In the habit of playing games on your mobile phone or checking social media as the last thing you do before bed? Even if you don’t think you have a sleep problem, your night habits could affect your quality of life more than you think, experts say. Research has shown a clear link between the use of pre-bed technologies and impaired sleep, which affects our health and well-being. While the effects can vary from person to person, it can be as subtle as your thinking, which is not as sharp as it might be, your energy a little sluggish, your alertness a little down, your mood a little less stable.
There is no doubt that technology improves our daily lives. It has advanced medicine, industry and much more. Technology is a source of income for some, entertainment for others and automation for many more. But what your patients may not know about technology is that it could ruin their good sleep.
Most people today go to bed with their cell phones, tablets, laptops or televisions to keep them company. Unfortunately, the result can be a long night of vigilance triggered by the light from these devices, along with the stimulating mental activity needed to play games, watch movies, or take care of last-minute work-related emails before turning around.
Different technologies affect sleep
There are several important ways in which technology can influence our sleep. Most people do not suffer from all these problems, but almost everyone will notice one or two problems on this list that exist in their lives.
Blue light is a type of light emitted by most electronic devices. These include mobile phones, tablets, laptop and desktop computer screens, televisions and even eReaders. Unfortunately, this steady stream of blue light late at night can prevent the human body from producing enough melatonin. Because melatonin helps us fall asleep, the blue light from our devices often means that sleeping time is pushed further back than it should be.
The strength of the effect of blue light on you depends on the exact wavelength that your screens emit, how long and how often you look at them. One or two looks at your phone to see if your mother called will have less effect than typing while you stare at a mostly white screen or even read a book on an illuminated eReader.
Have you ever walked into a room and realized that technology is running there? You can almost feel the soft humming of radio signals in the air. Well, you’re not crazy. That’s one thing. And devices that emit a Wi-Fi signal affect our sleep. Everything from a wireless router to mobile phones, iPads, etc. Everything that a source of wireless Internet produces in your home will fill the area with invisible electromagnetic signals and our brain will respond.
So, here’s the thing. For us to fall asleep comfortably, our body has to go through a process. And part of that process is the production of melatonin. Melatonin signals to our brain that it is night time, time to sleep. But when we stare at bright screens, the light that is absorbed through our eyes delays the release of melatonin. This makes it harder to fall asleep. Nowadays, with the advent of smartphones, eReaders and tablets, we often spend hours at night staring at a bright screen. Even at the lowest brightness setting, it’s still too much for our eyes.
One of the disadvantages of living in the modern world is the fact that most of us live a “wired life”. It is difficult to get through one day without using some form of technology. And it is often for the purpose of searching for information, gaining knowledge. We constantly fill our brains with information. Whether it’s an action-packed TV show or late night news or even a website full of articles to read. It’s called cognitive stimulation and while it’s great to train our brains, it’s best done all day long, not at night.
Technology addiction is real and can also disturb sleep. For a person addicted to his phone, tablet, computer or other device, it can be almost impossible to put it down. The more a person becomes addicted to the technology, but the more severe their sleep disturbance will be.
However, there is good news. Here are several ideas for countering the negative effects of technology on your child’s sleep:
Be a good example of a good sleep role model.
From the day they are born, your child will look to you for guidance in all walks of life, including sleep. So it’s important that you practice your good sleeping habits yourself to encourage your child to follow in your footsteps. The National Sleep Foundation discovered that if their parents don’t have an electronic device in their bedroom, it’s much less likely that their children do. More about this in the next chapter.
Make it a habit for your children to read before going to bed.
Children who read from an early age have better reading skills and emotional intelligence. Plus, the cognitive benefits of reading before bed stay during the pre-teen years. By creating the habit of reading early before bedtime, it becomes easier for children to keep track of it as they get older – rather than replacing a book with their smartphone.
Explain the effects of technology on sleep to your child.
No one likes to know what to do, and that’s especially true for teenagers, as many parents will confirm. Instead of telling your child to turn off the computer and go to sleep, you should teach him or her how technology affects sleep. Then enable them to make their own decisions.
Reorganize your child’s schedule to make more time for sleep.
With increasing demands and fears of not doing enough to get to the best university, it’s easy for teenagers to get overbooked. Consider removing one or two activities from their schedule. Work with your child to find a way to do homework earlier, so they can live with a little less stress and a little more sleep.
But even if you extend your waking hours with a little bit each day, you’ll compensate for your natural sleeping patterns. As the difference between your body’s standard and your habits increases, you run the risk of developing a variety of sleep disorders. Be firm with yourself: Set a bedtime and hold on to it. Being consistent in your sleep-wake schedule is one of the most powerful means to promote healthy sleep. Don’t forget to invest in a good mattress if you want to sleep well at night! Here are some of our favorites – Nectar, Leesa, Casper and Tuft & Needle. Or check out our mattress comparisons and reviews.
Although this seems like a lot to tackle, try a baby step. Breaking habits is no small feat, you need to set realistic expectations for yourself and gradually pursue your goal. And what could be more motivating than the goal of a deep, peaceful sleep?