but by the time we are adults we can help ourselves much more since our thoughts, emotions and moods are much more within our control.
So I think my advice would be try to move your focus from sleep during the day. Distraction is key. Do not say I must do this that or the next cos then I won't sleep. Just try to be sensible. If you can't get to sleep or wake up in the night and find yourself ruminating just try to accept that you are awake. Move your focus to some thing else. Meditation and progressive muscle relaxation have worked wonders for me but you need to practice. And never ever look at the clock.

Julia Fri, Aug 9th 2013 @ 9:36pm

This is very interesting. You are so is better not to think about sleep during the day and not to focus on insomnia. It's very difficult though not to some days after many nights of poor sleep. Thanks. Your post is a great help.

Rowan Fri, Aug 9th 2013 @ 11:07pm

I've just returned from a long road trip and am reading today's blog at 23.01 and it seems totally appropriate t ome to be doing so. I am not a good sleeper; I snore terribly and wake myself and everyone else in the house. I worry about waking them and so keep myself awake.

I'm in a really bad place right now. I am so worried my life is going to become awful and I do not have the strength of character to stop it.

Not sleeping is adding to my concerns and terrors.

Oh gosh. What a mess.

Anonymous Sat, Aug 10th 2013 @ 12:18am

Hi rowan, you need your sleep. Have you seen anyone about your snoring, there are things that can help. I can totally understand that your lack of sleep will make you feel worse. Try and get that sorted and it might help you cope with whatever else is going on in your life. Try and think positively.

Rowan Sat, Aug 10th 2013 @ 9:31am

Thank you for troubling to reply Anonymous; I appreciate that.

I will go to the GP and see if she can suggest something which may help....I understand that I stop breathing as I sleep and then gasp in huge breath which results in massive snorts and snores....quite horrible to hear!

I always try to be positive; but you know, sometimes, it is just too hard.

Jake Sat, Aug 10th 2013 @ 12:41pm

Hi there, thank you for your question.

The problem with the artificial lights is not that they are inherently bad, but rather, having them at night throws your body out of whack. Light therapy can be a fantastic tool. Its useful to remember that through most of human history we would be in direct or indirect sunlight for most of the day. Using this natural light to gave us lots of information and allowed us to set our circadian rhythms. We probably know circadian rhythms better as sleep-wake cycle, or your body clock.

If you imagine how much our environment has changed over recent human history, including the invention of the light bulb its not surprising that humans are suffering some consequences. Our bodies mistake this artificial light for natural light and use it to coordinate how it responds. There is plenty of information attributing this process to contributing to SAD and other seasonal problems.

Using artificial light (light therapy) in a positive way, to coordinate a more favorable response, can, when used properly have some fantastic effects. I'd love to hear about any experiences (positive or negative) you have had from using light therapy.

Jake Sat, Aug 10th 2013 @ 12:51pm

I think that is a fantastic attitude to have. Insomnia has the capacity to be very debilitating to day to day life so an attitude like yours is the best tool to overcome it. I wish you all the luck, feel free to share more advice, I'm sure the other readers would benefit.

Jake Sat, Aug 10th 2013 @ 1:19pm

Hi Rowan.

Sounds like you're having a bit of a struggle with sleep then. The Anonymous advice was great, its a shame more people don't put their name to these things, especially when its good sound advice. Its certainly right that you need your sleep, and a positive attitude is helpful. Medical advice is a good way to go when dealing with these problems, especially when you find yourself waking up in the night gasping for breath. This is commonly known as sleep apnea and there are lots that can be done to help this. Its encouraging also that taking steps to reduce the sleep apnea will also have a positive effect on the snoring. Talking to your GP about your nighttime breathing difficulties should give you plenty of reassurance. But don't limit yourself to the medical route, some holistic practitioners can be fantastic for dealing with problems such as this.

Dealing with sleep problems yourself can be frustrating enough, however its often worse when it disrupts the sleep of other people, especially loved ones. Its a bit of a cruel paradox that all you want/need to do is sleep yet that very act has the power to effect everyone else. Although it is hard, know that this is something that doesn't have to effect you forever, just reading some of the comments above with how other people deal with their sleep problems should be very encouraging. I'm happy that you've found Moodscope and you're able to gain some help from my blog post. It's very easy to find yourself doubting your ability to get through problems such as these but don't doubt your strength of character, with the help of some medical/alternative advice, and with Moodscope and its great readers, you'll get through it. :) As Seth Godin wrote 'I don't believe in much, but I believe in you!'

Keep us updated with how you're getting on and do let me know if you have any other questions I can help with I'd be more than happy to respond.

Rowan Sun, Aug 11th 2013 @ 9:42am

Thanks, Jake. I appreciate the response you have made to my note!

I'll try to follow the advice you've given; resolving the sleep issue may help me cope better with the rest....

Anonymous Sun, Aug 11th 2013 @ 1:36pm

Thanks, Jake, for your reply.
Perhaps I haven't understood you properly. If so my apologies for that!
I do not refer to using artificial light during the night, but during the short dark days of autumn and winter.... And not for reasons to overcome sleep difficulties, but to add to the prevention of recurrence of depression (so far once a year, triggered as I feel by stress or by something as a simple influenza, with high fever....!) I am also not refering to seasonal depressive mood, but to major depressive disorders (vital recurrent depression.)
So I am thinking in terms of using less antidepressant drugs and instead taking a daily shot of light therapy...
I hope you have some more thoughts on this item...
Thank you.

Jake Mon, Aug 12th 2013 @ 12:36pm

Hi Ruud.

I think we had a similar thing in mind, I was also referring to the use of light therapy during short dark days (not at night) in reducing some of the effects that lack of light in the autumn and winter months might have on someone's circadian rhytms, even if this is not directly a seasonal depression and more for non seasonal depression as you refer to). However, re reading your comment I understand where I was confused, i was just uding SAD as an example.

I cannot say that I have done extensive research into the effects of light therapy on non-seasonal depression, I did however read a meta study into light therapy on non seasonal depression not long ago, which, looking back on it, concluded that;

‘For patients suffering from non-seasonal depression, bright light therapy offers modest though promising antidepressive efficacy, especially when administered during the first week of treatment, in the morning, and as an adjunctive treatment to sleep deprivation responders’
(The whole study goes into a lot more depth however you can read an extract on

I’ll put my hands up and say that I might not be able to comment too much on non seasonal aspect of light therapy as it isn't my expertise (I would only be using other peoples research). However, if it starts showing positive results (as the study concluded; albeit modest) I think anything that can reduce a dependence on antidepressant drugs whilst still being effective is a great start.

Is this something you have tried? Did It work for you?

If you want a good author on the topic of light and all of its positives and negatives, TS Wiley wrote a book called ‘Lights Out’. She’s quite outspoken in the industry and comes under a lot of criticism but she's not afraid to say what she thinks. Its a good read. She talks a lot about the make up of antidepressant drugs and how a lot of the time they are just trying to reverse the changes that take place in our body through lack of adequate light.


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