Prairie du Chien, WI –Cell phones, tablets, computers, and other electronic gadgets have become such a huge part of daily life that it’s often hard to people to put them down—even at bedtime. According to the National Sleep Study Foundation, at least 90% of the population uses technology in the hour before going to bed. Keeping a phone on the nightstand may not seem like a big deal, but technology affects sleep in more ways than most people realize. Whether it’s surfing the web, playing a video game, or using a phone as an alarm clock in the late evening, these electronics can prevent people from a having restful night.
“The overall impact of technology on sleep is that we sleep less because of technology,” shared Dr. Scott Johnson, Sleep Medicine Specialist at Crossing Rivers Health. “We also tend to use our technology right up until bedtime and it’s quite common for technology to interfere with the ability to fall asleep. This is especially true for children because they need more sleep than adults. Children’s brains grow and develop the most during deep sleep and it’s critical that they get enough sleep so they are able to function, perform, and learn during the daytime. Kids are very susceptible to having the bright light from devices interrupt their ability to fall asleep by interfering with the timing of sleep.”
The bright blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. Most Americans admit to using electronics a few nights a week within an hour before bedtime. To make sure technology isn’t harming sleep, allow at least 30 minutes of gadget-free transition time before going to sleep. An even better suggestion would be to make bedrooms technology-free zones that do not contain any electronics.
Technology can trick the brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake. It may seem harmless to send emails before bed or relax with a favorite movie, but these activities keep the mind engaged. Activities like surfing the web, seeing something exciting on social media, or reading a negative email, can make it hard to relax and settle into sleep. After spending an entire day surrounded by technology, the mind needs time to unwind.
About 72 percent of children ages six to 17 sleep with at least one electronic device in their bedroom, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The difference adds up to almost an hour per night, and the quality of snoozing is negatively affected, too. To get a better night’s sleep, parents can limit their kids’ technology use in the bedroom, and mom and dad should be solid role models and set the tone by doing the same.
“I think the simplest solution to eliminating the impact of technology on sleep is to set a curfew for electronics,” Dr. Johnson adds. “The whole family should stop using devices several hours before bedtime and devices should not be allowed in bed. Oftentimes, these two steps will help the whole family achieve better sleep habits.”
Dr. Johnson diagnoses and treats a full spectrum of sleep disorders. Appointments with Dr. Johnson are available at Crossing Rivers Health via telehealth, using video equipment and online technology to conduct a live consultation with a remote physician. A wide variety of videos and educational resources discussing sleep disorders and sleep studies are available at crossingrivers.org/sleep.