Why we Need to Sleep in a Pitch Black Room

So here’s a taster from the All about Tantrums book, which *will* be out by the end of the year…

It won’t be identical as this is just what I’ve nutted together this morning. It comes from the chapter on Over-Whelmed Tantrums, and analyses one reason why sleep is so important for avoiding them…

Our body and brain systems like daylight, in particular it’s the levels of blue light in the spectrum to which our biological clocks are most responsive. The blue spectrum helps regulate our circadian rhythm and it tells the sleep chemical melatonin to dissipate. If we step outside the door for a few minutes every morning the early morning light is enough of a trigger for our brain systems to change from night time processing to daytime learning. The greater the amount of daylight we have available to us, the more vitamin D is produced, which suppresses the amount of melatonin in our brain. (Sunlight received from behind glass doesn’t count.) Melatonin is meant to be switched off during the day.

We have structures in our brain systems which measure the amount of daylight we have received. One of these is the pineal gland. The pineal gland is stimulated to produce serotonin (contentment) in direct response to the amount of sunlight we have received on any particular day. We need serotonin to make melatonin, so we can sleep properly. The less serotonin we receive during the day from diet and sunlight, the less melatonin we have access to that night.

Crucial to our overall health, melatonin levels help neutralise the most toxic free-radicals our body has accumulated during that day, so ensures body system health. It runs the reproductive and aging cycles. It is implicated in premature death from heart-attacks, cancer and it controls how early we go through puberty and how young we die. It controls our thirst, and our levels of hunger. If we sleep in a pitch black room (can’t see our hand in front of our face) then optimal levels of melatonin are released. (No electronic standby lights, no electronic clock faces, no night lights or lights on in the hallway. Children sleep with us and if they want to go to the toilet in the night, they have a torch handy.)

The work of the pineal gland, in conjunction with serotonin and melatonin, and the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal systems, literally links our mind and body. It is the system which ensures our body and brain system synchronicity. It takes all of the information we provide it and squashes it into mood, experience and memory. All in all, this system is the brain’s brain.

If we are mostly calm, contented and connected to the important people in our lives, then it is a sign this system is working well. If we are mostly tense, easily angered, impatient, hostile, anxious or too ‘nice,’ too ‘pleasant,’ too ‘jolly,’ too quick to put ALL others first, then it is a sign the system is not working well. If we have an Over-Whelmed Tantrum, chances are this system is overloaded.

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About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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4 Responses to Why we Need to Sleep in a Pitch Black Room

  1. Ah, if only they handed out this information in hospitals or discussed this during parenting classes!
    In a recent article: (here’s the link:http://children.webmd.com/news/20120419/background-tv-may-harm-young-kids-development?ecd=wnl_day_042012), doctoral candidate Matthew Lapierre asserts that with the US trend of placing televisions in the bedrooms of young children, parents may leave the television on while children sleep. (I’m guessing that they mistakenly feel it is helpful background noise and/or don’t want to wake their child by the quiet produced in turning it off.) When we consider that one/fifth of children under the age of two have a tv in their bedroom, and that 71% of children from 8-18 do as well, we have to wonder what that’s doing to everyone’s brains and moods!

    • I could tell you what’s going on…but you can probably guess. Lots of unneccessary tantrums and early puberty for starters!!
      Thanks Hazel, hopefully this will become a text for medical and psych students!

  2. Elena says:

    I need to get blackout curtains. We have a streetlight right outside our window so there is constant low level light in our bedroom even with the blinds shut. I know that fatigue plays a lot into my Mommy Tantrums, feeling completely stressed and exhausted on a relatively constant basis. Hopefully I can get healthier sleep in the future. I always make sure that my family members and I all get outside for some sunlight and fresh air for a little while each day. I can feel how miserable we all are on those days when for whatever reason we are indoors the whole day.

    • Yes, black out curtains would help with all that. We felt like we had been hit by a bus for a couple of weeks while our brains caught up when we began sleeping in the dark, so watch out for that, but it soon settled down. 🙂

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