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How Light Affects Our Sleep

Invention of electricity has changed our sleep patterns considerably, in fact, it has disturbed it. Many factors, ranging from food habits to the lighting in your room, affect sleep. Understand the effects of light on sleep and our lives in general.
Whenever your partner works at night, does sleep seem a distant reality to you? Do you change positions, or just bury your head in the pillow to avoid the light? 
Most of you have had this experience or have to go through it everyday. There are very few people who can manage sleep in a bright environment.
Why can't we tolerate light while sleeping, and why is a dark environment conducive to sleep? A sound sleep is very essential for the body and mind, and there are plenty of disadvantages of not getting enough sleep daily. Light, in a way, delays sleep and disturbs the circadian rhythm, details of which are given here.
What is the Circadian Rhythm?
An endogenous 24-hour cycle, which regulates the biochemical, physiological, and chemical processes in the body, is referred to as the circadian rhythm. It is a kind of biological clock for sleep, and helps in the regulation of various processes.
Environmental factors such as light and weather may disturb the circadian rhythm too. This rhythm is specifically controlled by the tiny hypothalamus in the brain, where the various cells responsible for circadian rhythm are managed.
Simplistically, all signals from the retina are transferred to the hypothalamus, where the circadian rhythm receptors are stimulated.
Circadian Rhythm Process

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Every organism has a definite circadian rhythm to control its processes. Though the exact nature of sleep regulation is not known, plenty of brain structures control the periods of wakefulness and sleep.
In the olden days, when there was no artificial light, people finished their work before it got dark. In short they led a balanced life with a balanced circadian.
The retina has many light-sensitive cells, i.e., these cells sense light and send signals to the brain to convey if it is day-time or night-time. The light bulb in your room emits rays, which are quickly absorbed by the light-sensitive retina cells. The cells then send signals to the brain, that convey the time of the day.

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The brain deciphers these signals as day-time, resulting in the circadian rhythm getting disturbed. It takes some time to normalize the sleep cycle to a state of balance. Continuous and prolonged exposure to light delays the sleep, which eventually disturbs your next day's work.
Due to some factors, we are now being exposed to more light than ever and this delays sleep, keeping us awake for extended periods of time. Thus you see, the brightness of light has a profound effect on slumber.
Factors Which Disturb Circadian Rhythms
Other than light, plenty of other internal and external factors influence sleep too.
Excess intake of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine consumption, eating late at night, and jet lag (due to frequent changes in time zones) also influences our sleeping pattern.
Even certain medical conditions, depression or anxiety of any kind, discomfort, and pain hampers the sleep cycle. There is a lot you can do to have a normal sleeping cycle, read further for some tips.
Regulate Your Sleeping Pattern for a Healthy Mind
Sleep is of utmost important for a healthy mind and body.
There are many ill-effects of not taking enough rest. You should make sure that you are getting adequate amount of sleep daily. Following some healthy habits will help you in maintaining a balanced cycle of sleep and wakefulness.
Keep the lights dim
Set the mood for sleep by turning off all the lights in your room, and setting a conducive temperature (a low temperature is recommended for sleep). A dimly lit environment naturally conveys to our body clock that it is sleep-time.
Avoid Caffeine
As far as food is concerned, one should avoid eating high caffeine containing foods (tea, coffee, energy drinks, and soda drinks) in the evening hours. These foods induce wakefulness. Eat light and keep the spices to a minimum at dinner-time. Following a disturbed sleep pattern wreaks havoc on our health.
Baths and Massages Induce Sleep
Taking a warm water bath before going to bed will make you fall asleep fast. Apart from this, other ways like deep breathing, getting a massage, and sleeping on a comfortable mattress will also help.
If you have a broken sleep pattern, take the effort to alter your habits and you will notice a remarkable change in yourself. So now, dim the lights in your room to have a sound good night's sleep.

 Hemangi Harankhedkar

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