At Sparta we tell our athletes to make their rooms like a cave; cold, dark, and quiet. At first, it was just the theory that our ancestors slumbered in a similar environment. After all, since our nutrition should be focusing on the primal nutrients found in protein and vegetables (see SpartaPoint 4/14/10), an approach known as the Paleo Diet, shouldn’t our sleep mimic the same philosophy?
Recent research has actually supported these cave recommendations, particularly the most important aspect, darkness. A 2010 study out of Ohio State University examined the effects of nighttime light exposure on mice. Despite equal caloric intake and daily activity, the rodents exposed to light at night had significantly greater weight gain. This weight gain was attributed mostly to a larger percentage of food consumption at night. In the nighttime light exposure group, more than half of the day’s intake actually occurred late in the evening!
In addition to this negative alteration of food timing, light at nighttime also affects the natural circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is a roughly 24-hour cycle, built-in to living organisms, and is primarily adjusted by daylight. The authors of the above study went onto explain that this circadian regulation prepares the individual for predictable events such as food availability and sleep, so it is no wonder that light exposure poorly influenced this natural rhythm and the body’s anticipation.
With so many modern advances in technology, some aspects of our lives need to continue to call on our primal experiences of sleep, and nutrition. So remove those electronics from your bedroom, keep the night lights off, and create your own cave of darkness.
You can also keep the television on and find a bright alarm clock, sometimes ignorance is bliss.