The impact of technology on sleep

Here’s what happens to your body when you look at your phone before bed

Technological gadgets, such as mobile phones, have become a persuasive feature of our lives. An estimated 62.9% of the population worldwide already own a mobile phone and this statistic is expected to grow to 67% by 2019 (Statista, 2018). Over the last decade, technology has advanced at a rapid pace, and individuals, especially kids and teenagers, have become accustomed to using it in their everyday lives. The seductive rumour that draws us into the technological sphere of convenience claims that technology allows us to rise above the mundane and make life tasks easier. There is a difference between making life and life tasks easier, however. While it is convenient to check e-mails from the comfort of your own bed, screen exposure does have a negative impact on your health, especially your sleep.

How does exposure to screens affect your sleep?

The blue light emitted by electronics reduces the production of melatonin, the body’s ‘sleep hormone’. According to Harvard Health (2017), it turns out that blue light has a dark side. Until the onset of artificial lighting, the sun was our major source of light and people spent their evenings in relative levels of darkness. Melatonin is a hormone that influences our circadian rhythm, our body’s biological clock that regulates our wake/sleep cycle. Exposure to blue wavelengths of light before bed is disruptive to our sleep quality and research shows it may contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (Harvard Health, 2017). While any type of light can suppress the production of melatonin, blue light does so more powerfully. Many people admit to using electronics some or most nights of the week within an hour before bedtime. This could be preventing you from getting a restful sleep. Rather than reading a book on your iPad before bed, be traditional and grab a printed copy if you’re a keen bedtime reader.

How can you reduce your exposure to blue light?

Here are some tips to help you maintain balance in this technology-driven world:

  • If you must use your electronic device before bed, try using a filter that blocks blue light; there’s an app (Twilight or CF.lumen), physical filters available for purchase (F.lux for computers), and a setting on most smartphones that alters light emission from phone/tablet screens;
  • use dim red lights for night lights; red light has the least power to alter a person’s circadian-rhythm and suppress melatonin;
  • if you can, avoid looking at screens 1-2 hours before bed;
  • if you work night-shifts or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider purchasing blue-blocking glasses;
  • expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day to boost your ability to sleep at night; and
  • the old-fashioned way of reading books in print before bed is suggested.

We’ve all been guilty of spending too much time on Netflix or our phones before bed. Instead of relaxing, we’re all finding it more difficult to fall asleep. Try adopting a few small changes that can make a big difference in improving your sleep quality and your overall health. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night to increase your mood, daytime alertness, and productivity.

If you suffer from daytime sleepiness or struggle to get a good nights sleep, download our Referral Form to take to your own GP or come and see Dr Ava Lam at our Sydney CBD clinic for a sleep assessment.  Call Elevate on 9252 2225 to make an appointment.

Once you have a GP referral, we’ll book you in with our respiratory and sleep specialist, Dr Kevin Chan.

References

Number of phone users worldwide from 2013-2019. Statista (2018). Retrieved from http://www.statista.com

Harvard Health. Blue light has a dark side. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu.

 

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