New research is confirming that using your laptop, tablet, or smartphone in the hours before bedtime could lead to a less restful night.
Technology helps facilitate education, communication, and entertainment, and tech devices have become a crucial element of our daily life. However, some devices may interrupt or negatively impact sleeping patterns. These include smart phones, laptops, televisions and tablets all of which feature screens that emit blue light, and overexposure to blue light in the evening can make it more difficult to fall and remain asleep.
The timing of sleep and wakefulness is controlled by two areas in the brain. One is highly sensitive to light and drives wakefulness, while the other, called the pineal gland, secretes the sleep hormone melatonin when the light dims in the evening,
Screen brightness can affect your sleep on different levels. These include:
- Interference with Circadian Rhythm: Exposure to blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleepiness. This is actually an advantage during the day because it keeps you feeling alert and refreshed. However, melatonin release in the evening helps you relax before bedtime. Suppression of melatonin can cause you to stay up later and sleep less than you normally would.
- Excessive Brightness in Sleeping Areas: Household LED lights also emit blue light. Though we do not stare directly into them like phones and other devices, it is important to dim other bedroom lights or switch to warm lighting to reduce exposure to blue light before sleeping.
- Reduced Sleep Time: In addition to the effects of blue light and stimulating content, technology use may cut into time that is usually reserved for sleep.
The blue light in the smartphones and the laptop decreases the release of melatonin, a brain chemical which is responsible for comforting and relaxing the brain. Instead, it allows cortisol which increases mental stress which can lead to anxiety and insomnia.
When you are ready for bed, ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet and comfortably cool. If you are unable to sleep after half an hour in bed, leave the bedroom and do a calming activity in low light until you feel sleepy again. You can read more about the our 10 tips for a mindful nights sleep and also; How to cope with sleep problems.