Disruption of the biological clock harms mental and physical health

Using electronic devices causes sleep deprivation

The high price people pay by using digital devices is reflected in the increase in mental health problems caused by the disruption of the biological clock. The sleep process controls between a quarter and a third of human life, but there is little information that we know about how the body and brain sense the need for sleep, and then about the adaptation of the body and brain and automatically rid themselves of this need, so that the person can perform his daily functions.

biological clock

The main role in this is played by the biological clock, a group of cells that make up the “suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN),” a small region of the brain implanted in the “hypothalamus” that oscillates according to a timetable that organizes our lives, and all other types of life at the same time. The surface of the planet, according to the patterns of sunlight. Every human being is born with this basic mechanism built into his brain, and replicated in all his cells.

This molecular clock not only regulates the amount and quality of sleep we get, but also plays an influential role in mental and physical health: body temperature, heart rate, hormone levels, immune response, mood, alertness, cognitive performance, and auditory reaction times all have it. Its times are in the sun, given that solar time is rooted in the biological formation of man.

There is increasing scientific evidence that violating the circadian clock harms mental and physical health and leads to neurodegenerative diseases. Disruption of circadian rhythms has become widespread in our industrial world due to near-constant or faulty exposure to light, specifically to certain wavelengths of it, to disturb functions as diverse as brain processing, endocrine response, and antioxidant activity.

Blue light damage

The invention of electric light began to blur the boundaries between day and night more than a century ago, but the digital revolution came to eliminate those boundaries completely. It turns out that the blue light emitted by digital devices is the most powerful force for setting – and upsetting – the biological clock.

Blue light forms part of the visible spectrum in light, so exposure to it in the morning revitalizes the body and improves mood; That is, it sets the human rhythm for the start of the biological day. Some studies have shown that small amounts of it suppress the production of melatonin; The hormone associated with the body’s clock and biological night reception, which builds up as light fades and promotes sleep.

Exposure to blue light at any time suppresses melatonin production, but exposure to it at the wrong time – say at night – can upset the circadian clock. National Sleep Foundation figures indicate that 75% of children and 70% of adults use an electronic light-emitting device in bed.

Brain functions are related to the timing and type of light exposure; Because the photoreceptors in the human eye – known as retinal neurons – communicate directly with the brain to send signals to the SCN clock.

Photoreceptors in the anterior eye are sensitive to longitudinal blue light waves stimulated by the constitutive protein melanospin, and activation of melanospin-containing photoreceptors during the day regulates circadian activity, neuroendocrine nerves, and neural behavior according to ambient time.

But melanospin receptors have their own rhythmic schedule, and are exceptionally sensitive during the evening and night hours. For this reason, exposure to small amounts of blue light at night can disturb your circadian rhythm.

Of all the colors in the visible spectrum of light, blue light has the strongest effect on circadian rhythms. Exposure to short wavelengths of blue light emitted from smartphone and tablet screens has the same effect as exposure to sunlight in the morning.

Age-related eye changes also reduce the amount of light that reaches the circadian clock, impairing synchronization and disrupting sleep in the elderly. The mental health of young people is also affected by the social media content they follow and the timing of exposure to blue-light emitting devices.

lack of sleep

How does sleep help banish nervous anxiety? Night shifts at work disrupt the circadian clock, and people who work at them — up to 14% of workers in the United States — are more likely than others to suffer from sleep problems, accidents, impaired glucose tolerance, cardiovascular problems, and breast cancer.

The lack of sleep for one night has a major impact on the lives of healthy people; Because it may lead to the tendency of psychological reactions towards the negative; A research team at Uppsala University found that losing the equivalent of one night of sleep can lead adults to analyze facial expressions negatively, perceiving people as more angry than they actually are. The researchers believe that it may amount to misinterpreting the intentions of others.

In a related context, researchers at the University of Bern recently discovered that the functions of deep sleep include the classification of emotions; That is, enhancing the stock of positive ones, and suppressing others that are very negative or painful, by decoupling the electrical activity of the neuron bodies and dendrites in the prefrontal cortex, allowing the danger signals to operate the dendrites, but without entering the cells.

The researchers found that the absence of deep sleep leads to a failure to distinguish between safety and danger signals, prompts nerves to react to fear and prepares the ground for anxiety disorders.

Researchers from Columbia University noted that sleep is responsible for another function: relieving oxidative stress; One of the causes of cell damage to the brain due to its aggressive consumption of oxygen, it has been shown that lack of sleep increases human sensitivity to oxidative stress, which leads to the accumulation of damaged cells over time, which finally manifests in neurodegenerative diseases.

As a primary mediator of the circadian clock, melatonin is a natural sleep factor; Studies have shown that its biological effects go well beyond sleep to help influence conditions caused by sleep loss and circadian rhythm disruption.

Melatonin acts as a neuroprotector for brain cells from the accumulation of metabolic waste, as well as balancing glucose metabolism, and inhibiting the growth of cancer cells.

Sleep protection methods

There are many ways to protect sleep; Most notably, limit exposure to blue light in the evening and at night. Experts advise to reduce screen time and stop using the computer at least two hours before bedtime… It is also best to get rid of the TV in the bedroom. It’s also becoming increasingly popular to take melatonin supplements late in the day to “recall” the biological night as a way to combat insomnia.

The National Institutes of Health reports that melatonin use in the United States has increased fivefold since the turn of the millennium, coinciding with increased exposure to blue light that causes insomnia.

But taking melatonin is not without risks; Because large doses of it at night may cause drowsiness the next day and affect some biological functions. Furthermore, studies in this area have not determined its efficacy as a sleeping pill, with some evidence suggesting that melatonin is as effective as a placebo. However, researchers note that placebos are highly effective at stimulating sleep.

* “Psychology Today”

– “Tribune Media” services


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