Turn out the lights

From CNN.com:

Can you do this? How successful are you at turning out the lights and just waiting on the sleep?

One key feature stands out:  You cannot make yourself sleep and you should not try. The harder you “work” at trying to sleep, the more elusive those sweet dreams become. What you can do is try to relax.

Now, everyone knows that sleep specialists recommend removing the TV and computer from the bedroom because these things stimulate the mind and keep people from sleeping.  But we give this advice not only because it will help relax their minds but because it will also help relax their brains.  When you are watching TV at night or using the computer or walking around your house with all the lights on, you are stimulating that part of the brain that controls your sleep/wake cycle.

Light is the single strongest cue that tells your brain it is time to get up and feed the chickens — not what you want at 2 in the morning.  Because people don’t know what a powerful stimulant light is, then they don’t realize that most of the things they do late at night when they can’t sleep, like watching TV, using the computer, or reading with a bright light, all these things just keep them up later because light turns on the brain.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Pat

    Many years ago I got in the habit of watching t.v. at night. At first it was to drown out any background noises in my first apartment that might wake me. Then after 9/11, I was leaving the t.v. on all night for fear I would miss some breaking news in the night. Now, it’s just become a habit and a way that I fall asleep. I use my sleep timer and almost without fail I fall asleep before the t.v. shuts off. Because I know the light from the t.v. can disturb my sleep, I completely darken the picure and am only listening to whatever is on prior to falling asleep. The nights that I forget to use the sleep timer, I can tell that I’m as rested because of the light going all night. What I should probably do is go back to listening to the radio. That way I have soothing sounds but no light. Recently, when I’ve awakened in the night, I just lay there until I fall back to sleep (if I do) without any t.v. or radio. I probably need to try to get back to falling asleep without any stimulation or sound. I guess I just find it comforting since I live alone and the last thing I want to hear is some noise and then I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep for concentrating on that noise.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    ummm, when I turn off the computer & the lights I usually sleep well. I’m working on the “how successful are you…?” part!

  • Bob Smallman

    I’m going in for a sleep study on Tuesday. In preparation for that I’ve been keeping a sleep diary for the past two weeks. Had no idea how truly BAD my sleep was until then!

    I’ve been a terrible sleeper since childhood, so I’ll be interested in what they find.

  • Mike M

    Forget the lights, the TV, the music, etc. Just take an Ambien (zolpidem) and drift off into the most restful sleep you will ever have.
    Then, when you wake up in the morning, go on the internet and read all the really strange things you wrote while sleep-walking and sleep-texting. Makes for an interesting (and sometimes very apologetic) day!


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