As one would expect, arriving at college comes with its fair share of life changes. Living with a roommate, adjusting to life without parents around, and making an entirely new group of friends are among the list of many lifestyle adaptations we face. For me, one of those major changes was sleeping with the lights entirely off. I’m usually good about turning the TV off, but I don’t usually sleep in complete darkness. Ok, a little embarrassing, I admit, but I just simply prefer to sleep with the lights dimmed. My light switch at home allowed me to dim my lights, so I would every night. I had a friend tell me once that you can never get a good, proper night’s sleep without a completely dark room, but I refused to believe her. My way was better, obviously. Yet, now that I am forced to sleep with the lights off out of courtesy, I have encountered some slight changes to my sleep schedule. Perhaps I am more tired as a college student, but I do seem to be falling asleep faster and my FitBit tells me I am lest restless in my sleep. I started to wonder- could she be right?
I read this article that delves into the reason why really any source of light, even the little glow of my alarm clock or the sun that comes in through our dorm window, could be affecting my mental health. Essentially it has to do with a chemical in our brains, Melatonin. You may have heard of melatonin from our reading in class the other day, but melatonin basically relates to our mental health and controls our mood. Lack of melatonin, which can be caused from light in our rooms while we sleep, could in turn cause depression. We saw this in the mice experiment that Andrew showed us in class – the mice who slept with a glow on in the background were more susceptible to becoming depressed. In addition to messing with our melatonin levels, allowing light in the room also screws up our internal or “biological” clocks. . Our body, through the help of Suprachiasmatic Nucleus, can sense light even when we are fast asleep. This means our brain may be trying to tell our body to wake up when it senses this light, even though we should be sleeping .
The article suggests taking, in my opinion, rather drastic measures to ensure complete and utter darkness in our bedrooms. Buying light cancelling curtains and putting a towel at the bottom of our door is not something that I will be doing any time soon. But I will definitely be sleeping with the lights off from now on. Even though I have not experienced any drastic change in my mood (yet), I have noticed that I’m sleeping a little better. That’s enough for me to be convinced.
Picture credit: http://chiro-first.co.uk/Sleeping-with-the-tv-on