It’s National Sleep Awareness Week, a good time to discuss the effect technology has on our sleep. Cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices have become an integral part of our daily lives that it’s hard to put them down – even at bedtime. According to the National Sleep Foundation, at least 90% of us use technology in the hour before we go to bed.
After being surrounded by technology all day, it makes sense we would be inclined to take it to bed too. But, it turns out that technology and our bodies aren’t entirely compatible, at least when it comes to sleep.
Whether you’re playing a video game, browsing social media, or using your phone as an alarm clock, you’re likely preventing yourself from getting a good night’s sleep. If you’re among these nighttime technology-users, you may not realize the adverse effect using these devices is having on your sleep.
Here’s what happens. The artificial blue light emitted by electronic device delays your body’s internal clock, also known as your circadian rhythm. This suppresses the production of the hormone “melatonin,” making it more difficult for you to fall and stay asleep.
It may seem harmless to relax with a favorite TV show or surf the web before bed, but keeping your mind engaged with technology can increase your alertness at a time when you should be getting sleepy. This delays your bedtime and your total amount REM sleep each night, compromising your alertness the next day. REM sleep is important to your sleep cycle because it stimulates the areas of your brain that are crucial in learning and making or retaining memories.
Even if you’re not using your cell phone before be, it doesn’t mean that it still can’t harm your sleep. Noises disrupt sleep. Keeping your mobile device on your nightstand can still disturb your slumber with late night texts or other notifications. To make sure technology isn’t harming your sleep, stop using your electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. Even better, make your bedroom a technology-free zone.
This applies to both kids and adults. To get a better night’s sleep, parents can limit their kids’ technology use in the bedroom, and can set the tone by being good role models.
Try a quiet and relaxing routine an hour before bedtime to tell your mind and body it’s time to sleep. A good alternative to digital devices is reading an old-fashioned, printed book under lamplight.
Over time, the effects of technology before bed can result in chronic sleep deficiency. Sleep disorders are common but often go undiagnosed, leading to potentially serious health effects including a greater risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and other conditions.
The lack of sleep can have a negative impact on your life, causing irritability, lower productivity and poor decision making as well as drowsy driving which poses a dangerous risk.
If you’re still not getting restful sleep after breaking your technology habits, you may have a sleep disorder, particularly if you also snore – that’s a major red flag for sleep apnea. Talk with your primary care doctor, who can refer you to a sleep medicine specialist for a sleep study.
The Sleep Disorder Center at Day Kimball Hospital is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and is fully equipped to provide comprehensive sleep assessments for children and adults. The state-of-the-art four room facility includes comfortable bedroom suites designed to feel like a five-star hotel.
Sleep medicine specialists diagnose and treat sleep-related breathing disorders such as sleep apnea as well as other disorders such as restless leg syndrome (RLS), abnormal REM behaviors, parasomnias, nocturnal seizure disorder, narcolepsy, sleep/wake disturbances, shift work disorders and jet lag disorders.
Our board certified sleep medicine specialists provide comprehensive assessments and treatment for adults and children (ages two and up) at our Sleep Disorder Center at Day Kimball Hospital. In-home sleep studies can be arranged as well for those patients that require a home study.