Are you guilty of replying to emails and texts late at night? Do you ever choose to watch another TV episode when you are supposed to go to bed?
Artificial lighting began to affect our sleep patterns when it was made available in our daily lives. With more technology at our disposal than ever, artificial lighting can make it harder to fall asleep at night and reduce the quality of your sleep once you do.
When we are exposed to a lot of light at night it can negatively impact our natural circadian rhythm. This causes us to feel awake at night while we should be sleeping. Our sleep is especially affected by blue light from electronics like phones, laptops, and TVs. The light exposure lowers the levels of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms.
Recent studies included asking people about their relationship to technology to determine how it affects our sleep habits. These surveys may not be the most scientific, but they suggest that technology is increasing our dependence on it and that people are sacrificing their quality sleep. These are some of the conclusions and results of this research:
- In Norway, a study found that teens spend more time using electronic devices before bed and during leisure time than they do sleeping.
- 71% of American smartphone owners sleep with their smartphones, with 3% even sleeping with them in their hands. Ofcom previously found that 38% of UK adults admit to using their smartphone after it wakes them up. Teenagers are even more likely to do this.
- TiVo conducted a survey and found that 31% respondents had lost their sleep from “binge-watching” TV shows. This is defined as watching at least three episodes in a single day.
Previous research found that people in the UK are more likely to suffer from sleeping disorders. 33% claim they can live on 5-6 hours sleep per night. It has been suggested by some that this could be due to the technology we use every day, especially late at night.
Recommendations to reduce or stop using electronics in the evening are not going to work for most people. But there are some things you can do to minimise the impact electronics have on your sleep habits.
- Keep electronics away from the bedroom To avoid technology affecting your sleep, you can stop using electronics at least two hours before bed. Your brain will be able to relax and the effect on your melatonin levels will be lessened by this. To ensure that you sleep well, it is important to get rid of all electronics, including TVs, laptops, tablets, and phones. Some people might not find it possible. However, there are technology options that can help you sleep or reduce the impact of electronics on your life.
- Use blue lights filters. Blue light filters can be used to reduce the effects of blue light on your melatonin levels. You can also use apps on your tablet and smartphone to adjust the brightness of your screen so you see brighter colours at night. These apps will not allow blue light through and not interfere with your sleep pattern. It has been shown that green lights can also impact sleeping patterns, but not in the same way.
- Get lots of sunlight during the day. Expending too much time in darkness during the day can also affect your circadian rhythm. Exposure to lots of light in the daytime and less at night can help to maintain your natural circadian rhythm. This will help you sleep better at night.
Not all technology is bad for your sleeping habits
Some technology is specifically designed to help you fall asleep. Sleep trackers, for example, are increasingly in demand. They include wearable technology like the Jawbone or Fitbit, which monitor your sleep quality and time spent sleeping, as well as smartphone apps like Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock that analyses your sleep cycle to determine when you should wake up. Sense, which is , is reportedly looking to raise £25m. The Sense orb monitors the temperature, light and humidity in your bedroom and records snores and sleep talk. It can also be attached to your pillow via a clip. Many other sleep sensors, including ones that monitor heart rate and skin temperature, are available on the market or in development.
Other devices that can help you fall asleep include white noise machines/smartphone app, pillows which cool you down while you’re sleeping; lights that mimic sunlight to gradually wake you up instead of a loud alarm clock that can make you feel groggy and then shock you awake.
It might be worth it if you think that tracking your sleeping patterns will help you get and keep a better sleep schedule. You should avoid using electronic devices such as your tablet or smartphone late at night, and keep them in your bedroom. You must ensure that your sleep hygiene is good. This includes keeping your bedroom quiet and avoiding caffeine and exercising too early before bed.