Electronic devices and sleep. We find ourselves submerged in a generation of technology. With the use of smartphones, iPad, laptops and so much more, we are kept connected and informed across the world. But at what cost is this having on our sleep?
As a certified sleep consultant I see how the regular use of electronic devices negatively impacts the number of hours sleep you get and how restorative that sleep is. This can then have an adverse effect on how well you can function the next day.
So what is going on exactly?
The sleepy hormone
Melatonin hormone is also known as ‘the sleepy hormone’. It regulates your sleep and awake cycle. Your body releases it at night which then induces sleep. Blue light is emitted from most electronic devices, such as iPads, smartphones etc. It is the brightest wavelength. When your brain senses this blue light, it perceives it as sunlight. As a result, it assumes it’s still daytime and doesn’t let your body release the right amount of melatonin for sleep.
And that’s not all
Electronic devices and other technology also cause noise interference. From text messages to Facebook alerts, most people can remember a time when a noise from their phone suddenly woke them up.
“Just put it on silent then” (I can hear you all say!). Unfortunately, some studies have found that even when the phone or device is on silent, the electromagnetic signals interfere with sleep quality.
Bedtime should be a relaxing time, don’t use electronic devices
Writing work emails or texting friends late at night activates your mind. In addition, watching a scary movie or playing an intense game of angry birds on your phone before bed keeps your mind awake and triggers cortisol levels. Cortisol stimulates the body. This with the depleted melatonin levels can cause even bigger sleep problems.
It’s tough on kids
The majority of homework today requires computers. Since homework is done after school, children can be stuck sitting in front of the computer for hours on end. School pressures, and extracurricular activities can make it difficult to fit homework in at any other time than just before bed.
So how can we improve our sleep?
Be a good sleep role model
The National Sleep Foundation found that if their parents don’t allow an electronic device in their bedroom, then their children are less likely too as well. So be a good role model and get rid of your electronic devises from your bedroom. Not only will you benefit from a peace and quiet, it will also help train your body to view your bedroom as a place for rest. Try it for two weeks and see how you feel!
Read a real book
Creating a habit of reading before bed is an excellent idea and a great part of anyone’s bedtime routine. Instead of using a smartphone or iPad to read, just use a good old-fashioned book! Children who read from an early age have better literacy rates and emotional intelligence.
Empower your children
No one likes to be told what to do, especially teenagers! Rather than telling your child to turnoff the computer and go to sleep, educate them on how technology affects sleep. Then empower them to make their own decisions. Even get them to read this article!
Try a different routine
Consider removing an activity from your child’s routine after school. Work with your child to find a way to get homework done earlier, so that they can get a better night sleep.
If you can’t face removing your smartphone out the bedroom just yet, then most smartphones now come with night mode. Turning it on changes your screen to use primarily red light instead of blue light. This makes it overall dimmer and less intense on your eyes.
No this doesn’t mean taking a shower before bed! Start creating some simple, good sleep habits. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, avoid sugars and caffeine in the evening and make your bedroom nice and dark for sleep.