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As many as 70 million Americans are a victim of chronic sleep deprivation, says The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Insomnia is an alarming issue in today’s generation, affecting people of all ages. Irregular bedtime schedules, stress, caffeinated drinks, or anxiety are some culprits that make it difficult for individuals to fall asleep.
But ever thought your cell phone might be the reason you’re up till the wee hours of the morning? While you may turn to sleep technology or sleep podcasts to nod off, your cell phone or other devices could do the opposite by contributing to insomnia.
Little do people know that the blue light emitted by cell phones or other electronic devices interferes with sleep, leading to various sleep disorders.
In this article, we’ll shed light on how technology affects the sleep patterns of both children and adults. We’ll also explain ways to enhance sleep without sleep medicine.
Perhaps, you must have heard that the blue light produced by electronic devices affects sleep negatively. Ever wondered why?
Though shortest, blue light is among the brightest wavelengths, and can pierce the photoreceptors of human retinas intensely. Too much exposure to blue light during the night interferes with the sleep-wake cycle.
That’s because the brain perceives it to be sunlight, thinking it’s daytime. As a result, the body stops producing melatonin– the very hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Only when melatonin is produced are you able to fall asleep.
Remember, the longer a human’s brain takes to produce melatonin, the more challenging it will be for them to fall and stay asleep. Researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in a study conducted in 2013, discovered that blue light released from self-luminous tablets inhibits melatonin.
Blue light alone isn’t responsible for suppressing melatonin production and affecting the circadian clock. Rather, increased anxiety and cortisol levels are also to be blamed for your sleeplessness.
Anytime your body has to cope with a stressful situation, the cortisol level rises. Like, your body will have a hard time falling asleep if you lie down after playing an intense game. Actually, such fervent activities release adrenaline and norepinephrine, triggering the “fight or flight” mode.
Because the mind is alerted, the body reacts to such stress physically. As a result, cortisol levels are increased, while melanin production is inhibited or delayed. With everything happening at once, the body is unable to relax, which is essential to fall asleep.
For increased anxiety and cortisol levels, unhealthy relationships with cell phones are also to be blamed. Most people get anxious when they are apart from their mobile phones, which has resulted in increased smartphone usage.
Because of such anxiety, individuals tend to use their smart phones up until the moment they fall asleep. Consequently, the production of the melatonin hormone is delayed, whereas cortisol increases.
The emission of blue light isn’t the only problem associated with technological devices.
Too often, when electronic devices aren’t in use, the cacophony of sounds, chimes, and beeps produced by them hinder and make it hard for a person to fall asleep. Sure, calls, notifications from social media accounts, and texts rob a person’s attention, but they also contribute to stress and anxiety.
Almost every smartphone user will agree that their sleep was disrupted at some point because of the incoming phone calls and notifications. To avoid getting disturbed while sleeping, most users switch to “silent” mode.
Increased screen time impacts sleep cycles negatively.
In regard to screen time, mobile phones aren’t the only device that disrupts the sleep-wake cycle of individuals. Instead, computers, television, and reading tablets also lead to sleep disorder.
For instance, passive screen time, such as watching television, listening to music, or reading books on tablets, can delay melatonin production to a great extent. In a study conducted in 2020, it was reported that using an iPad at maximum brightness for 2 hours slow downs melatonin production.
Another study conducted by Harvard revealed that people reading books on light-emitting e-tab as opposed to paper books need an extra 10 minutes to drift off to sleep. While that is certainly concerning, they do not spend as much time in REM sleep as others, which is more alarming.
Aside from light-emitting e-readers, the lighting of a bedroom may be the reason behind getting less sleep.
Little do people know that bedroom lights, especially LED ones, emit blue light. Unlike phones, we don’t directly stare at them, but they are able to penetrate the photoreceptors of our retinas. Unless you switch to warm lighting and dim other bedroom lights, you won’t entirely get rid of sleep problems.
Not getting enough sleep or sleep deprivation is alarming because of the chronic health issues associated with it. Nevertheless, you can beat insomnia with the help of the tips mentioned below.
Tech-savvy individuals who find it hard to power down their phones or other electronic devices must make their bedrooms technology-free. Obviously, that means eliminating all electronic devices that could lead to disturbance from the room.
Once you remove all electronic devices, your bedroom will become a peaceful space. In the absence of incoming notification sounds and blue light, your brain will start perceiving the space as a sleeping area. You will automatically drift off to sleep if you don’t browse social media, work, or play video games in the space.
At times, it’s impossible to eliminate all electronic devices from bedrooms. Many electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, or e-readers cannot be removed from the bedroom for a variety of reasons.
