The trouble with Sleep; existing and new ideas concerning the growing numbers of people reporting poor or disturbed sleep or lower than expected sleeping hours.    By Dr Chris Barnes, Bangor Scientific and Education Consultants, July 2016.  E-mail



Existing and new ideas concerning the growing numbers of people reporting poor or disturbed sleep or lower than expected sleeping hours are discussed.  Existing ideas include exposure to LAN ( light at night) and night noise.          The notion that night noise has increased since all night pub opening is important.  Wind turbines/farms  can be shown to have a hitherto unexplained potential for sleep disruption over a much greater radius than previously thought.    The Hum is also a potential candidate as is modern digital communications technology particularly that using a rotating magnetic vector.   Further, I hypothesise  that Magnetic and acoustic fields at very specific frequencies and intensities may potentially be disrupting sleep when they are coincident with the waking rather than sleeping brain rhythms or alternatively are  out pf phase with those  required for the various phases of sleep.  This then fits elegantly given my hypothesis of Schumann resonance and earth-moon distance synchronisation, see         ‘A new theory of sleep:  round the world  to meet ourselves,  off  to the moon and  a few ‘mind melds’ with strangers thrown in’, by Dr Chris Barnes, Bangor Scientific and Educational Consultants  e-mail    April 2016.



Various recent studies and media reports (refs) suggest that between 51% and 67% of the UK population are getting neither the quality or duration of sleep they would expect   or as compared with that reported a few decades ago.    I feel this is hardly surprising given the 24 hour society we now live in.  The nightscape is now so totally different in terms  of light, noise and radio emissions compared with that known by our parents and grand-parents.


This paper  seeks to briefly review existing hypotheses and possible causal mechanisms for the above and in addition to advance some new and hitherto undisclosed ideas.   


A comprehensive search of the literature  reveals two main causes for the above problems. Both are technology related and both relate to LAN ( Light at Night).    Firstly, there is external LAN from sources such as Street Lighting and secondly, there is internal LAN from electric lighting, TV sets and more recently computer and laptop  screens and other smaller mobile devices.     Perhaps the most surprising result of the Great British Sleep Survey 2012  (  is that of all the respondents, 67% blamed   bodily discomfort for wakefulness at night.  Despite the emphasis of light in the literature, only 17% blamed it.    Whereas 36% blamed night noise. I will, however, firstly deal with LAN as there is most reference to this in the literature.    Another interesting and possibly overlooked fact revealed by the Sleep surveys of 2010 and 2013  (  is that the number of people who only have 5.5 hours sleep  on average increased from 20 % to 27% in these 3 years.  I have an interesting hypothesis  to account for this which I will consider later.  In 2011, The Great British Sleep Survey interviewed 11,129 adults. It found that, of those who had trouble sleeping, 51.3% of us struggle to nod off. And women are three times more likely than men to suffer – 75% of women report problems, compared with 25% of men. Professor Colin Espie of Glasgow University, the co-founder of sleep organisation Sleepio, which commissioned the survey, said the results pointed to a "real medical issue that should be taken seriously". A quarter of those with insomnia had suffered for more than 11 years.

External LAN


External zeitgebers synchronize the human circadian rhythm of sleep and wakefulness. Humans adapt their chronotype to the day-night cycle, the strongest external zeitgeber. The human circadian rhythm shifts to evening-type orientation when daylight is prolonged into the evening and night hours by artificial light sources. Data from a survey of 1507 German adolescents covering questions about chronotype and electronic screen media use combined with nocturnal satellite image data suggest a relationship between chronotype and artificial nocturnal light. Adolescents living in brightly illuminated urban districts had a stronger evening-type orientation than adolescents living in darker and more rural municipalities. This result persisted when controlling for time use of electronic screen media, intake of stimulants, type of school, age, puberty status, time of sunrise, sex, and population density. Time spent on electronic screen media use—a source of indoor light at night—is also correlated with eveningness, as well as intake of stimulants, age, and puberty status, and, to a lesser degree, type of school and time of sunrise. Adequate urban development design and parents limiting adolescents' electronic screen media use in the evening could help to adjust adolescents' zeitgeber to early school schedules when they provide appropriate lighting conditions for daytime and for night-time, see Vollmer et al  2012.


