1. Turn out the lights—especially the blue ones
Eyes wide open? Blame your electronic devices. Research into the effects of electric light on our sleep-wake cycles has exploded recently. “If we’re exposed to light at night, it shifts the biological clock around,” says Lockley, whose work focuses on this area. “And it acts as an acute stimulant, so it alerts the brain.” Light triggers an increase in heart rate, body temperature and brain activity level. It also suppresses production of melatonin, the hormone that tells your body it’s dark out and time for shut-eye.
All light has some effect, but we are particularly sensitive to blue light—the kind that’s emitted by all those electronic gadgets you check or use right before bed, like your smartphone and e-reader. “If you don’t want to disrupt your melatonin, avoid bright or rich light two to three hours before bed,” Lockley advises. If that’s not possible, at least shut off your devices an hour before going to sleep, since our sensitivity increases the later it gets. Use dim lamps in the evening, sit far from the TV (and avoid putting one in your bedroom), and don’t watch a movie on your iPad before trying to drift off.