Published on October 20, 2014 | by Chidera Ukairo Photography by Jeeval Tailor0
Students and Sleepless Nights
I was able to talk to 20 students and ask what their nighttime routines were. Every routine started off different but ended the same. Every one of the 20 students said that they would eventually fall asleep without turning their screens off after hours of visiting sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube. I also asked them about their normal bedtime and most of them said they go to bed between 3 a.m and 5 a.m.
A good number of those students that went to bed at such late hours had 8 a.m classes the next day and the rest had classes that started a bit later. One student said, “I sometimes have to skip my morning class because it’s just impossible to get out of bed.”
The American Medical Association released a statement saying that, “exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents.” It also recognized that in recent years, studies have zeroed in on the particularly potent “blue light” emitted abundantly from the energy-efficient screens of smartphones, computers and televisions.
Students tend to have their laptop, smartphone, tablet or television screens on. This affects our 24-hour light to dark cycle and as a result, the time we eventually begin to sleep because the blue light that comes from the screens prevents melatonin from being released. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for making us feel sleepy at night and it is produced by the pineal gland in the brain.
A Toronto Star article says that throughout our teenage or youth years, the natural body clock shifts and we are able to stay awake late into the night. The addition of the blue light from our various screens pushes the time we sleep to much later than normal, resulting in students not being able to keep their eyes open during morning classes. It also says that we don’t have to be directly looking at the screens to be affected by the light that comes from it. If a good amount of blue light reaches the eyes, the pineal gland fails to produce melatonin.
To help reduce or stop the effect that the blue light has on us, the Star article talks about a free app called f.lux that has been recommended by Steven Lockley, a researcher of Harvard Medical School, and Mariana Figueiro of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. This program makes the colours of your device display adapt to the time of day, warm at night – red and yellow light – and like sunlight during the day. Red and yellow lights are better because these are the natural colors we are exposed to as the sunsets right before it becomes dark. The app also automatically synchronizes with your particular time zone, so there is no need to remember any adjustments to the screen.
Another way to help reduce or completely eliminate the amount of blue light you are exposed to at night is to use amber-lensed goggles once the sun has gone down. Nikon has developed SeeCoat Blue, a clear lens coating that filters harmful blue light. By wearing these goggles, you are able to use your device or watch television without affecting the production of melatonin.