Biological Reasons Why Many People Have Sleep Disorders — Especially Teens
Lack of Morning Light Keeps Teenagers Up at Night
The first field study on the impact of light on teenagers’ sleeping habits finds that insufficient daily morning light exposure contributes to teenagers not getting enough sleep. “As teenagers spend more time indoors, they miss out on essential morning light needed to stimulate the body’s 24-hour biological system, which regulates the sleep/wake cycle,” reports Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Program Director at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center (LRC) and lead researcher on the new study.
These morning-light-deprived teenagers are going to bed later, getting less sleep and possibly under-performing on standardized tests. We are starting to call this the teenage night owl syndrome.
Disrupting Biological Rhythms
Around puberty, our circadian rhythms shift from a morning preference to an evening preference. The problem is that today’s middle and high schools have rigid schedules requiring teenagers to be in school very early in the morning, just like many employers, students and even office workers are likely to miss the morning light because they are often traveling to and arriving at school or work before the sun is up or as it’s just rising. This disrupts the connection between daily biological rhythms, called circadian rhythms, and the earth’s natural 24-hour light/dark cycle. Their internal clocks are out of sync with their early morning school & work schedules.
Resetting Your Body Clock
Research confirms that specific wavelengths of morning light can shift the internal body clock and regulate sleep patterns. A person’s internal clock can be reset by receiving appropriate light exposure, which means you will be more alert and focused during the day, and feel naturally tired at an earlier bedtime.