In a new study, which was published in The Journal Biological Rhythms, researchers have found that electricity in general is the problem when it comes to people getting a good night’s sleep. While recent studies have shown that glowing screens and backlight from computers and other electronics are disrupting sleep patterns, this study is showing that it’s simply electricity that is causing the problem.
Our natural circadian rhythm is always being disrupted by anything with plugs, including lights, televisions, phones, and computers. Researchers though say that the reason people are getting less sleep now than generations ago is actually caused by an increase in artificial light. This artificial light comes from electricity, such as through lamps and lights in bedrooms. In order to test the theory, the researchers wanted to know whether the introduction of electricity affected the sleeping habits of people in similar communities. The communities were indigenous and lived in rural Northeastern Argentina, and the researchers believed these communities were the best test subjects for the study. The two communities were Toba/Qom, and they were similar in a lot of ways, but only one of the communities had access to electricity 24-hours a day for 7 days a week.
The researchers visited the communities twice over a two-year period, once at the beginning of the study, which allowed the researchers to put tracking devices on the participants. These devices monitored both the sleeping habits of the participants as well as their activities. The participants in the study also kept diaries about their sleeping patterns and behaviors. The researchers found out that through the study, the community that had electricity ended up sleeping about an hour less per night on average compared to the community that did not have 24-hour access to electricity. The lead author of the study was Horacio de la Iglesia, who is a biology professor at the University of Washington. Iglesia said that “In a way, this study presents a proxy of what happened to humanity as we moved from hunting and gathering to agriculture and eventually to our industrialized society.” This means that the effects that the researchers found were likely an underestimation of what highly industrialized socities would see. This means that the overall access to electricity has disrupted our sleeping patterns and behaviors in tremendous fashion. The researchers also noted that both communities slept more in the winter time than in the summer time, even though the length of the days and nights hardly changed when the seasons changed.
This study shows that we are not isolated from the seasonal effects, even though we think we are, and this is often the case with other animals. It is basically in our biology to sleep more in the winter than in the summer, even though we do things every day to try to prevent this from happening. We hear people tell us all of the time about getting outside to enjoy the real sunlight, and some people think that having lights inside are good enough, but this study shows that is not the case. What we are doing is really messing with how we are supposed to sleep, given that using artificial light sources are hindering our abilities to sleep properly. What this study also shows is that even if you use lights during the winter months, your body is automatically designed to sleep more in the winter than in the summer, which is likely due to how we are genetically and biologically designed.
If this study shows nothing else, it’s that computers and other devices are not to be blamed for people getting poor sleep, especially since electricity in general is often times the cause for the disruptions in sleeping. The more artificial light and the more things we have hooked up to electricity, the worse our sleeping behavior really is, and this is due to all of the devices and light sources we have inside our home, and also the appliances and other items that run off of the electricity. In a world where everyone is connected through one device or another, there is really no way to get around the results of this study, since electricity is just a part of our lives, and this study is showing we have not found a way to adapt to the electricity in terms of finding ways to continue getting good sleep.