The positive and negative effects of sleep

The evidence for the health benefits of adequate, restful sleep is overwhelming, years of research shows that sleeping between 7 and 9 hours per night is essential.

It can help to relieve stress, reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, improve memory and cognitive function and even help with weight loss.


The negative effects of sleep deprivation are serious and are associated with automobile and workplace accidents as well as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression.

Could our excessive use of technology be responsible for our rising levels of sleep deprivation?

95% of people have reported using some type of electronics (mobile phones, laptops, television etc.) at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed, checking facebook, watching your favorite TV show, responding to a text message in bed or reading on your electronic device seems harmless enough, but the sleep disruption caused by these light emitting devices is significant and potentially harmful to your health.

The importance of melatonin!

Research has shown that night time light exposure suppresses the production of melatonin, this is the major hormone secreted by the pineal gland that controls our sleep and wake cycles.

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, it helps to regulate other hormones and maintains the body’s internal 24-hour “clock” that plays a critical role in when we fall asleep and when we wake up.

Melatonin only comes out in the dark and the pineal gland will not produce melatonin unless you are in a dark or dimly lit environment. 

Light is an important regulator of melatonin production, exposure to light during the night reduces melatonin production and release, artificial indoor lighting as well as “blue” light emitted from mobile phones, laptops and televisions can be bright enough to prevent the release of melatonin.

The effects of “blue” light

sleep phones_2The “blue” light that is emitted by your phone tricks your body into thinking it is daytime. 

A pigment called melanopsin in the cells of the retina are most sensitive to blue light, your retina filters through the light and passes messages to the brain and this blue light has a very stimulating effect.

If you wake up in the middle of night, and although you may wish to do so, don’t reach for your phone as the light will disrupt your sleep even further.

A reduction in melatonin at night is associated with poor levels of sleep.

However, melatonin suppression has far worse consequences than poor sleep – it has also been shown to increase the risk of cancer, impair immune system function, and possibly lead to type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and heart disease.

The dangers of electromagnetic fields

We also face the dangers of Electromagnetic Fields; EMFs emanate from basically anything electric.

These electric fields can affect the electrical communication in your body, such as your brainwaves or the ability of your neurons to fire and communicate. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has labeled magnetic fields a class 3 carcinogen.

Mobile phones also expose you to both electric and magnetic fields and should never be kept in your sleeping area.

It is estimated that up to 8% of populations in developed countries experience serious electrohypersensitivity symptoms.

Dr. Thomas Rau, medical director of the world-renowned Paracelsus Clinic in Switzerland believes that ‘electromagnetic loads’ lead to cancer, concentration problems, ADD, tinnitus, migraines, insomnia, arrhythmia, Parkinson’s and even back pain

Your phone, sleep and melatonin suppression

It is well established that “blue” light which is typically emitted by devices such as mobile phones, computer screens, and televisions is the most melatonin-suppressive.

There are a few possible solutions for reducing your exposure to blue light at night.

One of the solutions is a free program called f.lux, this program 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.

Using a smartphone after 9pm has been associated with decreased sleep quality, not only due to “blue” light but because they keep us mentally engaged making is hard to relax and fall asleep.

We may also be suffering from Hypervigilance, this is where we are continuously tense and on guard waiting for the phone to ring or a message to arrive leaving us less prone to relaxation and a good night’s sleep. Decreased sleep quality and quantity then leads to poor performance the next day.

Connect with Expert Kerry Madgwick. 

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