It’s so hard to put down our phones and tablets at night because we feel like we might miss out on something important, or we want to watch just one last video, or read just one more article. But the trouble with technology is that it doesn’t mesh well with sleep. Sleep experts recommend turning off the TV, putting our phone out of reach, and turning off tablets a few hours before bed in order to enhance our quality of sleep. For many of us, those few hours before bed can feel like a scarce resource, and the idea of limiting technology use during that time sounds constricting. We’ve known for a while that technology can negatively impact sleep but it wasn’t until recently that researchers started to understand just how much our devices affect our sleep.
A new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston discovered that the impact late-night technology use has on sleep quality is greater than previously thought. The study followed two groups of 12 study participants; one group read on an iPad for four hours before bed each night for five consecutive nights. The second group read printed books in dim light, and after a week the groups switched. The iPad group showed lower levels of melatonin, a hormone linked to sleepiness. They also experienced shorter restorative REM cycles, delayed circadian rhythms, and felt sleepier the next morning despite getting eight hours of sleep. The blue light from many devices, not just the iPad, can have a negative effect on our melatonin levels because this type of light tells our body to stay awake and alert.
If turning off technology a few hours before bed sounds like too much, try starting with small changes. Start by turning off technology a half hour before bed, then shift to an hour, etc. If you’re ready to try this, let us know how it works out for you. Is it easier to fall asleep at night? Do you feel more rested? Let us know in the comment section! We love hearing sleep success stories.