Categories: Sleep Science

Drawbacks of Sleeping with the Television On

At night, we’re all accustomed to our specific routines that help us to go to sleep. For some people, television is a big part of this routine. A lot of sleepers feel that the television is just another form of white noise that helps to lull them into a peaceful sleep. But is there any truth to this? Could it in fact be that other factors like your natural mattress and sleep environment might be the reason why you’re sleeping wonderfully? Are there drawbacks of sleeping with the television on? Our mission today is to find out.

A recent study on Discovery Health revealed that sleeping with the TV on can actually be linked to depression. How you may ask? Let’s find out…

The study found that the light from your TV, smart phone, computer or bedroom lights late into the night may put you at risk for depression. The research, which involved hamsters, adds to growing evidence in both animals and people that exposure to even dim lights at night can lead to all sorts of negative health consequences, including breast cancer, sleep disorders and weight gain.

“We’ve set up a link between exposure to light at night with depression in these animals,” said Tracy Bedrosian, a doctoral student in neuroscience at The Ohio State University in Columbus. “If it does apply to humans, people might want to think about getting dark shades, not leaving the TV on all night long, and making sure to give themselves darkness when they go to sleep.”

Major depression has grown more common in recent decades, Bedrosian said. And while there is probably no single reason for the trend, researchers suspect that light disturbances may play a part. That suspicion is based, in part, on the simple observation that people today are exposed to far more sources of artificial light at night than they were 100 years ago. More people have computers in their bedrooms and more people fall asleep with the TV on than ever before simply because, more people have televisions in their bedrooms.

Studies have also found that people who work night shifts have higher rates of mood disorders compared to people who sleep when their bodies are supposed to sleep.

To test the link between light and depression, Bedrosian and colleagues split a group of 16 hamsters into two groups. All of the animals spent 16 hours a day under bright lights. During the rest of the time, eight of the hamsters were given true darkness. The other eight were exposed to dim lights, at a level similar to the glow of a TV in a dark room.

Eight weeks later, the hamsters that never experienced true darkness scored significantly lower on a series of mood tests, Bedrosian reported at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego. The darkness-deprived hamsters drank 20 percent less sugar water than the other group, for example, suggesting that they weren’t getting the same enjoyment out of activities that they used to find pleasurable. The depressed group also gave up far sooner on a swimming activity.

While the studies are just that – studies, it’s still an  interesting concept. We’ve all heard about the negatives TV can pose on our sleep and here’s further proof of it. Next time you have trouble falling asleep, try drinking a cup of tea or reading a book in bed instead. Let us know what you’ll substitute for TV tonight!

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    Amber Merton

    Amber Merton is an accomplished writer on the topics of green living and sleep. Her work has been covered in numerous online publications. Amber has been a regular author on the PlushBeds blog for the past 7 years.

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