How Artificial Light is Destroying Your Sleep

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Unlike our ancestors whose lives revolved around the sun, we have light whenever we want it. In fact, today’s culture runs on electricity 24/7 and artificial light is the means by which work and play can continue around the clock.

Yet, it could be that this endless supply of artificial light is what is contributing to the countless cases of insomnia that are being reported in our modern world.

We are so used to flipping switches for light that it isn’t given much thought. Our exposure to artificial light is something we should start paying attention to if we are dealing with sleep issues. While society may have adjusted to the advent of electricity over the past 125 years, our bodies have not.

Science has been studying how artificial light exposure is harmful to our health, particularly sleep. What is known to date is that artificial light disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm, or the 24-hour cycle that the body operates on that is in line with solar day and night.

Important biological processes are tied to the circadian rhythm including hormone regulation, immune function, digestion, and more. These finely tuned processes are influenced by the absence and presence of light.

When it comes to sleep, light alters the ebb and flow of the sleep hormone known as melatonin. This level naturally rises in response to darkness and it decreases when the body is exposed to light.

Too much exposure to light in the evenings via overhead lights, lamps, computers, television and other sources of light can delay the release of this sleep hormone – which in turn causes a shift to go on in the body’s sleep/wake cycle. This means that it may be difficult for you to fall asleep at night. Your body essentially doesn’t know if it is daytime or nighttime.

Insomnia, and other sleeping issues, may be helped by simply turning off the sources of light that electricity brings into our homes in the evenings.

A few common culprits:

  • The TV

  • Overhead lights

  • Cellphones, tablets and computers

  • Streetlights (invest in blackout curtains)

It's time to start looking at light and darkness as the medicine and therapy our bodies need to overcome sleep issues.

By turning off (or dimming) artificial light sources in the evenings you may be able to transition your body back to being able to self-regulate its sleep/wake cycle. Furthermore, the absence of artificial light may also cut down on your electricity expenses!

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free two week sleep training course. His course will teach you how to sleep better. Over 3,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 96 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.