Artificial Light Affects Sleep Patterns


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            A study was done on people sleeping. In it, ten patients slept twice while being monitored using polysomnography. During one of their sleeps, the lights were kept on, and in the other, the lights were off. The light was from a fluorescent light a few feet away from the subjects, and not weak light like an alarm clock.

            The researchers found that there is a correlation between sleeping with the lights on and being in a very shallow sleep. That is, you will wake up more easily, and you are likely to wake up much earlier than you might want to if you sleep with the lights on. Recommendations to combat this issue are to use curtains, or shades, or blinds.

            Another study showed that a lot of artificial light before sleep can also mess up our sleeping habits. So using our computers, and phones before bed can make it harder to fall asleep, and once you're asleep--even though you saw that artificial light before you were asleep--it can still set you into a very shallow sleep. This study says that "When our eyes are exposed to artificial light, it stops sleep promoting neurons and activates arousing neurons, leading us to feel less sleepy."

            This all lines up pretty well with my own experiences. I have such badly disordered sleep because of how often I'm on my computer. I stay up so late, and tend to not sleep long, and I can only assume it's because of artificial light.

3 Comments

I definitely can relate to this study. I used to read every night before bed, but now I'm always on my phone and watching Netflix before I go to sleep. I wonder if someone spends enough nights using artificial light before they go to bed, their body will adjust to the light and therefore adjust their sleeping patterns? This study was well done, but it'd be interesting if they went even further and used more people to test on more nights with different types of artificial light (not just a lamp, but a phone, a computer, a TV, etc). I think it could vary with the different types of light, and with the length of time using the light.

I agree completely on testing whether or not someone could get used to the artificial light, and whether their body would change to adjust sleeping patterns. I don't totally know what you mean on testing different types of artificial light. As far as I know, the types of light that come out of your phone, computer, and tv are all the same. I could very easily be wrong though. I do agree that the results would probably vary given different lengths of time using the light.

I sleep terribly because I fall asleep either watching tv on my laptop, texting, or I have Christmas lights in my room that are on 24/7. When I go to sleep without these lights, or when I attempt to sleep without them, I find I have more trouble. Not because I'm afraid of the dark, but I can't just lay there in the dark doing nothing. I don't think my body has adjusted to these lights, I think I just feel weird without them. I think it would be extremely interesting to test what you and Madeline were discussing in the comments.

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