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How EMF and Blue Light From Technology Affects Restful Sleep
Last Updated on March 20, 2023
Happy World Sleep Day from DefenderShield!
World Sleep Day is an annual global event established in 2008 to raise awareness about the importance of sleep and help those with serious sleep problems. It is celebrated on the Friday before the Spring Vernal Equinox, which marks the beginning of longer and sunnier days in the Northern Hemisphere.
According to recent research from the American Psychological Association, 2 in 3 Americans do not get enough sleep. Before the Covid pandemic, over 50 million Americans suffered from sleep disorders, a number that has only grown since then. This lack of sleep can lead to physical and mental strain, making it an essential topic to discuss.
So, why is good sleep so important?
Nathaniel Kleitman is regarded as the pioneer of sleep research. He, along with one of his pupils (ha), discovered rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in 1953, a stage unique to mammals in which the eyes move rapidly, but no visual signals are transmitted to the brain. Although there is still much to learn about the sleep process, we know that without it, mammals cannot survive.
But what exactly happens after we’ve fallen asleep? Sleep is the period when your body works to maintain healthy brain function and physical health. It’s a time for rest and recuperation, as your body prepares to face whatever challenges the following day may bring. During sleep, your immune system refreshes itself to help prevent illness. Sleep is as essential to human survival as food, water, and air, affecting different areas of the body in different ways within the intricate human system.
Sleep triggers changes in cardiovascular and respiratory parameters that differ from those when you’re awake. While sleeping, the heart doesn’t have to exert as much effort as it does during the day, resulting in a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate. Additionally, body temperature decreases, and breathing slows down during sleep.
Your brain remains active while asleep and processes the information it has received during the day, leading to improvements in concentration, memory formation, consolidation, and alertness. A recent study suggests that the brain may also increase the space between its cells during sleep, which can help to flush out toxins that are linked to neurodegeneration. Since the modern world is filled with toxins, this discovery could be particularly important for preserving brain health.
The microbiome in your gut can affect biological processes, including sleep. Studies have shown that chemical messengers created by the gut microbiome can impact sleep, and the diversity of bacteria in the gut can influence sleep quality.
Quality sleep is crucial for healthy aging throughout your life. During childhood and adolescence, sleep supports growth and development. For instance, babies spend nearly 50% of their sleep in REM as their brain rapidly develops. As children enter adolescence, they experience dramatic hormonal changes during puberty, leading to physical and emotional changes. Therefore, it is essential to promote healthy sleep habits during teenage years as the body works hard to adjust to these changes. As adults, sleep is vital to maintain overall health and well-being. There are countless reasons why you may not be getting adequate sleep, but a big contributor could be your technology.
EMF and Sleep
Why aren’t we waking up feeling well rested? It might have something to do with EMFs…
EMFs are created by electrical equipment and electronic devices, such as cell phones and tablets. Today,evidence is displaying that this low level radiation is resulting in negative effects on humans, including directly impacting our sleep.
It’s important to note that Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) and higher frequency Radio Frequency (RF) radiation are the two categories of EMFs that we are concerned with.
All electronic devices produce ELF. All electronic devices with antennas and wireless capabilities, including mobile phones and tablets, produce RF. If you’re one of the many people who sleeps with their cell phone on their bedside table, EMFs are likely having a significant impact on the quality of rest you’re getting.
A 2010 study by the National Library of Medicine, showed that individuals exposed to EMFs had serious changes to their pineal gland, specifically a disruption in the production of melatonin. The study explained that while the pineal gland can experience EMFs as light, the result is a fairly significant decrease in melatonin levels.
Other Impacts of Technology on Sleep
Our circadian rhythm, which regulates our sleep-wake cycle, is directly influenced by technology, even when we stop using it. The hormone melatonin, responsible for inducing sleep, is secreted by the brain when our body clock determines it’s time to rest. Melatonin signals to other organs to slow down for the night, a natural cycle triggered by sunlight.
The blue light and electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation emitted from electronic devices are known to disrupt the secretion of melatonin and affect our circadian rhythm. The body struggles to maintain a regular sleep routine without adequate levels of melatonin, which is naturally triggered by sunlight. The light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye are particularly sensitive to blue light, which is a major culprit in throwing off our circadian rhythms and causing sleep problems or even insomnia.
Screen time is another factor that has a negative impact on our sleep patterns. As screen time has increased, it has changed our habits, leading to a trade-off between sleep or physical activity. Excessive screen time, such as mindless scrolling, can significantly reduce the time available for sleep. During the covid lockdowns, daily screen time increased by 15%.
Technology has made it difficult to disconnect and wind-down at night, as modern society operates 24/7. With remote work arrangements, the boundaries between work and personal life are increasingly blurred. Work can continue even after leaving the office, as we have access to our phones and laptops. The majority of people who can work remotely will continue to do so after the covid pandemic, according to the Pew Research Center. Although working from home has its advantages, it can further blur the work-life boundaries.
Engaging in screen-related activities before bedtime can overstimulate the brain, making it difficult to fall asleep. The time before bed should be used to decompress and relax, rather than for processing the information emitted from screens. Research has shown that children and adolescents who use technology before bedtime have a higher body mass index.
Our tips to a better night’s sleep
- Avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before bed. If this isn’t possible, consider using devices with a “Night Shift” mode or blue light glasses to reduce blue light exposure.
- Put your phone on airplane mode before you go to sleep. This will help eliminate RF radiation coming from your phone, and will prevent texts, emails, and other alerts from disturbing your mind.
- Create a sleep sanctuary by removing technology from the bedroom. This will help to eliminate sources of blue light and EMF radiation.
- Take intentional time to relax before bed. Meditation can help you disconnect from daily life and prepare for a restful night’s sleep.
- Ensure your sleep environment is cool and dark. Use an eye mask if necessary and aim for a room temperature between 60-70º F (15-19º C) for optimal sleep.
- Use a pillow that supports your head and neck and keeps your spine aligned, based on your preferred sleeping position.
- Plan your sleep in 90-minute cycles to avoid waking up in the middle of REM sleep, which can leave you feeling tired and groggy.
- Establish a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. This helps reinforce your circadian rhythm and promote a healthy sleep routine.
- Incorporate omega-3 rich foods or supplements into your diet to improve sleep quality.
- Maintain a healthy diet that includes antioxidants, leafy greens, easily digestible grains, and healthy fats. Consider taking a prebiotic and probiotic supplement to support a healthy gut microbiome, which has been linked to improved sleep efficiency.