Why You Should Never Sleep with the TV on
By Leland Stillman, MD
You may have wondered what sleeping with the TV on can do to your health. It so happens that this is one of the worst habits you could develop for your sleep quality and for your health. Sleep is vital to good health; and the worse our sleep is, the worse our health becomes.
The perfect conditions for sleep are obvious. We typically need a safe, quiet, dark space. But what happens when you introduce artificial light and sound into that space? Most people would not be able to fall sleep. For those who can, their sleep quality is worse than those who sleep in absolute darkness and silence. Many people are surprised to learn that both light and sound are strongly linked to premature aging and disease.
Why is this? How do sound and light ruin sleep?
Sleep is not just a matter of losing consciousness. Numerous changes occur within the body to allow sleep, and to optimize regeneration during sleep. This is why sleep at night is so much more restful than sleep during the day. This is why staying up late at night, even when you sleep late into the day, often leaves you feeling groggy and tired. You may be able to operate out of sync with the sun, but doing so harms you in many ways and ages you prematurely. For sleep to be effective, the processes that go along with sleep must be properly timed.
Melatonin is a hormone that induces sleep. It is released from your brain after three to four hours of darkness. To be more specific, melatonin is released three to four hours after blue and green light disappear from the environment. In nature, blue and green light disappear at sundown. Only a tiny amount, compared to that in sunlight, comes to us from the moon and stars. But the minute you turn on your bathroom light, look at your phone, or wake up and look at your television, you shut down melatonin release from your brain by exposing yourself to more blue/green light.
What does melatonin do? Melatonin doesn’t just help us to fall asleep, melatonin helps us to regenerate several necessary parts of our body during sleep. Melatonin helps your cells to replace damaged parts. Melatonin helps your mitochondria to regenerate for energy production, and helps you burn fat. Lastly, melatonin helps your mind to rest, keeping you happy, relaxed, and smart.
What happens when we shut down melatonin production by polluting our environment with artificial light at night? We increase our risks for diseases, including anxiety, depression, acne, cancer, obesity, and diabetes that are currently ruining the health of young people all over the world. More specifically, artificial light, including the illumination from your television, has been linked to weight gain, depression, anxiety, dementia, cancer, acne, and diabetes.
What is the solution to this? If you insist on watching television late at night, use a program like Iris (on your computer) to reduce the blue light that your screen emits. You can also wear blue-blocking glasses. Install blue-light filtering software on your phone. When you get up during the night, use lights that are low in blue light. Old-fashioned incandescent bulbs are lower in blue light than modern LED or fluorescent lights.
Television at night is one of America’s favorite past-times, but it can be one of our worst habits to develop. Falling asleep with the television on is one of the reasons that young Americans today develop more health complications than their predecessors. You can improve your sleep and your health by creating a healthy light environment.
Light shapes life. How is it shaping yours?
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