Man watching television in bedNo, they are not bedbugs or ghosts but a german language term for “time givers”. This is the word given for external signals that can, and often do, spoil our sleep. I read about Zeitgebers recently in an article about our electronic accessories entailed “Are our Gadgets Keeping us awake at night?”.

The answer to that question is YES. Our day/night sleeping cycles and hormone production cycles are called Circadian rhythms. These are our built in biological clocks enable us to sleep at night and be awake during the day. Light (a Zeitgeber) can delay melatonin (a sleep promoting hormone) production, making sleep more difficult and increasing our sleep deficit.

Sleep deprivation and sleep deficits are a big deal. It is the cause of 100,000 car crashes each year and 1,550 deaths (Center for Disease Control statistics). Sleep Apnea is a giant contributor to sleep deprivation as well as snoring.

Light from our TV’s, our phones, our clocks, our reading lamps and our night lights ALL cause a delayed production and melatonin and a disruption of our Circadian rhythms.

Good Sleep Hygiene includes setting a definite time to be in bed and a time (after which) all electronic accessories are off (usually an hour before bedtime). Light reading under a soft light is ok or listening to relaxing music but no TV or bright lights. Try to make your bedroom as dark as possible (within reasonable safety) and keep the curtains closed so car lights and street lights don’t filter in. As for snoring and sleep apnea, a custom fitted oral appliance (some patients refer to them as “mouthpieces“) can be used to silence the snoring and improve everyone’s sleep hygiene.

You can read more about this on the National Sleep Foundation website.