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INSOMNIA || The problem with insomnia forums

SHC often schedules links in the Twitter universe between 12am midnight and 2am. Why is that?

We want to connect with the insomniac population.

Check the timestamps on any given post in any given sleep health forum on any given day and you will find that most of the insomniacs are not posting during waking hours but in the middle of the night.

It used to be that people who had insomnia either got up from bed and did something relaxing until they could fall asleep, or they cracked open a book to find a way to achieve drowsiness, or they turned the TV on to some lame cable channel full of infomercials.

These days, however, it is de rigueur to hop onto a forum or a private group in a social network like Facebook or to chase down microposts in Twitter when one can’t sleep and wants to know who else can’t sleep.

While SleepyHeadCENTRAL loves to be able to reach those with sleep disorders where they are at, the problem of late-night carousing online is a self-fulfilling prophecy for failure among insomniacs.

Three major things occur within the human brain during a session online in the middle of the night which practically guarantee that an insomniac will NOT achieve sleep after logging in, then logging off:

1. Blue spectrum light is the insomniac’s enemy. 
So you took melatonin at 10 or 11pm and now it’s 1 or 2am and you still can’t sleep. So you go online? This is problematic because your brain can make its own melatonin, but only if it is given darkness to do so. Darkness signals to the pineal gland to make more melatonin; however, jump online in the middle of the night and you take in a variety of light spectra which most likely includes blue light. Blue spectrum light is the enemy of melatonin; it shuts down your pineal gland–JUST.LIKE.THAT. You can avoid some exposure to this kind of light by using a blue light filter on your device screen, or by wearing blue light filtering glasses. OR, you can avoid light altogether, which is the only real way your pineal gland is going to do its job in the middle of the night. After all, other colors in the light spectrum can also impact your melatonin production, not just blue–it just has the most impact.

2. Emotional/social engagement is… well… engaging.
Once you start a conversation in a forum or a social network or Twitter, you have become engaged. Your brain becomes excited by conversation, new thoughts and ideas emerge, and you are suddenly wide awake! If you are having a tense conversation or reading posts or tweets which make you upset, this will only serve to alert your stress hormones, which will encourage the wakefulness you so desperately want to trade for sleep. The intellectual and emotional brains need a break from all this engagement. You just spent all day doing these things, after all! Avoiding the online wilderness, where you can’t predict what kind of tone or content you’ll find while there, is the only decent solution.

3. Your rhythms desynchronize.
Going back to point #1… if you log in and exposure your eyes to blue spectrum light, you are doing more than just keeping yourself awake… you are actually resetting your circadian rhythms. If you continue to hop online every night during an ongoing period of insomnia, you will definitely knock your rhythms out of whack so that, on the night you finally decide to NOT go online, you won’t be able to achieve sleep because your body and brain have been essentially re-tuned to this new, lousy sleepless schedule, completely in contradiction to the goal of getting more sleep. It will be even harder to re-tune to a normal sleep schedule once this new pattern has been established.

So while SHC is happy to engage with readers at all hours of the night, please think about shutting down the screens well before midnight, and resist all urges you have to visit forums, private groups in social networks and Twitter, even if you can’t sleep. Once you go there, you will just make a bad problem worse as well as delay its resolution.

Don’t worry, SHC posts about sleep will be there when you do wake up in the morning!

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