Indeed some report that light pollution from bright street lights has now become a major public health problem, or even cause cancer,    see Pauley 2004.     Their  hypothesis is that the suppression of melatonin (MLT) by exposure to light at night (LAN) may be one reason for the higher rates of breast and colorectal cancers in the developed world deserves more attention. The literature supports raising this subject for awareness as a growing public health issue. Evidence now exists that indirectly links exposures to LAN to human breast and colorectal cancers in shift workers. The hypothesis begs an even larger question: has medical science overlooked the suppression of MLT by LAN as a contributor to the overall incidence of cancer?


The indirect linkage of breast cancer to LAN is further supported by laboratory rat experiments by David E. Blask and colleagues. Experiments involved the implanting of human MCF-7 breast cancer cell xenografts into the groins of rats and measurements were made of cancer cell growth rates, the uptake of linoleic acid (LA), and MLT levels. One group of implanted rats were placed in light–dark (12L:12D) and a second group in light–light (12L:12L) environments. Constant light suppressed MLT, increased cancer cell growth rates, and increased LA uptake into cancer cells. The opposite was seen in the light–dark group. The proposed mechanism is the suppression of nocturnal MLT by exposure to LAN and subsequent lack of protection by MLT on cancer cell receptor sites which allows the uptake of LA which in turn enhances the growth of cancer cells.


MLT is a protective, oncostatic hormone and strong antioxidant having evolved in all plants and animals over the millennia. In vertebrates, MLT is normally produced by the pineal gland during the early morning hours of darkness, even in nocturnal animals, and is suppressed by exposure to LAN.


Daily entrainment of the human circadian clock is important for good human health. These studies suggest that the proper use and colour of indoor and outdoor lighting is important to the health of both humans and ecosystems. Lighting fixtures should be designed to minimize interference with normal circadian rhythms in plants and animals.


There are also new discoveries on blue-light-sensitive retinal ganglion cell light receptors that control the circadian clock and how those receptors relate to today's modern high intensity discharge (HID) lamps.


I predict that modern Blue end ( High Intensity Led)  street lighting will bring about a huge glut of further sleep disturbances and illnesses as a direct consequence of their introduction.


Internal LAN ( from TV sets and mobile devices)


Johnson et al (2004) showed  that Adolescents who watched 3 or more hours of television per day during adolescence were at a significantly elevated risk for frequent sleep problems by early adulthood. This elevation in risk remained significant after offspring age, sex, previous sleep problems, offspring psychiatric disorders, offspring neglect, parental educational level, parental annual income, and parental psychiatric symptoms were controlled statistically. Adolescents who reduced their television viewing from 1 hour or longer to less than 1 hour per day experienced a significant reduction in risk for subsequent sleep problems. Sleep problems during adolescence were not independently associated with subsequent television viewing when prior television viewing was controlled.

Egermont and  Vandenbulck   (2006) have  shown that with  adolescents, 36.7% reported watching television to help them fall asleep. In total, 28.2% of the boys and 14.7% of the girls used computer games as a sleep aid. Music was used to fall asleep by 60.2% of the adolescents in this sample. About half of the adolescents read books to fall asleep. Except for reading books, using media as a sleep aid is negatively related to respondents’ time to bed on weekdays, their number of hours of sleep per week and their self-reported level of tiredness. This has been confirmed by Sigman (2007) who discussed sleep in younger children and psychiatric physical changes.


Gema MesquitaI and Rubens ReimãoII (2010)  showed the situation is far worse for intnernet access than for television. Their  descriptive, cross-sectional study was based on subjective questionnaires that assessed night-time habits of television viewing and Internet use during weekdays and perceived sleep quality among university students. Sleep perception was measured using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). The study group comprised 710 university students aged 17-25 years. Analysis of sleep perception in relation to internet use revealed that 58.06% of subjects who accessed the internet between 19:00 and 21:00 slept poorly; 71.43% between 19:00 and 22:00; 73.33% between 19:00 and 24:00; and 52.38% between 19:00 and 03:00 (p=0.0251). Concerning the relationship between television exposure and perceived sleep, the groups did not differ from each other (p=0.9303). Their study showed that internet use between 19:00 and 24:00 increases the risk of poor sleep among young adults, in comparison with television viewing times.   I will comment further on this aspect in the discussion section of this paper.


