In an experiment that would be the stuff of nightmares for anyone, let alone a social medial obsessed teenager, a 46 year old woman spent two weeks in a room with no clocks, windows, tv or internet. Supervised regularly by psychologists, the purpose of this isolation was to prevent the subject from knowing how much time had passed and allow researches to study the “owl gene”.
This gene called CRY1, first discovered in fruit flies 30 years ago, helps govern your circadian rhythm and is present in all walks of life on earth.
Sleep, and particularly the link between sleep and disease have been of increasing focus in recent years. The latest research showing how our bodies respond to external stimulus from caffeine to noise to social media, and the impact on sleep, and the corresponding link to disease should be enough for all of us to take a moment and reassess our love of late night streaming/social media/email/web browsing.
Fundamentally, our bodies take cues from our environment. When it’s dark, we go to sleep.
The commonality that keeps appearing in research is that interrupting this process with both the light and mental stimulation that comes from our screens is disrupting our bodies abilities to identify when it’s time to sleep. For a lot of people, this exacerbates their existing sleep issues such as insomnia or sleep apnea. For others, it is reducing the quantity and quality of sleep that we are getting.
Given that good quality restorative sleep has been shown to reduce stress, disease, mental illness and even maintain a health weight, perhaps it is time for us all to reflect on when and how we approach our sleep.