Sleeping well or not depends on several parameters, and we are not all equal when it comes to sleep. But a bad habit, which we all have, can impact our night. Find out which one and why, with Dr Jonathan Taieb, sleep doctor.
You know that a poor lifestyle, a heavy meal, or a cause of anxiety can disrupt your sleep in several ways. But a certain daily gesture, which we have adopted for several years, may be more to blame for your bad nights. Which ? Unsurprisingly, it is exposure to artificial light from our screens (television, computer or smartphone) which prevents falling asleep and staying asleep.
Artificial light, the detail that ruins our sleep
So, experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Sleep Health Foundation and Harvard Medical School have already stated the topic many times: when the sun sets at night, the darkness that sets in is supposed to signal the body that it is time to sleep.
In fact, it is important to keep the sleeping environment dark throughout the night to help a person stay asleep. This is, in theory, how our body works. But in practice, who among us refuses a glance at our smartphone, our television or even a last look at our computer?
Consult a doctor online for your sleep problems
The 3 problems posed by our screens
To find out more about this phenomenon, we contacted Dr Jonathan Taieb, sleep doctor and founder of the Institut Médial du Sommeil in Paris. For him, exposing yourself to blue light before sleeping poses a problem on three levels.
- A physiological problem above all, which plays on the secretion of melatonin. “We now know that we have photoreceptors in the retina which will capture blue light from screens, and therefore send a signal which will block the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Even a light beam of light can have an impact on melatonin secretion, which will be delayed or even reduced.” explains the doctor. To counter this effect, devices are popping up on phones and computer screens, promising to shift the wavelength, like so many blue light firewalls. But for our expert, it is a marketing argument that does not work well or not sufficiently;
- To this physiological cause, can be added a cause of excitement or interactivity directly linked to the content watched. “To fall asleep, our brain needs to slow down its cerebral activity. But when you pick up your phone, your computer, it’s to interact. What we are going to watch will make us anxious, angry… in short, make us act socially, at a time when we should not be stimulated. Accelerating brain activity and therefore getting back to sleep will prove complicated” he confirms;
- Finally the last aspect is a “time” factor. “The time we spend with our screens is time we simply deprive ourselves of sleep. Even if looking at your smartphone relaxes you, it eats into your sleep time. And this long-term sleep deprivation is to the origin of the emergence of cardiac pathology, weight gain, etc.” reminds our expert.
If you have a lot of bad nights, you may be suffering from insomnia, a sleep disorder, or even anxiety. But before consulting a doctor, perhaps you could try simply stopping screens in the evening before going to bed, in favor of a more relaxing activity. It costs nothing and might even save you a few hours of sleep.