An extensive review of 36 similar articles by Cain and Gradisar (2010) confiormed   that across these studies, both delayed bedtime and shorter total sleep time have been found to be most consistently related to media use.

The use of electric lights at night is disrupting the sleep of more and more people ( of all ages) , says Charles Czeisler (2013).


Night noise

One of the first scientific studies  on noise dates from 1975. The study  of Griefahn et al  compared the effects of road, rail, and aircraft noise and tested the applicability of the equivalent noise level for the evaluation of sleep disturbances. Sixteen women and 16 men (19–28 years) slept during 3 consecutive weeks in the laboratory. Eight persons slept in quiet throughout. Twenty-four persons were exposed to road, rail, or aircraft noise with weekly permuted changes. Each week consisted of a random sequence of a quiet night (32 dBA) and 3 nights with equivalent noise levels of 39, 44, and 50 dBA and maximum levels of 50–62, 56–68, and 62–74 dBA, respectively. The polysomnogram was recorded during all nights, sleep quality was assessed and performance tests were completed in the morning. Subjectively evaluated sleep quality decreased and reaction time increased gradually with noise levels, whereas most physiological variables revealed the same reactions to both the lower and considerably stronger reactions to the highest noise load. Aircraft noise, rail and road traffic noise caused similar after-effects but physiological sleep parameters were most severely affected by rail noise. The equivalent noise level seems to be a suitable predictor for subjectively evaluated sleep quality but not for physiological sleep disturbances.



Griefahn (2004) further comments that due to the undisputable restorative function of sleep, noise-induced sleep disturbances are regarded as the most deleterious effects of noise. They comprise alterations during bedtimes such as awakenings, sleep stage changes, body movements and after-effects such as subjectively felt decrease of sleep quality, impairment of mood and performance. The extents of these reactions depend on the information content of noise, on its acoustical parameters and are modified by individual influences and by situational conditions. They concluded that intermittent noise, that is produced by air traffic, rail traffic and by road traffic during the night is particularly disturbing and needs to be reduced.


Goines (2007) states that noise is defined as unwanted sound. Environmental noise consists of all the unwanted sounds in our communities except that which originates in the workplace. Environmental noise pollution, a form of air pollution, is a threat to health and well-being. It is more severe and widespread than ever before, and it will continue to increase in magnitude and severity because of population growth, urbanization, and the associated growth in the use of increasingly powerful, varied, and highly mobile sources of noise. It will also continue to grow because of sustained growth in highway, rail, and air traffic, which remain major sources of environmental noise. The potential health effects of noise pollution are numerous, pervasive, persistent, and medically and socially significant. Noise produces direct and cumulative adverse effects that impair health and that degrade residential, social, working, and learning environments with corresponding real (economic) and intangible (well-being) losses. It interferes with sleep, concentration, communication, and recreation. The aim of enlightened governmental controls should be to protect citizens from the adverse effects of airborne pollution, including those produced by noise. People have the right to choose the nature of their acoustical environment; it should not be imposed by others.  I concur with Lisa Goines 100%.


Meidema and Vos ( 2007) establishes functions that specify self-reported sleep disturbance in relation to the exposure to night-time transportation noise, by reanalysing pooled data from previous studies. Results are based on data from 28 original datasets obtained from 24 field studies (4 studies collected data regarding 2 sources) including almost 23,000 participants exposed to nighttime levels ranging from 45 to 65 dB. Functions are presented that give the percentage highly sleep disturbed, sleep disturbed, and (at least) a little sleep disturbed people due to aircraft, road traffic, and railway noise in relation to the average nighttime outdoor exposure level at the facade most exposed to the source concerned. These functions show that at the same average nighttime noise-exposure level, aircraft noise is associated with more self-reported sleep disturbance than road traffic, and road traffic noise is associated with more sleep disturbance than railways. The association of noise-induced sleep disturbance with age has an inverse U-shape, with the strongest reaction found between 50 and 56 years of age.


