How your phone, gadgets could be giving you sleepless nights

How your phone, gadgets could be giving you sleepless nights

Excessive exposure to light at night, usually due to binge-watching on devices, is the leading cause of sleep disturbances

Aditi Pai

New Delhi,UPDATED: December 11, 2022 5:00 PM IST

Uninterrupted sleep is essential for good health; (Photo: Getty Images | Klaus Vedfelt)

Have you ever felt lethargic and dull after a night of web series binge? Or do bright street lights keep you awake despite a long day at work? Experts will say it’s the light that prevents you from sleeping well. As city streets are flooded with lights and equipment left on throughout the night, people are getting less than healthy amounts of sleep.

“Artificial light affects the quality of sleep and, in the long term, general health. This is a problem of modern life,” says Dr Niket Kasar, director and consultant psychiatrist at Pune’s Mind Aid Psychometry Lab, and president of the Indian Psychiatric Society, Pune. Light, he explains, is the key regulator of the brain’s biological sleep cycle. “We have a suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain, which regulates most circadian rhythms in the body. It regulates sleep rhythm and the sleep-wake cycle. Light regulates this suprachiasmatic nucleus.”

Here are some ways to get your restful sleep back:

Turn it off: Light is the main culprit for sleep loss. “When exposed to light, the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of our sleep cycle or slow wave sleep decreases,” says Dr Kasar. With the quality of sleep affected, people tend to wake up feeling lethargic, dull or unwell. “We experience cognitive rejection and an inability to think or remember when REM sleep or slow wave sleep is disturbed. And light is a big cause,” he says.

Sleep well to stay healthy: Beauty experts say insufficient sleep will lead to dark circles and bags under the eyes. But the benefits of sleep extend beyond cosmetic uses. “We have physiological processes going on in our body during sleep. Insufficient sleep increases insulin resistance, which leads to an increase in sugar levels and then diabetes. Similarly, in people who do not sleep, the heart rate increases from the average 60-70 heartbeats per minute. Sleep also affects the autonomic nervous system, which can then affect digestion and other body functions,” says Dr Kasar.

Close the gadgets: The human brain holds a pea-sized gland called the pineal gland, which produces melatonin, also called the ‘sleep hormone’. The pineal gland receives information about the light-dark cycle of the environment and produces melatonin. The light emitted by devices affects melatonin production. “Melatonin is the most important hormone for sleep. Its production begins in the evening and reaches its peak at 03:00. It helps us fall asleep and maintain sleep. The blue light coming from screens reduces the production of melatonin. To avoid this, we need to switch off three to four hours before bedtime,” says Dr Kasar.

Give web series a miss: The lockdown and work-from-home arrangements have seen several people come to a sleep therapist’s office with complaints. “There has been a huge increase in cases of disturbed sleep or even the sleep cycle being reversed,” says Dr Kasar. Binge-watching OTT programs or browsing smartphones for news and social media updates led to poor quality sleep.

Identify and treat early: Watch for signs of insufficient sleep and seek professional help. Doctors recommend a sleep hygiene program, which includes lifestyle change, medication, and motivation-based behavior change.

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