How Electronics Affect Sleep

Do you watch late-night tv or scroll through social media on your cell phone?  Or maybe you enjoy playing video games right before sleep.  With all the electronic devices, it has become difficult to avoid any screen time in our bedtime routine.  While these habits may seem harmless, electronic devices during the late-night impose negative effects and could be a large contributing factor in why you had a sleepless night.

For those of you who are using CPAP therapy to aid your sleep, consistent use of the machine and maintaining an even sleep cycle is important for your therapy.  Using electronic devices during your therapy may be compromising the results and data of your sleep and may lead to further complications in your sleep health.

Electronic Factors

According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 90% of people in the United States use an electronic device during the hour before sleep.  With the growing reliance on technology, it is important to understand how these seemingly indispensable devices impact our sleep.

Blue Light

Melatonin is the hormone that monitors and regulates the sleep-cycle.  At night, our bodies increase production of melatonin, while during the day, our body pauses the production.  Obviously our bodies don’t literally know if it’s night or day, but uses light as its cue for either stopping or ramping up production of this sleep-related hormone. 

Many of us enjoy scrolling through mobile-phones or using any technological device that emits bright light, but we are only pushing back the melatonin production we need to get better sleep.  

Although light of any color and wavelength can impede the production of melatonin and cause sleep deprivation, Blue Light in particular is most responsible for these issues.  Blue light is significantly more influential in halting the production of melatonin.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, Blue light is more problematic because its shorter wavelength impacts the release of melatonin more than other wavelengths.  As a result, people tend to fall asleep late and will have less REM sleep than needed.  

Unfortunately, most of our electronic devices – iphones, laptops, e-readers, emit blue light from their screens.  Thus constant use of electronic devices and exposure to blue light may be the root cause of your sleep problems.   

Blue Light affects Melatonin

Circadian Rhythm

You may have heard of the Circadian Rhythm or the natural 24 hour clock that our bodies run on.  This internal clock that we follow is what regulates our sleep-wake cycle.  By aligning the time we sleep and stay awake with the Circadian Rhythm, we tend to enjoy a good night’s sleep and avoid sleepiness the next morning. 

So how do electronic devices affect this supposed internal clock?  By exposing ourselves to light, our body doesn’t produce the melatonin that helps us fall asleep.  As a result, we struggle to fall asleep and end up staying awake late through the night and throwing off our circadian rhythm.  The number of hours of sleep and the quality of sleep is reduced when our body is not in tune with our natural sleep-wake cycle.   

Circadian Rhythm

Alertness

When it’s time for bed, we try to calm our physical and psychological selves and enter a “sleep mode”.  We empty our thoughts and settle down from a tiring day of work.  However, watching a movie, playing video games, or engaging in social activities through electronic devices stimulates our brain.  Think about all the thoughts we may be flooding our brains with when we watch a horror movie or read an intriguing story on the news.  This behavior prevents us from winding down from the day.  In some cases, the use of technology, such as ipads, before bed is like drinking a red bull, energizing our brain with new thoughts and ideas to process.  In turn, we get less sleep as our sleep times are extended throughout the night.

Notifications (Sounds)

Ping! We’ve all reached for our phones after a notification goes off in the late-night.  Any emails, texts, calendar updates we receive tempt us to look at our phones and further.  Also for light-sleepers, even the softest notification sound could wake you up in the middle of the night.  There’s a reason why we prefer peace and quiet when we sleep! Don’t ruin it with sounds from your electronic devices.

Solutions & Habits

Fixing your sleep habits and bedtime routines takes discipline.  But with patience and practice, your technology-free night will lead to significantly better sleep.  Follow these simple steps to see immediate improvement in your sleep quality!

no-phones

Remove all electronic devices from the room to avoid using them late at night. Eliminate any temptations to check your phone.

battery

If removing devices is not an option, consider charging/placing your phone or ipad far from the bed to avoid reach.

lightbulb

Red-shift your devices to remove blue light.  For iphone, go to Settings -> Display and Brightness -> Night Shift

brightness

In addition to the red-shift setting, turn down the brightness as much as possible to minimize light exposure.

volume

Make sure to silence all ipads, phones, and computers.  You can schedule a “Do not Disturb” time frame in your iphone Settings -> Do Not Disturb.

book

Consider reading and listening to podcasts.  Avoid content that could raise your attention and heart rate.

glasses

Purchase Blue Light glasses that can filter out portions of blue light.  These glasses have coatings that block blue light.

coffee

Bedtime diets! Drinking chamomile tea can promote sleepiness because of its antioxidant, apigenin.  Dairy products such as milk & yogurt also improve sleep.

Still Getting Poor Sleep?

Free of all your electronic devices at night and still experiencing drowsiness in the morning?  Are you still waking up constantly and sleeping late at night?  If you follow the technology-free guide above and still experience poor sleep, It is possible that you have sleep apnea.

Common Sleep apnea symptoms include

Daytime sleepinessLoud snoringDry-MouthMorning headaches
Restless sleepWaking up to urinateInsomniaAttention problems
ObesitySleepiness while drivingDiabetesChoking during sleep

Take a look at our sleep apnea blogs to diagnose your sleep conditions.

Sleep Apnea in Children

Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Women

13 Sleep Apnea Symptoms: How Many Do You Have?

Think you might have sleep apnea?

Take a Home Sleep Test to find out!

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