Besides sleep disturbance the study  of Bluhm et al  ( 2006) amongst several others suggests an association between exposure to residential road traffic noise and hypertension.


In Britain, night-noise  from the above sources is increasing, partially due to an increasing population but it also showed a step increase in 2003 with the start of all night pub opening.    Such problems were discussed and predicted  by Plant and Plant (2005)  who stated that The Licensing Act of 2003 for England and Wales paves the way for 24-hour opening of licensed premises. Senior members of the United Kingdom Government have claimed that the pressure of rigid closing times contributes to the rising problem of binge-drinking and associated harm in the UK. Removing set opening times it is hoped will reduce these problems. These plans have been widely criticised. Moreover, international evidence suggests this may not be the case. Studies from Europe, Iceland, Australia and North America have indicated that extending trading hours may not only fail to reduce alcohol-related problems but might increase them. Evidence exists of licensing liberalisation being followed by rises in alcohol consumption, violent crime*, traffic accidents*, illicit drug use as well as extra public health and tourism costs. The asterixed items of course capable of increasing night noise instances.





Not hitherto mentioned in the sleep literature is the fact that the number of onshore and offshore wind turbines has grown virtually exponentially over the last 20 years or so from a tiny handful  to 6.857 at the end of June  2016.  There is the possibility therefore for acoustic and infrasonic sound from these sources to be causing some of the newly reported sleep disturbances around.  


Sound from wind turbines involves a number of sound production mechanisms related to different interactions between the turbine blades and the air. An important contribution to the low frequency part of the sound spectrum is due to the sudden variation in air flow which the blade encounters when it passes the tower: the angle of attack of the incoming air suddenly deviates from the angle that is optimized for the mean flow. Hitherto, low-frequency sound from wind turbines has not been shown to be a major factor contributing to annoyance. This seems reasonable as the blade passing frequency is of the order of one hertz ( in other words infrasound ) where the human auditory system is relatively insensitive. This argument, however, obscures a very relevant effect: the blade passing frequency modulates well audible, higher-frequency sounds and thus creates periodic sound: blade swish. This effect is stronger at night because in a stable atmosphere there is a greater difference between rotor averaged and near-tower wind speed. Measurements have shown that additional turbines can interact to further amplify this effect. Theoretically the resulting fluctuations in sound level will be clearly perceptible to human hearing. This is confirmed by residents near wind turbines with the same common observation: often late in the afternoon or in the evening the turbine sound acquires a distinct 'beating' character, the rhythm of which is in agreement with the blade passing frequency. It is clear from the observations that this is associated to a change toward a higher atmospheric stability. The effect of stronger fluctuations on annoyance has not been investigated as such, although it is highly relevant because a) the effect is stronger for modern (that is: tall) wind turbines, and b) more people in Europe will be living close to these wind turbines as a result of the growth of wind energy projects.  Furthermore and perhaps somewhat unexpected is that due to the  recognizable  wind turbine pattern is a tonal signal of  sharply rising and falling  pulses in the infrasound range, (typically about 0.75 Hz, 1.5 Hz, 2.25 Hz, 3.0 Hz, and so on). It is produced by the blade passing the tower. At this frequency these pulses may be “felt or sensed” more than “heard” by the ears. Research by Dr. Alec Salt  and others has demonstrated that sub audible infrasound does result in a physiological  response from various systems within the body.


A HyperSonic Sound system – or HSS – does not use physical speakers. HSS pulsates quartz crystals at a frequency thousands of times faster than the vibrations in a normal speaker – creating ultrasonic waves at frequencies far beyond human hearing. Unlike lower-frequency sound, these waves travel in a tight path – a beam. Two beams can be focused to intersect each other, and where they interact they produce a third sonic wave whose frequency is exactly the difference between the two original sounds. In HSS that difference will fall within the range of human hearing – and will appear to come from thin air. This is known as a Tartini Tone – in honor of Giuseppe Tartini, the eighteenth-century Italian composer who first discovered this principle.


It has recently been shown that Infrasound from a 60-turbine wind farm was found to propagate to distances up to 90 km under night-time atmospheric conditions. DOI: 10.1002/2014JD022821  ( Marcillo et al 2015).


