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Habit is powerful. Many of us have lived with television and electronics as an unconscious constant in our lives. The absence of these sounds and perceived "company" they offer can even make us uneasy. As a result, some people mistakenly believe that television helps them go to sleep. This is far from the truth. Our brains are prompted to alertness by sound and light. We can simply not get optimal sleep if our environment is not dark and the noise consistent. Television assaults our brains on both fronts:


Most television has dialogue and ebbs and flows of intensity of sound. It's quiet one moment, and there is an explosion the next. Our brain does not discriminate between real sounds and simulated sounds (which are real, just not as real). What's more, we are socially and biologically programmed to respond to emotionally urgent, jarring sounds--also the most entertaining ones.


Television creates the dreaded blue light, which is very effective at making people alert in office environments the rest of the day. It is just as effective at keeping your brain from reaching deep sleep stages. The blue light from televisions and electronics suppresses the natural production of melatonin--the sleep hormone--by the pineal gland.

Well, what if you are clever and put the television on a sleep timer? Is this the best of both worlds? No. It takes your brain 45-60 minutes of dark and silence to rid itself of the effects of television.

If you continually get inadequate sleep you'll suffer fatigue, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and bigger health problems down the road.

If you currently rely on light and sound to put you at ease, try this: 1. Reduce the amount of light you need and the intensity by first switching from a television to a dim lamp, and then possibly a night-light; and 2. Find a pleasant constant "white noise" sound that can replace television's erratic sounds.

In just a couple of weeks you might begin to crave dark and quiet, at which point you can purchase black-out curtains and/or ear plugs. Better sleep is guaranteed . . . well, if your mattress is up to the task.

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