Not alone in the dark

If you’ve been beating yourself up about your inability to sleep well or to log enough hours on the pillow, I invite you to ease up on yourself. For starters, you are not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have deemed our national problem with sleep an epidemic.

In response, health and fitness gurus and bloggers have been prescribing all kinds of behavior changes and sleep aids. In fact, as a nation we spend over $42 billion in sleep pills and potions. Clearly this isn’t just an individual problem–it’s a collective issue, and it comes with a cost beyond dollars and cents.

As a culture we not only devalue sleep, but we’ve essentially banished darkness, which is essential if we want to settle into healthy sleep, from our world. We have lights glowing, pulsing and flashing in every room of our homes. Outdoors we’ve lit up our neighborhoods and cities such that we can barely see the stars. With our 24-7 culture, fueled by electricity and electronics, we can shop, dine, work, or socialize all night long, so we have endless excuses to avoid our beds.

We know this affects our health, increasing our risk of everything from diabetes and depression to  heart conditions and Alzheimer’s Disease, not to mention a host of other ailments. In addition, the negative impact on our productivity at work is carefully calculated and widely acknowledged.

But beyond all of these detrimental effects on our personal health, national wealth, and overall well-being, we also lose out in other areas when we avoid darkness and sleep. In short, we forfeit the gifts of the night, which invite us to slow down, get cozy, and turn inward–so we can commune with our dreams.

As I’ve said many times before, when we lose out on our dreams, we lose an essential connection to our inner storehouses of creativity, wisdom, and guidance. In short, we lose a vital connection to our very selves.

If you want to take a step toward better sleep and dreams, start by welcoming the darkness:

  • Pull the shades. Make sure your bedroom is dark. Draw the blinds before bed, and remove or unplug any devices in your room that have blinking, pulsing, or glowing lights such as digital alarm clocks, phones, computers, and other electronic equipment.

  • Cover your eyes. Use an eye mask to block the light while you sleep.

  • Consider candlelight. In the hour or two before bed, start dimming the lights and switch your phones and tablets to “night shift” mode, which dims your screens for you. You might even want to use candlelight in the evening hours to start to settle into darkness.

  • Contribute to the collective good. Look into local bylaws that concern lighting regulations. Many cities and towns are switching over to street lights and other forms of outdoor lighting that minimize light pollution and conserve energy, without compromising safety.

© 2017 Tzivia Gover

Tzivia Gover, MFA, Certified Dream Professional
Author of Joy in Every Moment
The Mindful Way to a Good Night’s Sleep

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