I would thus propose that at some time ( dependent on weather conditions) almost everybody in the UK   may be exposed to some sort of wind turbine infrasound and its harmonics ( dependent on atmospheric non –linearity)   especially at night.   Furthermore under some conditions I would expect non –linear acoustic mixing between existing atmospheric sound and wind turbine infrasound.  For instance Brown and Hall Jr. (1978) describe such non –linearly near powerful acoustic antennas.    Since a large windfarm can lose up to 20%  of its output under certain atmospheric conditions I speculate such conversion is highly likely.  Petijean (2003) proved non –linear acoustic propagation in relation to supersonic jet noise. Similarly the case for Lee et al (2010) for all kinds of aviation noise.   All these nocturnal infrasonic and low frequency acoustic signals may, in some sensitive individuals,     be sufficient to account for reported increases  in sleep disturbance and difficulty.    Indeed unstable behaviour of wind turbines can  as an adjunct even cause the power grid itself to emit extra and unusual acoustic noise,  which could present an additional disturbing feature for people living nearby.


The Hum


Also not traditionally reported upon in the sleep literature is the Hum.  Because of its potential relationship with renewable energy power systems it is worthy of a mention here.  The Hum is a hitherto unexplained  psychoacoustic phenomenon initially reported as  affecting    between 2-11% of the population of the Western world, but more recently it crops up in most countries of the world.   The symptoms reported are often the same as or similar to those of infrasound exposure   of which nocturnal nuisance, sleep disturbance and prevention are to quote just two.   I have however, recently established that the Hum may have a coherent  or quasi-coherent magnetic component in addition to infrasound and low frequency noise components.     The Hum is heard/perceived by some individuals in a variety of, at first sight, very  unrelated situations such as;  in some houses at night, in some cars under three phase power lines, in cars  at certain key distances from certain types of transmitting antenna and in certain types of mineral containing cave.     


I have recently established that the link here is rotating magnetic fields.    Since it has very recently been shown by Persinger ( see Eric Hand) that humans just like insects and birds have magnetic proteins in their bodies called cryptochromes which are sensitive to such fields my prevoius hypotheses of the Hum appear to be strongly supported/vindicated.


General mechanism of sleep disruption as a result of the Hum and other noise sources. 


            I hypothesise  that Magnetic and acoustic fields at very specific frequencies and intensities may potentially be disrupting sleep when they are coincident with the waking rather than sleeping brain rhythms or alternatively are  out pf phase with those  required for the various phases of sleep.  This then fits elegantly given my hypothesis of Schumann resonance and earth-moon distance synchronisation, see         ‘A new theory of sleep:  round the world  to meet ourselves,  off  to the moon and  a few ‘mind melds’ with strangers thrown in’, by Dr Chris Barnes, Bangor Scientific and Educational Consultants  e-mail    April 2016.



4G       Data transmission 


Recently I have encountered reports from some individuals who are experiencing both  newly reported unexplained sleep disturbances and hypertension in the absence of any perceived increases of either background light or noise.  It is rather speculative at this stage without further research  but such transmissions have rapidly become ubiquitous over a very short roll out period in some parts of the country  and due to the antenna and modulation schemes involved will produce randomly flickering rotating and pseudo –rotating magnetic fields. 


Internet via LED House Lighting


This is presently under development.    I predict a  combination of blue end light and OAM modulation would  be disastrous to human health.



Conclusions and further work


Sleep disturbance and shortened sleep duration is a major public health issue, causing accidents in the home and at work, psychiatric disorders and physical decline including increased risk of serious disease such as diabetes and certain cancers.     Of the existing acknowledged causes my review shows that presently night noise is more significant than night light especially   for the middle aged group.   However, as more blue light at night is encountered both from internal and external sources the balance could change.


A combination of all night pub opening, wind turbines, The Hum  and hand held devices  possibly accounts for the increase in sleep issues in the last decade or so.    The first three causes here have hitherto not been suggested in mainstream sleep research.


I fear that 4G data transmission and similar digital communication systems with rotating EM fields may be a very recent and potentially serious addition to the list in ‘the problem with sleep.’


It is hoped to report further in the future as an when more data becomes available.