Being a middle-aged mother and professional, juggling a working day is no easy task. Most of the time, you’d see me going about my day with no complaints. And why should I complain? My husband believes in doing his bit at home and is endlessly supportive, and the kids are big enough to pull their own weight most of the time. But what gets me down sometimes is the sleep deprivation I suffer. Clearing up after dinner and invariably getting caught up in the kids’ routine that somehow goes awry, especially if one of them is recovering from an illness, I find myself struggling to keep my head above the water, even if I’ve done away with watching my favorite late evening sitcom. And as tired as I am sometimes, I can’t avoid that evening shower before flopping into bed, which seems to falsely charge me up and have me believe I can watch half an hour of TV before bed, and that’s a big mistake! I end up sleeping late knowing full well I have to be up early. I always console myself with the promise of sleep-in’s on the weekend, which somehow never pans out! And, as a result, my family is sometimes confronted with this snappy and irritable zombie!
The sleep cycle.
Apparently, sleep is regulated by melatonin, a sleep hormone that’s released into the blood stream by the pineal gland with the onset of darkness, due to which it’s referred to as the “Dracula of hormones”. Even if the pineal gland is switched on by the body clock, it will not produce melatonin unless the person is in a dimly lit environment. In addition to sunlight, artificial indoor lighting can be bright enough to prevent the release of melatonin. So channel surfing, with a lamp on to dull the sharpness of the ambient TV light, would obviously delay the release of melatonin which lowers and the body temperature and the blood pressure that relaxes or lulls the body into rhythmic sleep. The onset of day once again inhibits the hormone, which brings one back to wakefulness.
Working late night and graveyard shifts can play havoc with your system, creating a dichotomy between your internal clock and the outside world. The body’s timer sends signals that conflict with what needs to be done, which in turn causes the body to secrete drowsiness inducing chemicals while you’re on a job, or induces alertness when you want to sleep. If you can dull or blackout your sleep environment so melatonin is produced when you need sleep during the day, it would help the body clock settle into a new rhythm.
The internal clock is sort of flexible and can be trained to learn a new schedule and eventually adapt. E.g., if you fly across time zones, your internal clock will initially be out of kelter with the environment, but if you wake up, eat, and most importantly, expose yourself to light on the schedule of your new time zone, your internal clock eventually adjusts. Here again, peaceful sleep is of utmost importance.
Severe headaches induced by the irritation of the brain membrane, often triggered by sharp light, is called a Migraine. This could lead to nausea, irritability, and fatigue. Once in a full-blown episode, one is seen diving for dark cover to seek relief. Most suffers often endure prolonged suffering due to inadequate room darkening. The piercing ambient light from the route holes of blinds or street lights aggravates this condition immeasurably.
Let’s not forget the little mites – just as we adults need properly regulated sleep, so too do infants, more so than adults, in fact. Circadian rhythms or the sleep-wake cycle, are governed by light and dark, and take time to develop, which is why we often have a fight on our hands with newborns. The rhythms begin to develop at about six weeks, and by three to six months most infants have a regular sleep-wake cycle. Overall, a child spends 40% of his/her time sleeping, as sleep is necessary for proper mental and physical development.
Now, while this has improved my understanding of bio-rhythms, I am yet to find a solution to keep the daylight out of my bedroom efficiently enough to provide restful sleep during weekends. My husband sees to the kids in the mornings on weekends anyway, so I have to find a solution other than a few that I’ve seen some of my friends come up with – garbage bags taped to windows; PU foam boards stuck into window recesses; disgusting black cloth hung behind drapes – I mean, get a life!
Rooms with west-facing windows might benefit from window film to filter intense sunlight. While window film can cut energy costs, reduce glare and minimize the damaging effects of UV rays on household surfaces to an extent, in not enough by far. In order to maintain a comfortably regulated indoor temperature and adequate daytime brightening, there’s no disputing that window dressings go a long way in contributing. One must choose between window shades (that can do the job well when raised or lowered) and blinds (that are imminently convenient, as with a tilt of the vanes, one can bend light to one’s will).
For blackout, the Norman SmartPrivacy Faux Wood blinds do a fantastic job as they have no route holes that allow light seepage, but that miniscule space between the edge of the window frame and the blinds can prove your undoing, especially for those sleep-deprived, find-it-difficult-to-fall-asleep sub-humans like me! The best option I came up with is the blackout cellular shades – blackout cellular shades are equipped with side tracks that prevent the seepage of every bit of that peeping tom, thank god for small mercies! And get this – its cellular structure traps air within it to form a shield that blocks and deflects light, heat, and sound! So if one is ill, or sleep-deprived, or needs to sleep-in, like those infants, this is the answer to your prayers!
Available in vertical varieties for those large windows and doors as well, blackout vertical cellular shades are lined with metalized Mylar that does not let ant light through. The inner recesses of its sidetracks are also covered in black to absorb any light stealing in above and beyond the said measures! Choose from Norman, Graber or Crown and get yourself that much-needed darkness so ole Dracula can come through for you!