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A Drowzee Sleep Intelligence article:

Night Work and the Sleepy Brain – Can Light Help?

Table of Contents

Night work challenges the brain in several different ways. During a night shift many experience difficulties with concentrating and taking good decicion, especially if the tasks are challenging and complicated. After a nightshift, many sleep too little and experience frequent awakening. Are there anything that can help against this? What happens in the brain when we work at night?

Night shift and the brain’s function

We humans are day active animals, meaning our circadian rythm is made for bein awake at day and asleep at night. When you are sleepy and not is decided by this rythm. Additionally, all our bodily functions have daily rythms, everything from blood sugar regulation and body temperature and the brain’s cognitive performance.

The brain performs worse during the night than during the day. Especially. the brains attention span and ability to sense changes in the environment, weakens. To be awake over a long time in the night affects the ability to act and make good decisions in situations that require attention.

This is easy to see in the statistics of accidents. Meta-analyses show a 50-100% increase in risk for accidents on a night shift compared with a normal day shift. This risk also increases after each consecutive night you work.

What happens in the brain during a night shift?

The brain is dependant on constantly maintaining its functions, through the generation of new proteins. Recently, researchers figured out that this process is improved by the clock gene BMAL1, one of the important regulators of the circadian rythm.

This means, the quality of sleep you get is lower when you are sleeping at a time you shouldn’t be sleeping. This can lead to waking up and not being able to fall asleep again.

The important light

Light is completely necessary to sense and see our surroundings, but it is also absolutely crucial for other important bodily functions. In additions to normal light receptors in the eye, we also have non-visual reseptors that register light with the sole purpose of controlling your circadian rythm.

Using strong artificial light during a night shift, prevents many of the negative consequenses on the brains performance. The alerting effect of light makes night work safer and more performant, but does it damage the sleep afterwards or the circadian rythm elsewhere in your life?

Drowzee is working on technology to gain control over our sleep and cure insomnia.