Can you remember the last time you were in a place that had absolutely no human-made light? Perhaps you were stunned by how dark “real” darkness can be, or perhaps you had a chance to see our nighttime sky the way it looked to us about a hundred years ago, before the advent of streetlights, headlights, billboards and the rest of the modern perpetual light show.
If you’re like me, moments away from artificial light are both rare and exciting. New research is also telling us that trying to replicate the natural cycles of light in our lives is actually good for our health. Sleep studies note disruptions even for things as minor as streetlights outside of our windows. Imagine what sleep is like when we leave a TV on in the room, or the small lights that now appear in every corner of our lives.
As we head back to school, it’s a good time to get bedrooms sleep-ready. Set your kids on a mission to tape over all those pesky power lights, and to close curtains and blinds. Perhaps the biggest challenge, but one with immediate benefits, is to institute a screen-free block of time before bedtime. Yes, the kids may complain, but experience tells me this: they will fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply and wake more refreshed. One more thing – it works for adults, too.
Benjamin Kramer, PhD, is the director of education for Austin PBS.