In many ways, sleep is an incredibly complicated process. For centuries, it was the domain of myth and speculation.

Now, as brain measurement techniques improve, scientists are finally starting to understand how and why we sleep. They still don’t have the full picture yet, but, their findings have led to some surprisingly simple suggestions.

Based on one such suggestion, I’m convinced that most of us are brushing our teeth at the wrong time. This may sound odd, but, by the end of this article, you’ll understand why I say this.

This is Your Brain on Light

Most of us don’t think about how we know when to go to sleep. If we are lucky, we get tired at the right time and wake up when we want to. Others of us struggle to get to sleep at night. When we do, we often blame abstract concepts like “aging” or “stress” for our problems.

In reality, our sleep patterns are not magical. Our brains use a series of signals, some internal and some external, to decide when to go to sleep. One of the most powerful, as it turns out, is light.

To oversimplify a bit, your brain uses light exposure to know when it is day and when it is night. When we were cave-women, this made total sense. Is it bright? Ok, it must be daytime. Is it dark? Yep, you guessed it. It’s nighttime.

Life in the modern world is not so simple. The second the sun goes down, we turn on the lights in our home, telling our brains that it’s still daytime. To add insult to injury, many of us take our mobile phones and iPads to bed with us, exposing our sleepy brains to bright light, right up to the second that we want to go to sleep.

Are You Brushing Your Teeth at the Right Time?

In a previous article, I wrote about the importance of leaving our mobile devices out of the bedroom – or, at the very least, on the bed-side table. There is one other activity that we do every night that exposes us to light. Yes, you’ve guessed it. I’m talking about brushing your teeth.

At least one scientist has suggested that we should brush our teeth in the dark to help counteract this problem. Well, I don’t know about you, but, for me this seems like a recipe for disaster. I’m in pretty good shape for my age, but, the last thing I want to do is stumble around my bathroom in the dark!

But, I do have a simple alternative. Since many of us are limiting how much we eat and drink late at night, why not brush our teeth earlier in the evening? This way, we can avoid tripping over our pets in the dark, but, still limit how much light we expose ourselves to right before bed. And, since we will have already finished eating, we won’t do any extra harm to our teeth.

I’m going to give this a shot this week. If you decide to join me, please let me know how you get on in the comments. Maybe we can start a new sleep trend!

Have you tried brushing your teeth earlier in the evening to avoid unnecessary light exposure? What was your experience? Please join the conversation.

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