How well do you sleep at night? And does it matter?
You bet it matters! Poor sleep is linked with anxiety and depression – and vice-versa. And sleep deprivation is also clearly linked to heart disease and strokes.
Sleep is number one on my list of 10 Wellness Pillars.
A growing body of scientific and popular literature has identified the influence of such factors as external light (including from mobile devices), sugary and caffeinated beverages, noise and other factors on sleep quality. According to the Global Wellness Institute, researchers from Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social Research in the UK found that: “A good night’s sleep is worth more than quadrupling your disposable income.”
The US Centre for Disease Control says adults of all ages need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep. Teens need at least 8, and school age children need 8 to 10.
Of course, part of sleeping better is a matter of choice. You need to give yourself time to wind down before bed by avoiding strenuous exercise. Also be sure to stay away from bright lights including TV and computer screens for at least an hour before bedtime. Blue light in particular inhibits the body’s production of melatonin that helps us nod off at night.
But environmental factors play a large role as well. Over-illumination of city skies at night, for instance, has a massive and (I think) under-documented effect on sleep in metropolitan areas. Even full moons have been found to knock an average of 20 minutes off the average person’s sleep.
The International dark sky movement was started In Flagstaff, Arizona and its nearby Lowell Observatory in the 1950s to help reduce light pollution. Today I understand you can often see the Milky Way at night from this city, which is in one of 37 designated dark sky preserves in the US, and 53 worldwide. That’s a good start, but we could use more initiatives like this one.
No matter how well you think you sleep in your city home, I expect you’ll notice quite an improvement at Tofino Hummingbird Cottage. That constant background drone from underground sewer pumps, transit buses and traffic? Gone. Early morning sirens? Car alarms? All but nonexistent.
Instead, here you get nice black skies (on clear nights, at least) – perfect for stargazing or simply being wrapped in a big, black blanket of darkness you probably don’t get at home. And about all you’ll hear at night at the Cottage is the breeze in the cedars and the soft roar of waves on nearby Chesterman Beach. In winter the soft roar changes to a more tempestuous sound, amplifying the snug feeling of being inside near the Cottage fireplace.
As a final touch to help you transition to a long and deep sleep, I’ve put a dimmer on every single light switch at Tofino Hummingbird Cottage. I suggest starting to dim about an hour before bed.
I bet you won’t realize how much background noise and light pollution you’ve been tolerating in the city until you get here. Mostly you’ll appreciate how incredibly rested you’ll feel by the time you’re ready to head home.