American study suggests nightly phone checks may increase fatigue

November 8, 2019

Blue light emitted from smartphone screens have been noted to have damaging effects on health, in particular on one’s sleeping habits. A recent study has explored how different lighting affects the brain – apparently, checking a smartphone during a restless night does increase feelings of fatigue the next day, but does not have a long-term effect on sleep cycles.

For this study, Tiffany Schmidt, Professor of Neurobiology at Northwestern University (NU), based in Illinois, worked with genetically-modified mice whose specialised retinal cells (ipRGCs) affected only the structure in the brain regulating circadian rhythm. While mice would generally fall asleep when exposed to light, these mice remained awake when exposed to short bursts of light during the night; and as there was no effect on their body temperature, the mice’s overall circadian rhythms were thought to be unaffected.

“If acute and long-term light exposure were both driven through the same pathway (in our brains), then every minor light exposure would run the risk of completely shifting our body’s circadian rhythms,” said Prof. Schmidt.

Prof. Schmidt has since emphasised the importance of further research to map the differing ways in which the brain reacts to light – her team’s findings could also help people with “nocturnal” professions stay awake through the proper use of lighting, while lessening the health risks linked to sleep deficits.

Category: Education, Features

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