I was just talking to my husband about getting a good night’s sleep when I read something about sleeping with the television on.
It seemed I might have found one possibility of not getting enough sleep or why I felt so horrible when I woke up. Maybe this was my answer. Maybe it was because I was falling asleep with the television on. Have you ever done that?
From a young age, I have never been able to get a good night’s sleep in pure darkness, or with pure silence. I have always found this to be more distracting than the noise itself. I realized how much easier it was to fall asleep in the living room while my parents watched television.
I also found it nicer to sleep with a fan making that whipping noise I have grown to love. Needless to say, how I fall asleep and how I feel when I wake up contradict each other. When I wake up, almost every morning, I still feel tired.
Of course, this could be caused by a number of things, but it’s being said that sleeping with the television on can deprive you of a good night’s sleep. Could this be true?
Our sleeping habits
To paint a larger picture, I would like to share the sleeping habits of my family. My husband likes pure darkness, pure silence, and a cold room. As for me, I love the sound and breeze from a fan and prefer as little as a bit of light to a room filled with flickering lights from a disco ball. Either way, my mania can keep me up for hours with insomnia.
Our children, on the other hand, can get a good night’s sleep, in any condition and with the options of noise or no noise – it doesn’t matter. So, our sleeping patterns are different in many ways, for each of us, but we eventually find sleep anyway.
This is where it varies. I am the only one who suffers from clinical depression, and according to studies, depression is one condition that stems from sleeping with the television on. Now that’s interesting and enough information to grasp my attention. I want to know more because I can never seem to get a good night’s sleep.
Dr. Guy Meadows of the Sleep School, a clinic in West London, says,
“We’re designed to sleep in the dark. When the sun comes up, the light receptors in the retina at the back of the eye tell us that it’s time to wake up by inhibiting the release of melatonin.”
So here is what I take away from this. Melatonin is designed to help us relax and if light inhibits melatonin, then we cannot relax. Hmmm, so it seems our brain is being tricked to wake up when it should sleep…when we have light and sound during sleep, that is.
Even when your eyelids are closed, your retinas can still pick up this light! How can you possibly get a good night’s sleep? And if your brain is tired, then how can you utilize rational thought?
Diana Pilkington of the Daily Mail said,
“Tiredness dampens the effect of the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for rational thought and causes us to use the part of the brain that is responsible for emotion-the amygdala.”
There is a clear connection between sleep cycles and mood. There is also a connection between light and depression, but it’s not the one you might expect. Usually, when you think about light affecting depression, you think about the positive effects of vitamin D on depression.
In this instance, light can be harmful to depression because light while sleeping is distracting, thus the wrong parts of the brain, the ones that govern emotion, take over during the following day. Whew! I hope you understand where I went with that.
As usual, we tested this idea.
Tracy Bedrosian, a doctoral student studying neuroscience at Ohio State University put forth an experiment using 16 hamsters. Out of the 16 rodents, two study groups were created. Both groups were exposed to light for 16 hours a day.
During the next 8 hours, half the hamsters were exposed to pure darkness while the other half were exposed to flickering light, much like that from a television screen. Here’s what we got.
Emily Shon from Discovery News reported,
“The darkness-deprived hamsters drank 20% less sugar water than the other group. This suggested that they weren’t finding the same enjoyment out of activities they used to find pleasurable.”
The hamsters didn’t just fail to show interest, they also gave up while swimming while the other half, the ones who sleep in pure darkness, showed healthy results. The brains of the hamsters were also studied revealing that the group with decreased motivation also had a marked change in the hippocampus region.
This same change in the hippocampus is also seen in those suffering from clinical depression. Wow! With this new information, you might want to reconsider how you sleep, and you may not. It’s just a study, after all, and you have to make up your own mind according to how you feel.
If you have slept your entire life with the sound of the television and the hum of the fan and you feel perfectly fine, then who’s to try and change that. Apparently, you have no problem getting a good night’s sleep.
But if you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep, you might want to try something different. After all, what’s the harm in trying something new?
You never know, you might just find the answer by turning off the television and turning off the lights.