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What Our Screens Are Doing to Our Sleep Habits

Americans just are not getting enough sleep and technology may be the villain. I am one of them. I sleep less than I did ten years ago, when I likely need more sleep today. Here’s why I think technology may be part of my problem.

The National Sleep Foundation did a 2011 Poll that found 95% of the 1,508 people surveyed reported using some type of electronic device (TV, computer, video game or cell phone) within an hour of bedtime, at least a few nights per week.

One of the researchers, professor Lauren Hale, reports: “Communication technologies are often light-emitting, which can suppress the sleep promoting hormone melatonin and make it harder to go to sleep at night.” Both the light and alert sounds from such devices can interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep.

Cardiologist Virend Somers, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN., says a lack of sleep may have serious health consequences for students and young people. Somers says that youth are not only experiencing a chronic lack of sleep but are also trading sleep time for sedentary activities, rather than exercise. This may not affect them this week, but it will eventually take its toll as they get older and their body may be less able to compensate for lack of sleep.

So what can we do for ourselves and our kids? Here are three ideas:

  1. Turn the computer, TV or cell phone off at least an hour before bedtime.
  2. Do something active (instead of sedentary) every day.
  3. Read before bedtime, guiding your thoughts away from the day’s troubles.

Though its too early to say one causes the other, it is clear that younger populations are using more interactive technology at bedtime, and they are the same group reporting worse sleep than anyone. Our goal should be to build healthy young people who can take their turn leading our world when the time comes. Let’s just hope they’re not tired or sleepy when that time comes.

Tim

8 Comments

  1. Elizabeth on May 26, 2011 at 6:59 am

    I love my technological gadgets, but I think you’re spot-on here. I’d guess I go to sleep 30-60 minutes earlier per night when I don’t settle down with my iPod or computer before bed. It’s tempting to listen to music, play a game, or watch a video before bed, but even without the question of whether light emissions represses melatonin, I know for myself that an electronic device simply distracts me from going to bed earlier.  If I’m feeling really pious (sorry, laughing at myself), I read my Bible and/or write in my journal before bed, and I go to sleep earlier. I should probably make that a habit!

    • Tim Elmore on May 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      Great examples! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Kaye Sims on May 26, 2011 at 7:18 am

    …and then there are those of us who fall asleep sitting at the computer!!!
     

  3. Joe Cox on May 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Seen it, Suspected it, and Experienced it.  Confession is the first step…

    • Tim Elmore on May 26, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      It’s true. Once you identify the problem, it’s easier to get to work on fixing it!

  4. JJ on May 26, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    I sleep much better on nights when I’ve spent less time in front of technological devices. Books tend to be soporific, whereas computers and smart phones aren’t. So if people would trade real reading for screen reading before bed, they might be better off.

    • Tim Elmore on June 10, 2011 at 8:19 am

      It’s such a simple change but it’s amazing how big a difference it makes.

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What Our Screens Are Doing to Our Sleep Habits