Most of us are guilty of it. We spend a lot of time on our digital devices, even in bed. What you probably don’t know is that reading your tablet, smartphone or laptop can affect the quality of sleep.
It came as a complete surprise to me when I learned that part of my sleep problem was because I used to work right up to bedtime. I often read my emails and prepared the next day’s work schedule right before going to sleep.
What I didn’t know then was that doing so not only affected how much sleep I got, but also the quality of sleep I was able to get. As a result, I lost out on many of the health benefits of sleep.
How Technology Affects Your Sleep
So, the real question is, how does technology affect your sleep?
Whether it’s your TV screen, e-reader, cellphone or computer, all of these devices affect your sleep patterns. The worst part about it is that using technology close to bedtime can quickly become a habit. This is especially true because they’re very convenient and pretty much give you access to anything you want. This includes your email, social media accounts like Facebook, videos, music and all your other files.
The problem is, using digital devices late at night makes it harder to fall asleep. And when you do, it affects quality of rest you get. Here’s why.
- Blue light disrupts melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone your body produces which helps regulate your circadian rhythm. This internal clock allows your body to maintain a regular sleep pattern. That is waking up in the morning and falling asleep at night. But, the blue light from digital screens can suppress your body’s release of melatonin. When this happens late at night, it makes it harder for you to fall asleep. Low melatonin levels come bedtime cause you to lie in bed awake at night.
- Alerts and alarms can wake you up in the middle of the night. Almost all of us set some kind of alerts on our digital devices. This can be when we receive a new text, phone call, email message or updates. While these sounds may not be loud, we’re accustomed to hearing for them. In fact, many of us, quickly reach for our smartphones the moment they beep or vibrate. This habit increases the likelihood that if any of your devices beep during the night, it will likely wake you up. Thus, disrupting your sleep.
- They stimulate your brain. Reading emails, working on your laptop or engaging in social media are all mentally stimulating activities. This can make it difficult to fall asleep even after you turn off your electronic device because your brain stays active and alert, thinking of whatever it was you just read or watched. As a result, this also makes it harder to fall asleep come bedtime.
Because we all know the importance of sleep, it’s key that you find ways to avoid these issues from affecting how much rest you get each night.
Ways You Can Prevent Technology from Disrupting Your Sleep
1. Stop Using Digital Devices An Hour Before Your Planned Bedtime
The best way to prevent electronic devices from messing with your sleep is to keep them away all together. The good news is, you only need to turn them off or stay away from them an hour before bedtime.
That’s enough for your brain to wind down and negate the effects of blue light. In doing so, it lets you significantly improve how you sleep.
While it’s easy to say, this is probably one of the hardest things to do for most of us. That’s because we’ve gotten so used to having our digital devices with us all the time.
So, instead of looking at your phone, tablet or laptop, try doing something relaxing like yoga or meditation. This will help your mind and body wind down to prepare it for sleep.
2. Reduce The Brightness Of Your Screen
If you absolutely can’t stay away from you device, then a good alternative would be to dim the screen. Lowering the brightness level of the LEDs that power your digital screen reduces the amount of blue light you absorb. In doing so, it helps reduce the level of melatonin suppression you experience.
This will help your body produce enough melatonin to help you maintain your regular sleep pattern.
3. Turn Off Notifications
Turning off notifications prevents the beeps and alerts from waking you up in the middle of the night. It also helps get rid of that bad habit some people have of waking up to check their emails at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning.
Without these extra noises, you’ll be able to sleep better through the night. Setting your phone and table to “do not disturb” lets you shut off notifications at least until after you wake up.
4. Be Aware of Any Light From Digital Devices in Your Bedroom
One final way of improving your sleep hygiene is to thoroughly check your bedroom for light sources. Because your bedroom becomes very dark at night, even tiny amounts of artificial light from a digital clock for example becomes very visible.
These sources of light can interfere with your sleep since they can make it harder to fall asleep.
Sleep is a very important part of life. We all need to get the proper amount of sleep to stay healthy. More importantly, it’s essential if you want to be productive at work or school. Lack of sleep not only reduces performance it also makes you more vulnerable to getting sick.
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