How Technology Messes with Sleep and What You Can Do About It

Health & Wellbeing Technology

Do you use your laptop, tablet or cell phone close to bedtime?

If you’re like 95% of us out there, you probably are. This is according to the recent data gathered by the National Sleep Foundation. In the survey, they learned that almost everyone uses their digital devices before going to sleep.

Photo credit – Pexels

As you’d expect, the younger generations are the biggest culprits.

In fact, research shows that those born after 1997 (generation Z’ers) make an average of 56 texts nightly. They are followed by the millennials or those born between 1984 and 1996. who average 42 per night. Gen X’ers and baby boomers fare much better, coming in with averages of 15 and 5 texts, respectively.

The bad news is, doing so may be what’s causing your sleep problems.

While they may seem harmless, digital technology can mess with your body’s sleep patterns.

How Does Technology Affect Sleep?

Technology, be it in the form of television, your smartphone or tablet, gets in the way of you falling asleep and staying asleep. It does so due to four main reasons.

  1. Blue Light Suppresses Melatonin

Research shows that digital devices including laptops and tablets can decrease your body’s production of melatonin. Their screens emit blue light which has been proven to suppress your body’s release of melatonin.

Because melatonin is one of the chemicals that help regulate our sleep-wake cycle, this causes our body’s internal clock to go out of whack. As a result, you won’t feel sleepy come bedtime, making it hard to fall asleep.

How much it disrupts sleep depends on the amount of exposure, the light’s wavelength and how long you stare at the screen. This means that taking a quick peek at your phone isn’t as damaging as reading a few chapters on your tablet or e-reader.

Bottom line is the more blue light exposure before bedtime, the less likely you’ll be able to sleep well. Thus, depriving yourself of the many health benefits of sleep.

  1. They Keep Your Mind Engaged

Going through emails or playing video games on your device may not feel like it, but, they can stimulate your mind. This keeps it focused and alert making it difficult for your brain to wind down and fall asleep.

Keeping your brain engaged makes it harder to sleep because you’re more likely to be thinking about what you just did, be it work or, something that you just read or saw. This is one reason why sleep experts recommend keeping the bedroom exclusive for sex and sleep.

  1. The Sound from Devices Can Wake You Up

Often, keeping your device in the same room is enough to disturb your sleep. Most of our apps have some sort of notification alert. This may be in the form of beeps, vibration or rings. Whether it’s from the new text message or email alert, these notification sounds can disrupt your rest time.

Even worse, we all seem to have the habit to quickly checking our phones and devices whenever a notification comes.

  1. Wi-Fi Messes with Your Sleep

Wi-fi signals are invisible, and for the most part, we can’t hear them. But, they’re there. And, they can disrupt your sleep. This is according to a 2007 study which gave participants real and fake cell phones to use before going to bed.

What they found what those who were given real phones had more difficulty sleeping. Additionally, the frequencies and strengths of the wi-fi signals had varying effects on the participants.

How to Prevent Technology from Ruining Your Sleep

Now that we know the negative effects of technology in the bedroom, here are a few ways you can prevent it from disrupting your sleep.

Use these in combination with other proven tips to sleep better so you can enjoy good quality sleep every night.

  1. Don’t Use Electronic Devices in Your Bedroom

The most effective way to prevent digital devices from wrecking your sleep it to keep them away from the bedroom. While very effective, it’s something not many people can do.

One way to go about this is to find sleep-friendly activities that can replace watching TV or browsing the web. Things like reading a book, doing yoga, or meditating are a few things you can try in place of your phone, tablet or laptop.

  1. Stop Using Devices At Least One Hour Before Bedtime

If keeping your devices away from the bedroom isn’t an option, then try implementing a “tech curfew”. That is, stop using any digital device an hour before it’s time to sleep.

Putting your phone or tablet down an hour before going to bed gives your mind the chance to disengage from whatever you were reading or watching. It also gives it time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

The hard part here is resisting the temptation of pickup up the devices again after a few minutes.

  1. Reduce the Brightness of Your Screen

If you absolutely can’t go without your laptop or phone in hand, then try bringing down the screen’s brightness level. This reduces the intensity of the blue light that’s emitted.

Many devices, including almost all cell phones, come with built-in settings that allow you to reduce the screen’s brightness level.

Another option is to download free apps like f.lux which allows you to adjust your screen’s display. We like f.lux because it’s free. Plus, it allows you to adapt the screen to the time of day. This limits your blue light emission exposure late at night. Thus, allowing you to use your computer and not experience its negative effects on sleep.

If you like reading, there are a couple of options you can try. One is to go with traditional paper-based books. Another is to invert the foreground and background colors of your e-reader. While inverting the colors may not completely eliminate the blue light, it cuts it down significantly.

4, Stay Away from Activities That are Too Stimulating

Certain types of activities are more stimulating than others. Interactive activities like texting, playing video games and doing work keep your mind more engaged. As such, it’s a good idea to avoid them near bedtime.

That’s because keeping your mind active makes it more difficult for it to wind down and prepare for bedtime. Thus, making it harder to fall asleep.

On the other hand, passive activities like watching TV and browsing your Facebook feed are less engaging. They don’t keep your mind as involved since you aren’t actively thinking about anything. These are better options if you absolutely can’t put your digital device down. In fact, many people watch TV to help them fall asleep.

  1. Turn Off Notifications

We love our notifications. Whenever that bell or buzz sounds, we quickly pick up our devices to check what’s new. Because our minds have become attuned that listening for that sound, it can wake us up from sleep. Thus, disrupting our night-time rest.

Putting your phone in silent mode is one way to prevent notifications from disturbing you late at night. However, this may not work for everyone.

If you absolutely can’t go without notifications because you need to be ready in case work calls or an emergency occurs, then set your device to “do not disturb” instead. iPhone and Android products offer this option, making it easy to take advantage of.

The “do not disturb” feature is handy because it lets you choose which notifications you want to receive. Doing so lets you filter out unnecessary alerts until the morning.

Author Bio

Emma Lymn is the editor of Health Grinder, a health and nutrition blog. She is passionate about helping others learn to eat healthy and lose weight. A proud mom of two kids and a very spoiled dog, she enjoys traveling and volunteering in her spare time.