New Study Confirms That Screen Time Disturbs Sleep by Resetting the Circadian Rhythm

Sleep disturbances are pretty common. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are between 50-70 million people in the US who experience ongoing sleep disorders.

A survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention learned that 7-19% of the adults reported that they were not getting enough sleep or rest on a daily basis. What’s more, 40% said that they had unintentionally fallen asleep during the daytime at least once a month.

The latest research indicates that screen can disturb the internal biological clock in the body by negatively affecting the light-sensitive cells in the eye. The study has been conducted by the researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA and published in the journal Cell Reports.

It is expected that the findings may help in improving the treatment of jet lag, circadian rhythm disorders, and migraines.

The findings of the study

In simple words, the research shows that the increased exposure to screen time such as from using smartphones can disturb your sleep. This is because the screen tampers with the circadian rhythm.

Basically, the body has an internal biological clock or circadian rhythm that monitors your sleep on a 24-hours, day-night basis. This clock also goes by the name of sleep-wake cycle. This clock is controlled by means of a brain area, which monitors ambient light.

As this clock is disturbed with increased screen time, your sleep also plummets. You may experience sleeplessness, face challenges when trying to sleep, or get a poor quality of sleep among all other things.

While there has already been an extensive research on the role that smartphones and increased screen time plays on slumbering properly, this latest study focuses on a group of retinal cells. These light-sensitive cells form a membrane that lines the back of the eye’s inside.

These cells process the intensity of ambient light to deliver signals to the brain for the biological mechanism. Melanopsin, a protein that processed ambient light plays an important role in this instance too. Increased exposure to light causes the protein, melanopsin, to regenerate inside the cells.

As this protein is continually regenerated, it sends signals to the brain that informs it about ambient light condition. The brain then uses this information to regulate alertness and sleep.

With prolonged screen time though, an increasing amount of the melanoposin is regenerated, which signals the brain to reset the internal clock. This blocks the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. Hence, disturbing sleep.

The risks of getting disturbed sleep

The problem is that the matter cannot be ignored. Circadian rhythm disorders correspond with health issues such as obesity, cancer, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and cognitive dysfunction among others.

The artificial lights from the screen confuse the internal clock into thinking that it is daytime, which is why it becomes difficult for you to fetch some peaceful zzz. Besides, drowsy driving is also a matter that needs an increasing amount of attention.