No, not the dark side of the moon....not the dark side of the Force (see, to my skeptical college sons...I do know SOME Stars Wars references! Ha!) I am talking about the dark side of sleep and rejuvenation!
Part of the Paleo lifestyle involves getting adequate rest. In The Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf recommends 8-9 hours a night in complete darkness. I have just started reading The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson and have not come to that section of his book, but I do know that one of his ten rules for a Paleo lifestyle involves adequate rest as well. Again, all of these recommendations are based upon studying how our ancient ancestors lived and how our bodies were actually designed to live and survive on this earth.
Throughout history, our sleep patterns were largely determined by sunlight. Our bodies are hard wired to respond to light. When there is an absence of light, we sleep. When there is a presence of light, we want to wake up. Our bodies contain sleep hormones (melatonin for one) that are triggered by the absence and presence of light. It is only in recent history, especially with the invention of the electric light, that we have been able to alter our sleep patterns to what we consider a more "convenient" way in order to live our lives and give us more waking hours to accomplish our tasks...you know what I'm talking about...life seems to be all about staying busy lately....
One of Mr. Wolf's recommendations is to purchase blackout curtains for your bedroom. Initially, we did not do this as we have 4 large windows...but after a few days of eating clean and seeing the difference in how we felt physically, we decided to take the plunge (financially) and purchase blackout curtains. They are not super pricey, don't get the wrong idea...we just have 4 kids (2 in college) and we live on a very tight budget. I believe we ended up paying a little over $100 for everything. Luckily, we already had the hardware from a previous set of curtains that used to hang in our bedroom.
In addition to blacking out the room at night, it is also important to "wind down" in the evenings. This means turning off the TV, not rushing around doing a last load of laundry, etc. You also have to make a committed effort to turning in earlier than you normally would. My alarm goes off at 5:30am every morning. This means that around 9pm, I need to start thinking about ending my day.
Well, the first night...what a difference. Wow! The room was so dark compared to what it normally was with just the wooden blinds. Surprisingly, I fell asleep very quickly and dreamed vivid dreams all night long...which means that I probably was experiencing more REM sleep. I have a history of sleep apnea and never even getting to sleep deep enough to experience REM sleep...so I saw this as a good sign.
However, we still had a few problems...things we had never noticed before were like shining beacons in our bedroom now! The little red LED light on the smoke alarm. The tiny green light on our house alarm pad. The "glow" from underneath the bathroom door where we have glass blocks in our shower (which relays the neighbor's flood lights in their backyard to our bathroom most nights). These things had never bothered us before because we simply hadn't noticed them.
So, after a couple nights of tweaking some of these issues, including covering up the smoke alarm light with a tiny strip of black electrician's tape...last night, we were finally able to get our bedroom totally dark. I mean, we could not even see our hands in front of our faces when we held them up. It was that dark.
We slept like babies. Totally rested...totally rejuvenated...totally convinced that the blackout curtains were totally worth the money.
Just another notch on the belt of persuasion that perhaps the cave mom life is a life I want to keep living.
Off to start my day...tons of energy, totally rested, and feeling great!