Three simple tips to fix your lighting to make sure your kids get enough sleep to enjoy it!
It's coming up to mid summer and for those of us in the Northern hemisphere at least, the sun almost never sets. Street lights contribute to the blaze. And as we study and work from home over different time zones, we don't switch off either.
And yet, our brains need the dark to keep our vital body clock on track. This remarkable system governs every single dimension of our health and wellbeing - from attention and appetite to muscle repair, memory and motor skills. Scientists only recently discovered the critical role of special cells in the eye that are fine-tuned to respond to shifts in the light - from the sunrise glow into blue light 'wake up' sequence to the warm hues of sunset that tiggers the 'wind down' sequence. Source.
We mess with that at our peril - quite literally. Research shows that shift workers are at an exponentially higher risk of depression, obesity and death from accidents and cancer. And a growing body of evidence is linking disrupted sleep patterns with anti-social behaviour and degenerative diseases. Source
And that's even more critical for kid's growing brains - they're still setting that clock, building lasting connections and developing the protective proteins that block harmful wavelengths from damaging the retina. Source.
The problem is that computer screens, displays and a vast range of everyday artificial lights - from fluorescents to LED's - give out that peak 'wake-up' wavelength. As our kids spend up to 90% of their lives indoors, that still-forming circadian rhythm is often fighting a running battle with our 24/7 lives. And the future cost is huge. Here is the spectum given out by a backlit LED monitor - note the massive spike in that critical blue range. Source
Here are three simple things you can do today to give your kid's body clock a break - and give yours a breather too!
1/ Switch it off!
Turn off all screens, displays and bright lights at least one hour before bed. Especially the cool white ones. Take them right out of the room - perhaps you can even switch yours off too. Choose warm white (2700-3000k) bulbs for ambient light in your living and sleeping spaces in the evening. Think of blue light like chocolate biscuits for the brain and manage the temptation to just have a nibble - which all too often leads to a binge - in the same way. Put them out of reach and make sure that a healthy alternative is on hand ;-)
2/ Bring on the night
Draw the curtains or install black out blinds - that deep brain is incredibly sensitive to light. It's hard enough for kids to get to bed on time when the sun is still shining outside. But they still need those vital hours of shut-eye - the NHS recommends up to 12 hours for three year-olds. Source. And kids who aren't getting enough sleep aged three are more likely to show ADHD-like symptoms and perform worse at school well into adolescence. Source
3/ Keep the camfire burning
If they are scared of the dark and need a night light, choose one of the many warm white night lights out there. Make sure the colour temperature is at least 3000k and noted as flicker free. Check it by simply taking a video with your mobile phone on a low-resolution setting - you'll see the flicker clearly on the screen. The same goes for the lighting in other parts of your home - create a cosy glow to wind down.
It's the longest day of the year on Saturday.
Let's make sure we fix the lights so all get enough sleep to enjoy it!