How well do you and your family sleep at night? Most moms would say that the last truly great sleep happened before becoming a mom. I chalked up my bad sleep to how much stress, alcohol and rich foods were inside my body each day to predict how much sleep I would have in any given night. But something else was afoot.
At the start of this year, I went through seven hours of timezone changes spanning between Portland, the East Coast and Hawaii for three weeks out of four in January. I was sleeping horribly. During my January travels, I picked up a book at Powell's at PDX that drastically changed how I slept. Called Emotional Intelligence 2.0, the book says your eyes need 20 minutes of natural light every single morning, which in turn will tell your brain to reset your body clock later when you go to sleep. Twenty minutes of natural light and I can sleep all night? It sounded so easy I thought it was impossible. But how many mornings was I really spending outside? The answer was zero. I started some research and found supporting articles on resetting your sleep clock this way, including one from 2012 in Psychology Today.
But the proof needs to be in the pudding, so I tried it. I don't have time to walk every morning. But I do have a phone call to make every single morning that can easily be done outside. It can be raining, misty, cloudy or in the shade--it just has to be natural light that enters your eyes. And it just needs to be 20 minutes cumulative, so if I walk my daughter to school, I get a few more minutes in with her, and I'm outside. The small catch is that this light cannot be filtered through sunglasses or a window--your eyes need to be hit with the natural light for it to be effective.
After two months, I am back to getting quality sleep. Stress has not diminished for me, rich food and wine are still plentiful but I am now tired instead of wired at night, and I rarely see 3:30 am flashing on my alarm clock anymore. Plus, vitamin D is much cheaper from the sun than it is in a pill form.
It's really important that kids get time outside and get those 20 minutes outside before noon, too. In fact, researchers in sun-drenched Australia found that a lack of exposure to sunlight, rather than too much time spent in front of the television or playing computer games, damages children's eyesight.