In such cases, it’s best to put these devices down at least 60 minutes before bedtime. And if you cannot sleep even after turning off your devices, reading a magazine or book may help.
Even meditating or practicing yoga for a couple of minutes can relax your mind and help you drift off to sleep. These ideas may not work well for people addicted to chatting. In that scenario, the best thing you can do is talk face-to-face with someone in your home.
Whether you use computers for work-related reasons or have a habit of scrolling Facebook endlessly, using tinted glasses will make sure you don’t have trouble falling asleep.
Almost all sleep doctors suggest using orange or yellow-tinted goggles. Because the tint filters out a considerable amount of blue light, melatonin production isn’t suppressed. Such glasses are recommended for individuals using electronic devices all through the evening.
People struggling with sleep disorders must stop responding to text messages, emails, and other notifications as soon as they pop into their phones. Usually, you’ll have to practice this during the daytime to make it a habit.
Once you master it, your cortisol levels won’t rise at night when you hear an incoming notification on your phone. Over time, your dependence on your phone will decrease, and you won’t feel uncomfortable leaving your phone in another room before sleeping.
Modern-day smartphones, e-readers, and other electronic devices are integrated with “night” mode.
Upon switching to it, electronic devices use red light instead of blue light, making it less intense by dimming it. This reduces eye strain, so falling asleep won’t be troublesome.
Although older devices don’t have “night” mode, users can reverse the color setting while using it before bedtime. When the color setting is inverted, the backdrop becomes black while the text is displayed in white.
Limit your intake of caffeine late in the evening if you wish to sleep peacefully at night. Besides, consuming alcohol is a big no-no! Also, it’s best to avoid overly sugary, fatty, or spicy foods a few hours before bedtime, or they may hinder your ability to fall asleep.
On the other hand, it’s increasingly important to maintain a bedtime routine– wake up and go to sleep at a specified hour every day. This way, your body gets trained to sleep at a specific time.
Electronic devices aren’t only an integral part of our lives, but they have also become an indispensable part of children’s lives. Throughout the day, students– elementary or high school students– rely on electronics to complete their homework. Besides, electronic devices are used for communication and entertainment purposes.
In the meantime, their sleep health has taken a backseat. Quoting recent research, about one-third of children do not get adequate sleep, which means they have a short sleep duration compared to other children their age.
Because of insufficient sleep, the circadian rhythms of children are disturbed, which has a negative impact on their health. Children with shorter sleep duration are also at risk of obesity or weight gain.
Sleep experts are of the opinion that chronic sleep disorders impact the nervous system, leading to attention and behavior problems. Reduced sleep time or sleep deprivation even results in cognitive decline, which takes a hit on the academic performance of children.
A 2019 research suggests that teens who send emails or text before going to bed have considerably higher levels of excessive daytime sleepiness. Compared to their peers who aren’t addicted to texting, they sleep 30 minutes less. They aren’t getting the sleep they need, which would be problematic in the long run.
Likewise, teenagers with television in their bedrooms are likely to have short sleep times and late bedtimes compared to those that don’t.
Almost identical to children, teens who do not get adequate sleep find it difficult to focus, process and retain information. Even the physical and mental health risks associated with lack of sleep in teens are aplenty.
Be it children or adults, no one likes to be commanded on what they should do and what they shouldn’t. If you tell your children to shut down their laptops or put away their cell phones, they most likely won’t listen to you.
Instead of wasting time, start by educating them about the negative impact of technology on their overall well-being– sleep, physical health, and mental health.
Kids who start reading from a young age have high emotional intelligence and better literacy rates than those who don’t. So, when you inculcate reading habits in your children, they are more likely to read books before sleeping than chatting or browsing social media.
Almost all teenagers are faced with the pressure to do well at school, which affects their sleep duration. Obviously, low sleep quality is likely to impact their health. As a parent, you must reorganize your child’s schedule by managing activities so that your child’s sleep isn’t compromised.
As much fun as it is to use mobile phones during bedtime, keep in mind such habits or addictions contribute to sleep disorders.
Most people use electronic devices like sleep trackers with the intent to better their sleep. Sadly, they do nothing to improve sleep quality; instead, they make it difficult for individuals to fall asleep because of the blue light.
The only solution to prevent sleep disorders is to fall asleep quickly and refrain from using electronic devices 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Also, set up a bedtime routine, so you can wake up and sleep every day at the same time.
Even talking to a sleep doctor to find out the underlying medical condition, leading to insomnia will prove useful.