Is Electricity to Blame for Our Lack of Sleep?

A new study sheds much light on Americans’ modern-day struggles with insomnia. Here’s what you should know about how electricity impacts sleep.

Could electricity be at the root of your sleeping problems?

Studies have linked sleeping troubles and “screen time” for years now.

Experts say the problem stems from the blue wavelengths that emanate from our TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones.

As the Harvard Medical School explains:

Not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths — which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood — seem to be the most disruptive at night.

However, new research suggests that the problem might be all artificial light — our access to electricity, essentially.

A new, first-of-its-kind study — “Access to Electric Light Is Associated With Shorter Sleep Duration in a Traditionally Hunter-Gatherer Community” — was published in the Journal of Biological Rhythms this month.

The researchers studied two traditionally hunter-gatherer communities located about 30 miles apart in Argentina.

The indigenous groups share almost identical ethnic and sociocultural backgrounds, but one key difference separates them: One group has free access to electricity around the clock and the other has no electricity, relying only on natural light.

Members of the former community averaged about an hour less sleep than those in the latter group, due to the later bedtimes that electricity enabled.

Lead study author Horacio de la Iglesia, a biology professor at the University of Washington, states in a press release that the effect of electricity upon sleep would probably be greater in highly industrialized societies, “where our access to electricity has tremendously disrupted our sleep”:

“In a way, this study presents a proxy of what happened to humanity as we moved from hunting and gathering to agriculture and eventually to our industrialized society.”

The findings support what the researchers had learned from earlier laboratory and intervention studies. During those studies, researchers manipulated certain aspects of light exposure.

However, this study is the first conducted in a natural setting.

What do you think about the study findings? Are they far-fetched, or do they hit too close to home? Sound off below or on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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