Artificial Light and Sleep


It’s time for bed – what’s your routine? Brush your teeth, situate pillows, turn lights off, turn television on? If this sounds familiar, you may be unknowingly robbing yourself of quality sleep.


Many feel that the only way they can fall asleep is by having some sort of “white noise,” such as the television, on in the bedroom. According to a recent study, though, the presence of artificial light during sleep may actually prevent the occurrence of deep, normal sleep. This study was carried out by monitoring the sleep of 10 subjects, both in a completely dark environment in an environment with an artificial light source.


This comparison showed that when light was present, people had considerably more of a shallow stage of sleep and considerably less deep stages of sleep. While most believe that “any sleep is good sleep,” that is certainly not the case. Our deeper stages of sleep are necessary for successful recovery and rejuvenation of our brain and body. During our deepest stage of sleep, for example, our immune system kicks in, and we also process information learned the day prior. If this stage is not reached, our body may not reach its full recovery potential, and we may not feel as well rested. Interestingly, those with untreated sleep apnea exhibit the same abnormal sleep patterns, even without artificial light.


So might the brightness from a television in the room be equivalent to the light kept in the room by the researchers? Although the television is likely not as bright (although it certainly depends on the size of the television), it may be worthwhile to switch it off before bed or at least set a deactivation timer to ensure it turns off after sleep begins. There are plenty of white noise alternatives available to assist with the initiation of sleep, so start experimenting!


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