Living a Healthy Life: Sleep and How Electronics Affect It

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electronics and sleep

We all know the importance of a good night’s rest. Sleep is vital to our health and wellbeing, both physical and mental. Numerous studies and reports have shown that sleep helps with memory, depression, weight, hormone regulation, muscle and tissue repair, and more.

The recommended amount of sleep varies, but one constant is that everyone needs it. Check out this cool infographic to see how much sleep your body needs.

Many aspects of life help strip us from the sleep we need to function as our best selves. As if we needed more, this digital era has brought us a few other sleep hindrances. The electronics we tie ourselves to day and night could stand in our way of healthy, rejuvenating sleep.

Light, Dark, and Our Hormones’ Reactions

Our bodies know when it’s time for sleep. With the magic of the circadian rhythm and the production of the hormones melatonin and cortisol, our bodies send in the Sandman when the sun goes down.

As darkness falls, our bodies produce melatonin, which makes us sleepy. Light works in the opposite way. It tells our bodies to ease up on the melatonin, produce cortisol, and prepare us to rise and shine.

Nature’s sleep schedule is designed based on dark and light. So, it makes sense that flashy electronics with their screaming, bright screens trick our bodies into stopping that melatonin and keep us awake.

Electronics and the Havoc They Wreak

Electronic devices mess with our sleep cycles in more ways than one. Obviously, light is one major sleep wrecker. However, it’s not just that devices emit light, it’s also the type of light they give off. Besides that, did you know that the type of content we see on those screens also affects our sleep? Let’s dive further into this.

Presence of Light

As mentioned above, light triggers our brains to stop producing melatonin and begin producing cortisol. When we’re ticking away at late-night emails, reading an eBook, watching movies, or checking out the internet’s cutest kitty videos just before bed, our sleep can suffer because of the glaring, dancing lights. If we do this often enough, one or two nights of difficult sleep can turn into a reset of our internal clocks. Our bodies get used to the new sleep (or no sleep) schedule and adhere to it.

Types of Light

Aside from the presence of light, the type of light devices shed into our brains keeps sleep at bay. It turns out that the blue light released by electronic devices is worse for sleep than other, non-blue light is. It works like this:

Light has varying wavelengths. These wavelengths determine the colors we perceive as well as the amount of energy the light carries. Long wavelengths such as red, yellow, and green have little energy and less power than blue light to affect sleep.

Have you ever noticed that most digital alarm clocks have red or green numbers? This is to reduce sleep disruption caused by those glowing numbers. Blue light, which has one of the longest wavelengths of all, packs a huge punch of energy.

According to studies outlined by the National Institute of Health, blue light suppresses melatonin for twice as long as other light colors. It’s also more effective at increasing heart rates, body temperatures, and raising alertness.

Types of Content

The light shining out of the eBook readers, televisions, laptops, and cell phones is not the only thing we have to worry about disturbing our sleep. What we see on those devices can also keep us wide-eyed.

When we watch a suspenseful drama or respond to emails before bed, our bodies react in a way that wards off slumber. Increased heart rate, tense muscles, and stress all wake us up and slash our dreams of sleep. The intensity of the show or movie we watch may be entertaining, but it also causes our bodies to release cortisol and adrenaline.

We already know all about how cortisol butts heads with melatonin. Adrenaline energizes us, gets our hearts pumping, and makes us alert. Those are not reactions that welcome sleep.

Depending on the conversation, emails and texts can do the same thing. They can cause stress, anger, excitement, or worry. We may find ourselves lying awake, staring at the ceiling, and thinking about those conversations instead of recharging our bodies and minds with sleep.

What You Can Do About It

There are several ways you can battle the effects electronics have on your precious sleep. It may be difficult for a lot of us to change our habits, but it is possible, and it’s imperative for overall physical and mental wellbeing.

  • Make your bedroom an electronics-free zone. That means no television, laptops, tablets, cell phones, or eBook readers. The bedroom is not a place to work, watch entertainment, or return calls or texts.
  • If you love to read in bed, do so with an old-fashioned paper book. While reading a peaceful, relaxing story (never suspense or horror) may help put you to sleep, tablets and eBook readers hinder sleepiness.
  • Peel yourself away from all electronics before bed. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends at least one hour of device-free time before going to sleep. This will help your brain and body accept that bedtime is near.
  • If putting away devices an hour before bed is an unreasonable task, try apps or glasses that help block blue light emissions. Apps such as F.lux, Twilight, CF.lumen, and others filter and reduce the amount of blue light coming from laptops, cell phones, and tablets. There are also many specialty glasses on the market that block blue light. However, even with these, it’s wise to keep those devices out of the bedroom.
  • If you’re one of the many who must have the television on in order to sleep, consider slowly weaning yourself off it. Television can reduce the amount and quality of your sleep. Try creating white noise with a fan or sound machine. Experiment with meditation, or replace watching television with reading a book.

Sleep not only feels good, it’s also good for us. We need it to live and function in a healthy manner. Sleep affects our lives in big ways. It keeps us sharp, starves depression, helps us maintain a healthy weight, helps keep our hearts ticking, and much more.

It’s essential to do everything you can to make sure you’re getting all the sleep your body and mind require. While electronic devices help keep our world going ‘round, they also keep our minds and bodies alert and running when they should be winding down for rest. So, if you’re having trouble sleeping, it could be your devices’ fault, at least in part. By revamping the way you interact with electronics before bed, you will likely find yourself having more restful nights than before.

For more information about getting a better night’s sleep, please contact us.

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