Fixing the Family Sleep Disorder

>I have a newborn and toddler. This isn’t terribly much fun on the sleep side of things. In fact, if you don’t have children, consider this a warning. You will never, ever, undervalue the terribly precious gift that is sleep ever again with the arrival of your first.

I’ve been on a sleep learning bender recently, and want to capture the essence of what I’ve found so I can refer back to it later (that’s going to be a common theme in this blog). I’ve gone here because for some time now, our beautiful little girl has been very hard to get to sleep at nights. She’d often stay up until 10:00PM or 11:00PM at nights and sleep late into the mornings. It was exhausting, but manageable until the arrival her little brother.

For about a month, dealing with the infant sleep shenanigans on top of the toddler ones were leaving the entirely family spent day-in, day-out. Something had to give, and a timely science post from a friend set me on a journey of discovery which I summarise below.

First, melatonin is a wonderful little compound secreted by our pineal glands. It’s one of the key compounds that regulates our circadian rhythms. This little wonder-drug is secreted mostly at night in dirunal creatures such as humans, and is a major contributor to our drowsiness at night.

Now.. for as long as I can remember, I’ve had real trouble getting to sleep at night. In fact, I thought that being a night-owl (science would place me in the “eveningness” end of the chronotype scale), meant that I’d go hard late into the night and eventually hit a hard exhaustion wall whereupon I could sleep. I would wake in the morning under great protest from the body and take a good couple of hours to shrug off a generally nasty kind of mental fug that I once heard dubbed “morningitis”.

After this past week, however, I’m discovering the joy of gradually getting more and more tired at night and waking refreshed in the morning without the dreaded morningitis. To give you an idea of where I’ve come from, I’ve had about a week now of no morningitis. Before this experiment, I would have a good morning once in a blue moon.

So. what’s changed? Basically, I’ve introduced two new things into my daily habit:

  • Upon waking naturally, the first thing I do is head straight out into the morning, and deliberately get a good dose of blue sky. To facilitate this, I’m pottering around in the garden for about half an hour, deliberately remembering to look up, and take in the clouds and tree-line.
  • At night, I’m staying away from blue light sources as much as humanly possible. There’s no TV happening (really not that hard for me, but without a blue light filter, I’m banning myself outright now), and whatever computer time I have, is all done through a wonderful little utility called f.lux

Hopefully, you’ve noticed a theme here. I seek blue light at day. I shun it at night. Why? Some wonderful research (be sure to check out out this institute for some excellent derived work) points to the fact that the human eye has these little blue light receptors, who actively inhibit melatonin production. Blue light at night tricks the body into thinking it’s still daylight, and whallah! Instant Linds jetlag, every single day.

So, In avoiding blue light at night, We’ve installed f.lux on each computer in the house. Windows and the Mac were straight-forward, but Ubuntu was a little involved. I’ve even gone as far as opening up my brand new desktop machine with its funky blue-light leds, and ripping them all out.

Things are still a work-in-progress with my toddler, but the signs are promising. My activities on that score deserve a dedicated follow-up post.

Sleep well and prosper.

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2 responses to “Fixing the Family Sleep Disorder

  1. >f.lux is potentially awesome. I've popped it on to the work computer, which I hope never to actually have active after 6pm, and then will be putting it on the home computer tonight.When spending time on the computer at night, have you noticed f.lux sending you to sleep, or has it just allowed getting to sleep to be a little easier?

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  2. >I've noticed myself actually slowing down. Getting drowsy. I don't know that I'd say it is sending me to sleep. I'd be more inclined to say that it's ensuring that the output from the screen isn't waking me up. I'm going to bed when I'm feeling sleepy (and thus nodding off easier), which is kinda novel, really.Normally, I'm just waiting until exhaustion finally hits, because tossing and turning for a couple of hours in bed sucks more than the exhaustion wall.

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