Light during the day may serve as a natural remedy for sleep

Harold Mandel's picture
Getting some sunshine

A study from Uppsala University has shown that daytime light exposure may offer a promising way to combat sleep disturbances which are associated with the use of electronic devices in the evening.

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There have been concerns about the negative effects of using smartphones and tablets prior to bedtime on the quality of sleep in people. A promising way to combat this problem may be to get greater exposure to light during the day.

Daytime light exposure may help combat sleep disturbances associated with nighttime use of electronic devices

Uppsala University reports that getting a lot of light during the daytime decreases the effect which blue light screens have on night sleep. It has previously been observed that using smartphones and tablet computers during the evening hours is associated with sleep disturbances in people. In a new study from Uppsala University it has been demonstrated that light exposure during the daytime may offer a promising way to combat this problem of sleep disturbances associated with the use of electronic devices at night.

In the study at Uppsala University neuroscientists Christian Benedict and Frida Rångtell studied the effects of nighttime reading on a tablet computer on sleep after bright light exposure during the day in 14 young females and males. Rångtell, first author of the study, said that the primary finding from this research was that after bright light exposure during the day the use of a self-luminous tablet for two hours did not negatively affect sleep in students who were young and healthy.

Emotional arousal from use of electronic devices at night may be associated with sleep disturbances

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Senior author Benedict says these results could suggest that daytime light exposure such as from outdoor activities or light interventions used in offices, may help to fight sleep disturbances which are associated with stimulation from blue light in the evening. However it remains possible that the emotional arousal which may be associated with checking e-mails and social networks in the evening could be associated with sleep disturbances.

This study has been published in the journal Sleep Medicine. The association which has been observed between use of electronic devices emitting blue light during nighttime hours with sleep disturbances in people may be due to the blue light-mediated suppression of melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep-promoting hormone. However this should be validated with future studies with larger populations. In the meantime it appears exposure to bright light during the day may serve as a natural remedy for better sleep in people who use electronic devices in the evening.

It has been reported by the National Sleep Foundation that there is robust scientific data which has documented the role of light in the promotion of wakefulness. Photoreceptors which are located in the retina can sense light and dark. They signal our brain about the nature of the outside world. Signaling dealing with light and dark helps us to be alert during the morning and to be able to fall asleep at the right time at night. Bright light from the sun has the power of an alerting agent.

Light emitted from small electronic devices can give miscues to the brain

Studies have shown that there is sufficient light emitted from small electronic devices to give miscues to the brain and to promote wakefulness. Adults are subject to these influences and our kids are particularly susceptible to them. A culture of evening engagement and light exposure which has a negative impact on sleep has been created by the increasing prevalence of electronics in kid’s bedrooms. This has a negative impact on quality of sleep, sleep time, and alertness during the daytime.

This is very significant because there are many children who are not getting the basic sleep requirements. Adequate sleep is essential for growth, creativity, learning, mood, and weight control. Therefore parents should address the problem of electronics being used in the bedroom in the evening. It is also certainly worth keeping in mind that exposure to bright light during the day may help to combat the problems with sleep associated with use of electronics at night.

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