Electronic devices cause insomnia
Blue light from electronic devices delays and seriously disrupts the normal sleep process and can also damage the retina of the eye. Teenagers and young people under 30 are especially at risk.

For a long time, the TV set was the only electronic ‘window to the world’, and then computers, laptops, mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, video game consoles, ‘smart’ wristwatches began to arrive... Research shows that a modern family has an average of five electronic devices, while 20% of them own 10 or more electronic devices.

‘It has been scientifically proven that blue light from electronic devices seriously disrupts the onset time and duration of sleep. The human biological clock works according to the pattern of wakefulness - sleep in an interval of 24 hours. Electronic devices emit blue light that instructs the brain that it is daytime, regardless of whether it is evening or night at that moment, which stops the secretion of the hormone melatonin, whose task is to inform us that it is time to sleep. The lack of the circadian hormone melatonin leads to neurophysiological arousal, and even when we fall asleep, blue light shortens the duration of slow-wave sleep and dreaming, i.e. fast REM sleep, which are the two key stages responsible for having enough sleep’, explains Head Physician Slavko Janković, DMSc, neuropsychiatrist, President of the Serbian Sleep Society and member of the European Sleep Research Society (ESRS).

There are attempts to avoid blue light by darkening the screen with special screens or using special glasses, but there is no evidence that these aids really help.

‘Teenagers are especially sensitive to short-wave blue light from screens. While they spend time playing computer games, the lack of melatonin informs their ‘body clock’ that it is not time to sleep, so they go to school tired in the morning and an increasing number of young people are at risk of developing insomnia. In addition to delaying sleep, blue light from electronic devices can also damage the retina of the eye’, our interlocutor warns.

A dark room stimulates the secretion of melatonin, while blue light completely inhibits and delays it.

‘It is believed that blue light coming from technical devices leads to insomnia in 35% of adults, 25% of young people under 15 and 72% of students. Research also shows that every sixth person aged 10 to 29 takes a mobile phone to bed, and every fourth person uses a laptop or desktop at least one hour before going to bed. This is also a growing negative trend among people of all age groups, and it is a consequence of a fast-paced lifestyle, longer working hours, people do not have time to relax, they try to save time and often do this to the detriment of sleep, thus to the detriment of their own health’, says neuropsychiatrist Janković, longtime head of the laboratory for sleep research at the Neurology Clinic at UKCS (Univerzitetski klinički centar Srbije [University Clinical Center of Serbia]).

Those who are ‘chronically sleep deprived’, meaning they regularly sleep less than five hours, are at risk of serious health problems including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and a weakened immune system.

‘Insomnia leads to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and even a 69% higher risk of heart attack compared to people who sleep well. People who sleep less than five hours are at highest risk of heart attack, and for diabetics with insomnia, the risk is doubled’, our interlocutor warns.

What to do?

‘It is important to reduce the daily use of electronic devices as much as possible and not to use them at least one hour before going to bed.’ In the evening hours, use the night mode of electronics with blue light, which reduces the intensity of brightness. It is necessary to remove every device with blue light from the bedroom, including the TV set. Yellow-amber or orange light, which are used to make some monitors and special glasses, have been shown to have no effect on the circadian rhythm, so it is better to use them’, Head Physician Slavko Janković advises.

When insomnia turns into a chronic phase, the usual advice no longer helps. The help of a specialist doctor and complex treatment is necessary.

Insomnia as ‘falling into the abyss’!

Actress Kim Cattrall, known for her role as Samantha in the series ‘Sex and the City’, had to give up her role at London's Theater Royal several years ago due to chronic insomnia.

‘I couldn't do anything, my thoughts were confused, ideas were lost, I couldn't remember, I had severe headaches, feeling weak, I got high blood pressure, I feared that I would never be able to sleep again and that I would die... It was terrible, like 'falling into an abyss’’, she described her hellish experience with insomnia.