by Clarianne Moscoso-Torres
I remember recently my friend poured salt instead of sugar into her café con leche. When I asked her why she said, “I did not sleep last night… I couldn’t stop watching Netflix.” There are countless reasons as to why people sleep less at night. The main culprits include our phone and screens. Studies show that using mobile screens for more than 8 hours a day, using them for at least 30 minutes before sleeping after the lights have been turned off, and keeping the mobile near the pillow are associated with poor sleep quality. (1) This is because of blue light, which out of all the colors in the rainbow is the one that is used the most in LED technology (our televisions, phones, and screens). Additionally, out of all the other types of light, blue light has a stronger effect on our brains. Specifically, it blocks our brain from releasing melatonin, which is the chemical that helps us go to sleep. (2)
One myth debunked by scientists is that, “your brain and body can learn to function just as well with less sleep.” Based on studies, even though participants got used to sleep deprivation, their performance remained lower than when they had slept more. Additionally, their performance began to deteriorate after two consecutive nights of sleep deprivation. (3) So how much sleep should we be getting? The CDC reports that adolescents need at least 8-10 hours of sleep per night and adults need 7 hours. (4)
Poor performance and low energy the next day are not the only negative side effects of sleeping less than recommended. Sleep experts say that sleeping less than 7 hours on a regular basis is associated with weight gain, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and depression. Why is sleep so important? When you sleep, your mind rests and allows your body to heal and keep systems in balance. It helps all aspects of your body, one way or another. For example, during sleep, your body helps repair your heart and blood vessels. Also, it helps keep a healthy balance of the hormones that are responsible for making you feel full and hungry. (5) There are countless positive benefits that come with getting a good night’s sleep such as: a stronger immune system, lower inflammation, greater athletic performance, better calorie regulation, lower weight gain risk, better productivity, better concentration, and mood improvement. For some people, it ensures they do not add salt to their café con leche!
These are several tips and skills you could try out next time you find yourself having trouble falling asleep:
- Reduce blue light exposure at night. You could wear glasses that block blue light, download an application that can block blue light on your computer and phone, and you could stop watching TV and turn off lights at least 30 minutes – 2 hours prior to bedtime.
- Try to avoid drinking caffeinated drinks 6 hours prior to going to sleep.
- Try to sleep and wake up at similar times throughout the week.
- Ask your provider for supplements and medications that can be used as sleep aids (e.g., melatonin).
- If you find yourself in bed unable to fall asleep, get out of bed and do something else for 10 minutes.
The following resources are available for more information:
Photos by Mo and Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
(1) Rafique, Nazish, et al. “Effects of mobile use on subjective sleep quality.” Nature and Science of Sleep 12 (2020): 357.
(2) Wahl, Siegfried, et al. “The inner clock—Blue light sets the human rhythm.” Journal of biophotonics 12.12 (2019): e201900102.
(3) Robbins, Rebecca, et al. “Sleep myths: an expert-led study to identify false beliefs about sleep that impinge upon population sleep health practices.” Sleep health 5.4 (2019): 409-417.
(4) Consensus Conference Panel, et al. “Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: a joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society.” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 11.6 (2015): 591-592.
Clarianne Moscoso-Torres was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She graduated in 2016 from Haverford College near Philadelphia with a B.Sc. in Psychology. She is currently a medical student at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She was a part of the executive board of the school’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA).