Natural Light and Sleep Patterns: Does Artificial Lighting Cause Insomnia?

Natural Light and Sleep Patterns

How long does it take you to fall asleep at night? Scientific studies indicate that it takes the average person about seven minutes to fall asleep after getting into bed and switching off their room’s lighting.

If you take longer than seven minutes to fall asleep, you may be affected by a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders such as insomnia come in many forms and occur for many reasons – one of the biggest of which is overexposure to artificial lighting.

From your office lighting to your iPad, you likely interact with thousands of sources of artificial light throughout the day. In this blog post, we’ll look at how these light sources affect your ability to enjoy deep, restful sleep during the night.

Natural light and your circadian rhythm

Have you ever heard the phrase “circadian rhythm?” Think of it as your body’s own internal tempo – a ticking clock inside your body that tells you exactly when to feel sleepy and when to feel awake.

People with a strong, clearly defined circadian rhythm typically have little trouble falling asleep and waking up. They’re asleep within a few minutes of going to bed and out of bed and fully alert within a few minutes of waking up.

This clear and defined sleep cycle is due to natural light exposure. People with good circadian rhythms tend to experience a large amount of natural light exposure – be it from an office window or skylight – throughout the day.

Natural light defines your circadian rhythm and tells your body when it should feel tired and when it should feel awake. It’s evolutional, and when it’s interrupted by a man-made source of light, it can lead to disruptions in your ability to fall asleep.

Artificial lighting and insomnia

Have you ever returned home after a long day at work, feeling tired? Almost every worker – aside from the very lazy or very lucky – has returned home feeling worn out and ready to sleep.

Despite feeling tired, have you ever struggled to fall asleep? Overexposure to bright light, whether from office lighting or a digital device, can result in an unpleasant and unhealthy combination: tiredness and insomnia.

Nothing is worse than feeling tired but being unable to sleep. This phenomenon may affect millions of digital workers who spend large amounts of their working day sat down in front of their computers, tablets or other digital displays.

The reason for the link between artificial light and insomnia is simple: when we’re exposed to continuous light from a screen or light bulb, our brains are tricked into thinking that the day is continuing for longer than it normally would.

When we stay in front of our computer or in a brightly-lit office until late at night – or, alternatively, when we spend time in front of the PC at home – our bodies go into sleep mode but our brains remain alert, as it if were still midday.

This isn’t speculation, but proven science. Overexposure to artificial light leads to a severe suppression of melatonin – the hormone that makes us feel tired late in the evening when we begin to prepare for bed.

How to combat light-induced insomnia

Simply put, the more natural your daytime schedule is, the more natural your sleep patterns will be. Exposure to natural light during the daytime leads to healthy sleep at night, while exposure to artificial light at night leads to sleep disorders.

There are several ways to reduce the effects of artificial light on your sleep. One of the easiest (and most effective) is to refrain from using your PC, tablet or phone for at least an hour before you plan to fall asleep.

A second technique is to mitigate the effects of artificial lighting by making sure you receive enough natural light exposure during the day. A well-lit office can help your body establish a circadian rhythm and undo the damage caused by artificial light.

Don’t let your PC turn you into an insomniac

Sleeping well is essential for good health. Without sufficient sleep, we’re more likely to become affected by illnesses and conditions such as depression. We’re also much less productive and focused than we would be after a full, uninterrupted night’s rest.

Whether you work in front of a PC in the office or simply browse the web at home in the evening, don’t let your PC turn you into an insomniac. As the sun sets and it gets dark, switch off your PC and let your body establish a healthy, natural sleep routine.

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