Sleeping & Artificial Light

Impacts on your Health

Every day the number of people suffering from insomnia or sleeplessness increases. This is causing many other health related problems, such as increased risk of strokes and heart failures. As the
Irish proverb says, “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” Our bodies need rest to complete all of the sleep cycles needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. Doctors strongly recommend a minimum of eight hours of sleep for healthy adults. Yet the question remains: why are more and more people having trouble sleeping? Why is there an increase in consumption of sleeping pills?

While there may be several other unhealthy habits that we can lay the blame on, research has found a connection between artificial light and this rise in insomnia patients. In this modern age of technology where we are surrounded by the latest gadgets, our interaction with artificial light is a lot more frequent than our interaction with natural light. With the invention of television, mobile devices, tablets and more, the average time spent sleeping has dropped below the recommended minimum of 7.5 hours.

Old scientist wears vortex goggles

Blue light will make your eyes feel like this in the morning.

Research has demonstrated that our body secretes hormones that control our sleeping and waking cycles. Amongst these hormones, the major hormone responsible for sleep is melatonin, which is secreted by the pineal glands. It is well established that short-wavelength or “blue” light is the most melatonin-suppressive artificial light; this type of light is typically emitted by devices such as televisions, computer screens, and cellphones. To produce white light, these electronic devices emit light at short wavelengths, which is close to the peak sensitivity of melatonin suppression. This means that products such as tablets, smartphones, and other devices with self-luminous electronic displays are major sources for suppressing melatonin production, reducing sleep duration and disrupting sleep.

Since it has been observed that blue light or short wavelength light is primarily responsible for suppressing melatonin it stands to reason that artificial light needs to be blocked in order to suppress or eliminate insomnia caused by melatonin suppression.

There are a few possible solutions for reducing your exposure to blue light at night. One is to avoid using tablets, television, mobile phones and other gadgets two hours before your sleeping time. Another solution commonly used is a program called f.lux, which makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. This program can be installed on computers, iPads, and iPhones, and may have a significant effect on your melatonin secretion when using these devices at night. The best part about this program is that it turns on automatically in response to the daylight in your particular time zone, so there’s no need to manually make any adjustments to the screen.

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[i] [Blue Light]. (n.d.). Retrieved from