Those Things I Do to Be Healthy and Productive (Part 3)
Before we cover electromagnetic pulsing technology and how it can help sleep, let’s talk more about preparing the bedroom for sleep.
Stopping nighttime distractions
It probably seems pretty obvious that you’d want to avoid distractions and disturbances if you want to sleep well but that’s easier said than done.
One of my previous neighbors, the ones right next to my master bedroom, was a creepy old man…and his girlfriend. And by creepy, I mean he was constantly trespassing, spying on me as well as my daughters, and, on at least one occasion, showing up drunk at my front door late at night to proposition me…even though he was well into his late 70s or 80s. Every time I walked out any door or opened any window of my house, his dog barked as if I were a stranger in the neighborhood…and barked…and barked…and barked.
My guess is that every time he got up during the night to use the bathroom, he let the dog out and the dog would sit and bark at the stars. Yes, about ten feet from my bedroom windows. As if it couldn’t get any worse, the old man replaced his dim-to-moderate patio light bulbs with halogen spotlights, something that has become an unfortunate trend in my neighborhood. We used to have stars in the sky before the light pollution. Sigh.
Although I don’t think it was intentional, the light bulbs were angled in such a way as to shine directly into my bedroom windows and light up my pillow as if I were on stage. Even through curtains and closed blinds, the spotlights were bright enough that I could read a book in my bed at 3 a.m. with every light off in my house. My requests to turn off his patio lights at nighttime fell on deaf ears-or worse, brought him to my door smelling of alcohol. I rearranged my bed so the light didn’t shine directly onto my pillow, but the room was still too bright to sleep. Between the light and the bursts of barking during the night, I moved out of my bedroom and spent most of my nights in the guest room or, when my girls were home, curled up on the sofa so that I could actually sleep.
After almost three years of being a stranger to my own bedroom, I moved back in a week after the old man died. His girlfriend and their dog left and the patio lights were out at least most of the time unless a real estate agent left them on. For about six months, I had peace and quiet and darkness in my bedroom until the new neighbors moved in.
Their dog hardly ever barked. And, most of the time, they didn’t leave the lights on at night. At this point, several other neighbors had gotten these high-powered light bulbs for their patios. So the light pollution around the entire neighborhood now took the place of any nightlights I had in the entire darkened house.
After one particularly frustrating weekend where the neighbors had gone out of town but left their bright lights on, I bought a second set of blinds and put them up behind the ones already hanging. This blocked out most of the light. But still, even now, if they flip on the light at 3 a.m. to let the dog out, however quiet they are, I am likely to wake because with the lights on next door, the room is still bright enough that I can discern any shadows or movement in the room, even if I can’t read my favorite paperback novel.
Sleeping in complete darkness, or near-complete darkness, has been a tremendous help in sleeping well and sleeping deeply. I realized that any flashing light could pull me out of a deep sleep or wake me up between sleep cycles. On one occasion, I sat in bed, in a dark room, and waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark. It was only then that I noticed the green flashing light of my Zeo headband on a corner table. It doesn’t flash all the time and it’s generally very pale. However, in the middle of the night, it can definitely get my attention. I also noticed that my FitBit Aria scale, which is connected to my WiFi, will sync throughout the night, bathing the neighboring master bathroom in blue light—something else to wake me up.
I began covering up or moving anything that emitted light in the dark room so that it would no longer catch my attention while I slept.
Another light-related change I made was to put a motion-activated nightlight in my bathroom. It’s a 4-watt bulb so it’s plenty bright enough so I don’t have any toilet mishaps, but not so bright as to shower me with blue light and trick my brain into thinking it’s dawn and time to wake up. I drink over 100 ounces of water a day so, inevitably, I will get up at least once before sunrise.
I also needed to rule out sound disturbances. One thing I didn’t think of for the first several weeks–although I was vaguely aware of it during the night, enough to wake me up and then forget about it by morning–was the lawn sprinkler system. When it started up at two, three, or four o’clock in the morning it woke me up as the lawn pump cranked on. I simply re-programmed my sprinkler to start after I left the bed in the morning. So simple and yet I never realized how often it disturbed my sleep.
The icemaker in the kitchen at the other end of the house was another unexpected disturbance during the night. I would be asleep, or almost asleep, and a loud tumble of ice into the basket in the freezer would wake me.
But the worst of the noisemakers, and ones that I took care of early on, were my cellphone and computers. I now leave my computer and my phone muted during the night so that the constant notifications don’t wake me up. I do leave the ringer on on my telephone in case of those late-night emergency calls or text messages, but I make sure that my phone is in another room so that the only time it will wake me up is when it’s an emergency call or text from certain people.
As a side note, I had to dump a man I was seeing because he would not abide by the simple rule of don’t text me at night after bedtime just because you don’t work during the day and have insomnia. I don’t miss any sleep without him in my life.
Next up: Using Electronics in the Bedroom