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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Brush Your Teeth in the Dark

According to Russell Foster, Professor of Circadian Neuroscience at Oxford University, the secret to an undisturbed night of sleep is as simple as brushing your teeth in the dark. Yes, you read that correctly ... brush your teeth in the dark.

Professor Foster warns that bright bathroom lights are waking our bodies up just when it should be preparing to rest. He's obviously convinced he's made a breakthrough in sleep science, but I don't buy it. There may be a handful of people who are so sensitive to light that this is a solution, but it's not the universal answer to a good night's sleep.

If his theory is correct, and bright lights just before bedtime in fact actually do inhibit a night of undisturbed sleep, brushing your teeth in the dark would be of little help if you to leave and then return to a bright bedroom. And what if you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night? Knowing light would wake you up, you stumble through the dark and stub your toe. Or what if your son has left his Lego's all over the floor? Stepping on Lego's is akin to stepping on glass shards. Pain wakes me up faster and keeps me awake longer than any bright light ever could! Besides, the lights in my bedroom are on a dimmer, and I usually have them turned down in the evening. And I have brushed my teeth by the light of a 7-watt nightlight, then went back to my dimly lit room ... and it never made even the slightest difference.

I have always found it difficult to fall asleep, even as a child. It has always taken me thirty minutes to an hour, and oftentimes even longer, to fall asleep. I can count on one hand the number of times I have gone to bed and fell asleep within minutes. I remember being at slumber parties or spending the night with friends growing up. Long after everyone else had fallen asleep, I'd be wide awake. I'd lay there, listening to the silence, flipping and flopping for hours. I long ago resigned myself to the fact that I'm just one of those people who cannot fall asleep quickly. Superman can! He can close his eyes and instantly fall asleep. I've always been amazed at and envious of his ability to fall asleep so quickly.

I'm not sure if Professor Russell onto something or not, but I doubt it. Over the years, I have read a lot of articles from "experts" on how to fall and stay asleep. I've followed their advice, and nothing has ever made any difference. The truth is, there is no universal solution to falling and staying asleep. Their suggestions are merely opinion ... not scientific fact. Personally, I think any positive results they achieve can be attributed to the placebo affect. So, I'm going to throw caution to the wind and continue to brush my teeth with the light on. I may be missing out on the one chance I have to fall asleep quickly, but I'm willing to take my chances.

Difficulty falling asleep and waking up has been my life. While I agree a good night's sleep is important, I don't believe it's as dangerous as the "experts" would have us believe. They claim lack of sleep has been linked to anxiety, depression, diabetes, heart disease, impaired work, and an increased risk of accidents. I'm one of the most sleep-deprived people I know, yet I'm only anxious and/or depressed when I have something to be anxious and/or depressed about. Despite my sweet tooth and sugar-rich diet, I am not overweight, nor do I have diabetes. Per my doctor, my heart is disease free, and my bosses and co-workers will agree my work is exemplary. I'm never late for anything, and I have never once had an accident that could in any way be attributed to tiredness.

My cynicism has me waiting to see how long it takes for them to stop claiming a lack of sleep causes anxiety, depression, diabetes, heart disease, impaired work, and an increased risk of accidents. Like everything else, one day soon they'll start blaming these ailments on global warming ... or George Bush.

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