Before Thomas Edison turned on the light bulb, people went to bed earlier. They tended to retire just after dusk. This was a different sleep schedule than the eight-hour sleep goal we now have. Back in the day people often slept in two segments, "first sleep" and "morning sleep." In clinical terms, it's called "Segmented Sleep." Often people would get up in the middle and engaged in quiet activities.
Segmented sleep has been going on since the beginning of time. Daily schedules have only changed in the past 200 years. Expecting our human biological rhythm to evolve that rapidly is unrealistic. Today, the expectation has become that everyone can and should get eight hours of sleep, every night and all at once. The expectation creates stress and unrealistic pressure. A dangerous cycle is created. The pressure can make your mind run and make it even harder to fall back to sleep. It can be reassuring just to know that segmented sleep is biologically normal. So, relax if you do wake up in the middle of the night, but get at least five and a half to six hours of sleep a night.
People only need enough sleep to feel rested during the day. That amount of sleep differs in each of us. Also, the amount of sleep that we need decreases as we age. By the time we hit our sixties, we only need around 6 hours of sleep per day.
It's okay if you awaken in the middle of the night, thus sleeping in two segments. During that time, though, it is important not to go on the computer or expose yourself to artificial light. Speaking of computers and smartphones...
What about devices...smartphones and computers and sleep?
Developments in this age of technology can help us improve our health, productivity, and connectivity to the world around us. However, not all of this technology has improved our lives. There's a lot of research and discussion on how our constant connection to devices is negatively effecting our sleep.
People have become more and more addicted to their devices. Be it an iPhone, Android, laptop, Apple Watch or Netflix subscription...artificial light surrounds us constantly. Why is artificial light so damaging? When we are exposed to artificial light, we activate our arousing neurons making us more awake and often anxious.
There is a simple solution to getting better sleep and still love your devices! The fix is limiting your exposure to electronic light--especially at night.
Here are a few tips:
• Assign: an electronic curfew at night, put devices away well before bed. This allows your body time at night to produce melatonin naturally. Natural melatonin will help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
• Replace: your phone alarm clock with a traditional alarm clock. Or even go without an alarm. Most people can adjust and get up on their own, leaving alarms for critical occasions.
• Remove: as much artificial light from the bedroom as possible. Keep your TV in the family room.
Technology is going to continue to be ever present in our lives, but it just doesn't need to be ever present in our bedroom.
This article originally appeared on the Sleep Easily blog.