Are you one of those people who can fall asleep easily, waking recharged and refreshed ready to face a new day? Or is this a dream for you? Are you one of those people who struggle to fall and stay asleep?

 

Up to 35% of adults have brief symptoms of insomnia, 15-20% have short term insomnia and about 10% have chronic insomnia. (1)

 

Why is Sleep so Important for Health?

  • Sleep aids concentration, memory and brain function. A lack of quality sleep doesn’t only impact you, but may impact others if you are not alert while driving, operating machinery or performing medical procedures
  • Lack of sleep can also have negative impacts on insulin and weight gain along with hypertension, depression and other chronic diseases (2)
  • The brain uses sleep to wash away toxins that build up from a hard days thinking. “Cells in the brain, probably the glial cells which the nerve cells alive, shrink during sleep.  This increases the size of the interstitial space, the gaps between the brain tissue, allowing more fluid to be pumped in and was h the toxins away” (Dr. Maiken Nedergaard)(3).  Essentially, your brain uses your down time while you are sleeping to give itself a bath!
  • Good sleep is essential for more than just your ability to concentrate- it is essential for good health and wellbeing.

 

Why do we have trouble sleeping?

While there are many factors that can contribute to sleep disorders, which rarely occur due to a single factor, one theory points to something very simple: light.

Many experts are pointing the finger at electronic lighting, specifically late night use of electronic devices. According to one UCLA professor, Dr. Daniel Siegel, “People are exposing their eyes to this stream of photons from these objects that basically tell your brain, ‘Stay awake. It isn’t time to sleep yet.’ It tells your brain not to secrete melatonin”.(4)

It is estimated that computers and smart devices emit the equivalent of half an ordinary room of light (between 30-50 lux). While this doesn’t sound like much, remember that most of the time, the source of the light is only a few centimetres from your face.(5) This much light can suppress melatonin (your sleep hormone) by up to 22%, which delays the beginning of your sleep cycle.(6) And remember, that many smart devices emit a blue light wave, which is thought to be the most disruptive and can reset your entire circadian rhythm. (7)

 

How to Maximise Your Quality Sleep

Create space in your evening to allow you to transition to sleep time. All experts agree that a buffer between electronic device time and bed time is crucial for getting a good night’s sleep. Many recommend at least one hour, some suggest two hours of screen free time as a minimum buffer zone.

 

Either way, tonight put down your electronics an hour before bed time and reap the ongoing health benefits of a good night’s sleep!

 

References

(1) Heffron, T (2014), “Insomnia Awareness:Facts and Stats”, Sleep Education, http://www.sleepeducation.com/news/2014/03/10/insomnia-awareness-day-facts-and-stats Retrieved 1 May 2015

(2) Institute of Medicine (2206), “Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem” National Academies Press, Washington DC

(3) Gallagher, J., (2013),  “Sleep cleans the brain of toxins”, BBC News, www.bc.com/news/health-24567412 Retrieved May 1 2015

(4) Gmoser, J., (2015), “This is what happens to your brain and body when you check your phone before bed.” Business Insider Australia, http://www.businessinsider.com.au/smartphone-impact-brain-body-sleep-2015-2

(5) Rice, D. (2013) “Artificial Light Leading to Increase in Sleep Disorders” ABC News, http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-01/aritifical-light-leading-to-increase-in-sleep-disorders/4970448

(6) Mulaney, R (2012) “Light from self-luminous tablet computers can affect evening melatonin, delaying sleep” www.news.rpi.edu/luwakkey/3074

(7) Holzman, D (2010), “What’s in a color? The unique human health effects of blue light” National Institute of Environmental Health Science, 118(1):A22-A27 DOI:10.1289/ehp.118-a22