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The Adventures of Mattman: Let There Be Light, The Natural Kind, Yo (Ep. 7)

I’ve seen the comics, I’ve seen the movies. Shadowy corners and darkness, in general, are a forewarning that bad things are on the horizon.

It’s as if the moonless night sky was lending a hand to the thugs about to rob you down that dark alley. Don’t let the bad guys be the only ones teaming up with darkness! In the right environment, it can help you, too!

Our environments don’t choose to work for good or evil. Mother Nature never picks sides. But the reality is our technology culture can cause a natural disaster of its own. However, we can choose for our surroundings to impact us in a positive way with knowledge.

For instance, one fact from both Shawn Stevenson’s “Sleep Smarter” and Mathew Walker’s “Master Class The Science of Sleep” is the importance of getting outside and getting 30-minutes of light exposure as early as you can every day. 

Don’t wear sunglasses! Soak in the sunlight! When your eyes are affected by the morning light, your brain will stop making certain hormones that cause drowsiness. But therein lies the problem. Artificial light from devices, phones, and light bulbs can do the same thing.

At 9:00 p.m., I want my body to be releasing sleepy time hormones like melatonin that make me drowsy and ready for bed. Most lights we use around the house hinder that process. And that is what is called light pollution.

I don’t know of a superhero out there that likes pollution. It’s in the contract. I, Mattman, do solemnly swear to fight against pollution. And light pollution is literally everywhere. When electricity came around, mankind sped into the future! Quality of life improved exponentially.  A century later, our environment is so well lit that we now see the consequences of our actions. Let’s dial it back to before electricity.

Oil lamps, torches, and bonfires were the TVs, overhead lights, and cell phones of the past, but their energy output is a different color. Fire puts out red light on the color spectrum and science has found it to be less disruptive with the brain’s ability to produce melatonin. When your brain makes enough melatonin, your body knows it’s time for sleep.

Back in the day, people didn’t have the same levels of distraction and light pollution that we experience. Who knew the old ways could be superior to our almighty smartphones and modern routines?

But I’m not going to give up my smartphone. Instead, I choose to change my behavior so that it enhances my productivity instead of hinders it. It’s bad enough I already spend too much time scrolling through Reddit. 

Quick shout out to my favorite subreddit called /r/MasterReturns. It’s videos dedicated to dogs being reunited with their owners after an extended absence. I adore those heartwarming clips and before I know it, I’ve stayed up past my bedtime!  And if I just spent hours after sunset staring at a bright screen, it’s harder for me to fall asleep quickly.  That sounds like a long ride on the struggle bus tomorrow.

In “Sleep Smarter,” I learned one of the most surprising facts I didn’t know about our body’s sensitivity to light. It’s not just our eyes. Any surface of skin across our entire bodies can sense light.

Light shining on the back of your knee while resting in total darkness still sends your brain confusing signals. So the pollution isn’t just related to what you see but light exposure in general.  “But Mattman, if there’s light everywhere then I’m never going to get a good night’s sleep”  Rest easy! Don’t lose all hope!  Because we have… Super Sleep Solutions.

Now that we know the way light affects our bodies, we can act! We can:

  • Get outside for an early walk or activity every day for 15-30 minutes to kickstart your brain and set your circadian rhythm. This habit/routine will make it easier to fall asleep in the evening.
  • Purchase and use smart bulbs in your bedrooms, bathrooms, and hallways that can be programmed to be red tones or automatically dimmed in the evening hours. You don’t want to blast your eyes with stimulation when using a quick restroom or doing a small but necessary task in the middle of the night.
  • Put your phone away 30-minutes before bed. This goes for all devices and TV screens as well. Build up your melatonin for Pete’s sake!  And if you are using devices before bed, keep it positive.  Don’t let the last thing your eyes consume be drama and negativity. This will help your brain do positive things while you sleep!
  • Turn on nighttime screen settings on devices and computer monitors if we have no other choice, and work or play until bedtime. Make this compromise with yourself and use the nighttime settings.
  • Blackout curtains in the bedroom will protect your body from external light pollution! 
  • Turn off or block any tiny lights in the room from devices. The little blue LED light that signals your humidifier is on needs to be blocked. Put a bandaid on it!
  • Wear a sleep mask! Block out all lights from your eyes!

On a personal note, I recently started wearing a sleep mask. After a few weeks of dancing around the room with towels to block digital clocks and other tiny lights, my wife handed me a sleep mask she bought online. Nothing fancy! Just a black satin mask.

My first impression was no way I’m going to wear this!  I’ll look stupid! Then I remembered I waltz around in public in a glorified padded hand towel uniform, so I changed my mind.  Plus, superheroes often wear masks. Ironically, they wear masks to hide their identity in public and I wear mine in the comfort and privacy of my own bedroom! So what the heck, I gave it a shot. 

I thought it would slip off more at night, and it does from time to time. However, the sleep mask had an enormous impact. My bedtime is earlier than my wife’s and she used to wake me up when she opened the door. But with the mask on I sleep undisturbed.

Occasionally I get up to use the bathroom around 2-3 a.m. Our bathroom light is automated and takes five minutes to turn off. It used to take me 5-7 minutes to fall back asleep when I went back to bed. Not anymore! And in the morning when my wife’s sun clock is slowly turning on to naturally brighten the room, I am unaffected and remain peacefully asleep.

You see, I was driving her crazy with my light-blocking dance. She isn’t as sensitive as I am. The mask worked! I cannot say enough that it has had a tremendous impact on maximizing my sleep.

We are a dark-deprived society. Don’t let the darkness scare you! Instead, use it to your advantage in maximizing your sleep! 

We have technology through every door and around every corner that improves our quality of life and increases our productivity. But there’s a balance! These advancements in our lifestyle come at a cost.

If you want to use sleep to awaken a superpower locked inside you, you first must master the balance between light and darkness. Become a master of your dormitory elements to gain the advantage against the sleep villains out there stealing our precious sleep cycles. Only then will you awaken as a superhero tomorrow.

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