Technology Impacts Your Sleep
Research of the National Sleep Foundation shows that 90% of us use technology minutes before bedtime. As friendly as technology seems in our daily lives when it comes to sleep, our bodies and technology are not completely compatible. It is therefore important that we learn to use technology reasonably especially in relation to sleep in order to enjoy the pleasures the two offer.
The various ways in which technology affects sleep
Technology affects sleep in many ways. Even though many people may not be affected by all of the effects listed below, one thing is sure - almost everybody suffers from at least one of them.
Most electronic devices - mobile phones, desktop and laptop computer screens, tablets, television sets - emit blue light. Continuous emission of blue light late at night prevents the human body from secreting adequate melatonin - a hormone that facilitates sleep. Hence the blue light from our electronic devices delays the time we fall asleep.
There are two major factors that determine the magnitude of the effect of blue light. The first factor is the wavelength at which your device emits blue light. The second factor is how often and how long you look at your screens. For instance, glancing at the screen of your device at intervals will have less effect than staring at the screen while reading on an eReader or typing.
Your electronic device can disrupt your sleep particularly if your notifications are on. We are subconsciously connected to the sounds from our devices, hence we have a high tendency to respond to the sounds even when we are asleep. Therefore these sounds become noise. And we know that noise can disrupt sleep and disruptions may lead to health challenges such as cardiac arrest or stroke.
Sometimes the activities in which we engage on our devices before sleep can also affect our sleep. Any activity that can stimulate the brain, such as brainstorming with friends online, playing video games, or a stressful conversation that causes the release of adrenaline can cause a great deal difficulty to sleep. In that state, it is almost impossible to fall asleep. One can be restless in bed. And if this happens frequently, the brain may start to get stimulated by default anytime you are heading to bed. This may not necessarily be because something happened that night, but simply by association.
Though it may sound unbelievable, electronic, (particularly mobile) devices emit wifi signals which interfere with sleep. A 2007 study in which some subjects were given fake mobile phones while others were given real mobile phones to interact with before bedtime showed that subjects who interacted with real mobile phones had more difficulty sleeping. The study revealed that the frequencies and strengths of the signals which mobile devices emit are directly proportional to the effects they have on sleep.
It is a known fact that addiction to technology exists. And of course, it disrupts sleep in various ways. Any technology addict finds it almost impossible to be without their device. One can be addicted to a computer, video games, or any other electronic device, but the strongest addiction is to smartphones. Show me a technology addict and I will show you someone who mostly does not get enough sleep. Although addiction to technology occurs to degrees, you will know when you see a tech addict or when you are becoming one. An addict usually uses their device late into the night. Another level of addiction makes some people interrupt their sleep to reply to messages, comment, or post updates on social media.
How to minimize the effects of technology on sleep
You have been able to see how technology is affecting your sleep in one way or another. Of course, we all need technology to survive. But there are points that can help you in handling your technology wisely which will afford you good and healthy sleep.
Stay away from it
You don’t have to get so attached to your gadgets. The TV doesn’t need to be on 24/7, you don’t have to be fiddling with the phone all the time, particularly before sleep. It is essential to be truly relaxed before your bedtime in order to have good sleep, hence it’s important to turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and stop using your phone at least about an hour before bedtime. It is useful to plan how long you will be sleeping. This will help you know when to shut down all your gadgets. If you are seriously addicted, you can keep your phones, computer, and remote in another room.
Plan a bedtime routine
Perhaps you may be asking “what will I be doing during the one or two hours before bedtime after I shut down my gadgets?”. You may need to plan some activities that can make you relax during this time. There are several things you can do. Just ensure they don’t involve technology. You can read hard books, have a warm bath, family discussion, or do light house chores. You may have to try various sleeping solutions before you find what works best for you.
Turn off notifications
There’s no rule without exception. If you need to have a device with you in the bedroom at night, you can turn off the notifications. Many phones have different notification modes - Do Not Disturb (DND), silent, etc. Many smartphones have settings that allow you to receive notifications from certain people or messages that need urgent attention, yet have little or no disruptive effect on your sleep.
Change the light settings
As blue light is a major challenge to our sleep, finding a way to mitigate this light will definitely be of great help to minimize the effect of technology on sleep. Most devices have settings to handle that. And if your device doesn’t, there are many free apps to remove blue light. You can install one. With it you can keep using your gadget until you are ready to go to sleep.
Devices like eReaders do not have the nighttime mode, but they have settings where you can swap the foreground and background colors. You can read white print on a black screen instead of the usual black print on a white screen. This will not totally remove the blue light, but it will reduce it, which will allow you to use your device, rest, and sleep well.
Finally, technology will never be a curse if we use it moderately and adequately. We need to take responsibilities for our health, in this case our rest, even as we enjoy the blessings and pleasures that technology brings.
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