Is technology disrupting your sleep?

Mar 5, 2020

Sleep disorders specialist cautions against screen time before bedtime

Having trouble sleeping at night? It may be as simple as putting down your phone and turning off the TV.

Ninety percent of people in the United States admit to using a technological device during the hour before they go to bed, according to a study from the National Sleep Foundation. What those of us in that 90 percent may not realize is the effect technology has on our quality of sleep.

Dr. James Daly, medical director of Southeast Sleep Disorders Center and pulmonologist with Southeast Lung Associates, explains.

“The light cells in your eyes are very sensitive to the blue-light spectrum emitted by almost all electronic devices. When that blue light is used at night, it stimulates our brains to be alert so it works against our natural circadian sleep process, creating a competing influence. We don’t need that. We need our sleep.”

Dr. James Daly

Why sleep is so important to our quality of life

Loss of sleep can cause problems at home or on the job. It can lead to serious or even fatal accidents, and poor sleep has been linked to health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and depression.  The National Sleep Foundation states:

  • Between 50 to 70 million U.S. adults have some type of sleep or wakefulness disorder
  • Sleep problems get worse as you get older
  • Poor sleep cost billions of dollars a year from healthcare expenses to lost productivity
  • Drowsy drivers cause about 40,000 vehicle crashes every year in the U.S., including more than 1,500 deaths

“Most of us live sleep deprived, and we think it’s the norm, but it’s not,” Dr. Daly says. “Americans are bad about sleep to begin with, and we don’t need more problems, but technology has created that.”

So put down your phone and turn off the TV

Both Dr. Daly and experts with the National Sleep Foundation recommend putting down electronic devices at least two hours before you plan to go to sleep.

If you like to read on your Kindle, switch to a book.

Need sound to fall asleep? Get a noise maker or use a fan.

And watching TV in bed, Dr. Daly says, is one of the worst things you can do for a peaceful night’s sleep.

“Because while your brain is asleep, guess what, your eyes still see the light and your ears still hear the noise.  When I have people with the TV on and I watch them in sleep lab, I can see their brain getting jolted by all the light changes and noises. You are just not getting your rest.”

Another tip Dr. Daly offers is to wake up to sunlight when possible. Sunlight in the morning is as good as a sleeping pill because it’s the strongest external cue that sets your body’s circadian clock, Dr. Daly says. Surrounding yourself with sunlight as much as possible throughout the day will help you feel more awake.

And with March hosting Word Sleep Day (March 13) and Sleep Awareness Week (starting March 10), what better time than now to start good bedtime habits?

Related Article: Could what you eat and drink be affecting how you sleep?

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