At this point, almost everybody has heard about the harmful effects of bright lights on our “wake-sleep” cycle. Studies found out that bright lights result in an increased incidence of sleeping disorders, especially among young adults.
So, we came up with a flurry of solutions- red lights, using eye care technology, and blue light blocking glasses.
Further research showed a whole host of diseases linked with inadequate sleep, such as the increased risk of cardiovascular disorder, type 2 diabetes mellitus, mental health issues, and even suicidal tendencies.
Most people then decided to switch to using dim lights. They believed that this low ambient light would help keep their sleeping patterns regular. Unfortunately, new information coming to light is that faint light, too, can be harmful to your health.
How does dim light affect our health?
Low levels of light have been found to decrease melatonin secretion in test subjects. Though the level of melatonin disruption is less than that seen when sleeping with the lights on, it is still significant enough to affect our sleep patterns.
Melatonin is a peptide hormone secreted by the pineal gland within the brain. It regulates sleep and wakefulness in humans, and its secretion is closely tied to the circadian rhythm.
Studies have found that individuals with melatonin secretion imbalances also have irregularities in their sleep-wake cycle. This leads to sleeping disorders and an increased risk of developing other health conditions.
What are the health hazards associated with the disruption of the sleep-wake cycle?
Sleep and wakefulness are regulated by melatonin, which helps in the synchronization of the circadian rhythm. Disruption of the sleep-wake cycle can lead to various sleeping disorders such as different types of insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, and fatigue.
These can lead to a vast host of related physical and mental conditions. Some of these are:
Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
Reduced quality and amount of sleep have been found to have a direct relationship with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
You may run a risk of developing conditions such as coronary artery disease, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease. So, catching a few extra hours of sleep in a dark room can do wonders for your heart.
Increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus
Similar studies have found that sleep pattern disruption is also a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes mellitus later on in life.
People who slept for fewer hours were found to have an increased risk of blood sugar control impairment. This may also be linked to other unhealthy lifestyle choices such as harmful feeding, a sedentary lifestyle, and uncontrolled stress.
Predisposes individuals to obesity
Abnormal sleeping patterns lead to irregularities in the performance and secretion of so many hormones. Important hormones involved in regulating body weight and fat deposition include leptin, ghrelin, insulin, cortisol, and so on.
Sleeping with a dim light can affect these hormones, causing unhealthy weight gain and increased craving for unhealthy food.
Increased risk of developing mental illness
Mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, brain lag, and inability to focus are all directly linked to getting fewer hours of sleep than required.
It’s surprising to find out that over time, something as little as a few lost hours of sleep can significantly increase a person’s risk of suicide, especially when combined with previous mental illness.
Advantages of sleeping in total darkness
You fall asleep faster
It’s much harder to fall asleep with the lights on, even if you’re tired. Switching off the lights helps you fall asleep quicker and catch some extra time in bed.
You have better quality sleep
Though we may not know it, even when we are sleeping, our brain perceives the sensation of light filtering through our eyelids. Sleeping with the lights on confuses your mind and disrupts your sleep-wake cycle, thus, reducing the quality of sleep you receive.
It is better for your mental health
A lot of us know that the less you sleep, the crankier you become. Losing sleep over long periods can lead to more than just early morning crankiness and a headache.
Research has linked the lack of proper sleep with depression, suicide, and increased incidence of mental breakdowns. So, get enough rest to make sure your brain is getting time to rest and recharge.
It helps keep you fit and healthy
Researchers found out that getting adequate sleep can slash your risk of becoming overweight by almost 50%. This is because getting enough nap time helps you avoid the hormonal imbalances associated with being obese.
It reduces your risk of developing specific health complication and diseases
Like we have previously said, not getting enough sleep has been linked to developing various health complications like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Look out for your health and get that vital time in the sack.
How can you prevent the disruption of your sleep-wake cycle?
- Always sleep with the lights off because even a little light can mess up your sleep cycle.
- Do not sleep with pets, if you can, they usually wake up at night, also waking you up in the process.
- Avoid nighttime workouts. These stimulate your body and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Do not sleep with the tv on, the ambient noise and light can be even worse than just relaxing while without switching off your lightbulb
- Some meals can keep you awake at night. Avoid snacks that can stimulate your metabolism and keep you up late at night.
- While most people think that alcohol is a sleep aid, current studies show that taking alcoholic drinks before bedtime might have the opposite effect and keep you up longer.
- Avoid sleeping in a warm environment. This increases the rate of metabolism and makes it harder to fall asleep.
- Make sure you have a regular bedtime. Sleeping at odd hours makes your sleep-wake cycle irregular. This makes it harder to fall asleep when you should.
Sleep is crucial to maintaining complete physical, psychological and emotional health. Make sure you keep a healthy sleeping pattern and get at least 6-7 hours of sleep every day in a comfortable, lowlight, or darkroom. It will go a long way to improve your sleep cycle and mental health in the future.
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