Good or Bad: Sleeping With the Lights On

September 27, 2011

The truth behind my disrupted sleep is finally unveiled! For years, I thought it was normal for me to be waking up every 2 to 3 hours or so. I seldom sleep for 7 hours straight. Because I naturally wake up early, I was succumbed to believe that I was simply a light sleeper. Although recently, I was baffled with how I was waking up every single hour. By the time the sun was up, I could immediately feel the result of my lack of sleep, for I was feeling sluggish. I felt tired. Really tired.

Since high school, I was already accustomed to sleeping with the lights on because my room would be in a total black out if I turned the lights off (Yeah, yeah, I was a Scaredy Cat). It eventually turned into a habit, and I’m still kind of doing that. Turns out, it may not be a brilliant idea to sleep with the lights on.

Lights Screw Up Our Circadian Rhythm

Sleeping with Lights: On or Off?

When we talk about the Circadian Rhythm, this refers to our body processes: internal, biochemical, physiological and behavioral. These processes are affected by different aspects, one of which is the light-dark cycles of the world. Technically, our physiological self only reacts to what it feels. Normally, of course, we are awake during the day, and are supposed to be sleeping during the night. Daylight signals the suprachiasmatic nuclei (made up of tiny brain cells) to promote wakefulness. In a dark environment (like our bedrooms, minus the light), our body would produce melatonin, a hormone that triggers sleep.

Now as I’ve said, the physiology differentiate natural from unnatural because it is only reactive. Therefore, sunlight and fluorescent light will be identified as the same thing by our body. Simply put, if we sleep with the lights on, the body would still react as if it was day time, making us feel that we should be awake. Eventually the body’s biological clock would be confused, resulting to interrupted sleep.

Lights May Cause Cancer

Although it is still under the theoretical possibility category, it seems like having the lights on may lead to the Big C. As mentioned before, a bright room can inhibit the body to produce melatonin, since it can only come out during the dark. According to Russel Reiter, Professor of Cellular and Structural Biology at the University of Texas, “As an antioxidant, in many studies melatonin has been shown to protect DNA from oxidative damage.” Once damaged, DNA may mutate and carcinogenesis may occur.

Whew, well I think it’s not only me who has been enlightened. If you are also suffering from disrupted sleep, you might want to consider the question “Do I sleep with the lights on?” Maybe turning it off will do the trick. Or you could start slow by dimming the light more each night until you are used to having it turned off all the way. So shoo the boogie man away from your mind and have a good night sleep in the dark.