How Electronics Affect Sleep: Tips for Using Technology at Night

Many people are electronics before bed. They are checking their smartphones, tablets, and laptops right before they go to sleep in order to unwind. This can have some negative consequences on how well you sleep. There is a lot of research that shows how electronic devices affect your sleep cycle. In this article, we will discuss how electronics affect your sleep and what you can do about it!

Why do electronic gadgets keep you up?

The human body cycles between high energy time and sleepy time with the sun. When daylight fades, your melatonin levels rise to let you sleep like a baby.

However, there is a number of electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops that emit blue light. This can keep you up and make it hard to fall asleep at the appropriate time.

The effect of blue light on your sleep

Blue light is proven to cause sleep problems due to how it affects how your brain regulates melatonin. Your body produces a hormone called “melatonin” that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles in the human body, which is known as our circadian rhythm.

Blue light surpasses melatonin

Blue light suppresses melatonin production by about 30%[1]Melatonin suppression and sleepiness in children exposed to blue‐enriched white LED lighting at night https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6295443/. this means that when you stare at a screen for long periods of time, your body is likely to recover less and be restless.

Please, keep in mind that children are even more vulnerable to blue light because blue light suppresses melatonin production in children by about 60%[2]Melatonin suppression and sleepiness in children exposed to blue‐enriched white LED lighting at night https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6295443/.

Blue light causes anxiety

Blue light is proven to enhance the adrenocortical hormone and cortisol production[3]Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288536/. These hormones are usually produced during stressful situations.

Blue light hurts your eyes

Blue light damages our eyes and can lead to dry eye, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and other eye disorders and diseases[4]Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288536/. Irritated, dry eyes can cause headaches that negatively impact the quality of your sleep.

Screen time before bed

A board-certified sleep medicine physician Meloony Hugge recommends using the smartphone not more than 5 minutes two hours before going to bed and using no electronics before bed one hour before going to sleep[5]Interview with a board-certified sleep medicine physician Meloony Hugge 22 Jul 2021.

Electronics and sleep deprivation

Electronics not only prevent you from falling asleep fast but also keep you from getting the quality of sleep by depriving it[6]The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21552190/.

Electronic devices are proven to disrupt our natural melatonin production, which keeps us awake at night and causes major health risks like cancer[7]Cellular (Cell) Phones https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/cellular-phones.html and obesity in children[8]Bedtime Use of Technology and Associated Sleep Problems in Children https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5669315/.

How much of electronics can damage your sleep?

There is a huge array of negative effects of electronics on your sleep:

  1. Reduces melatonin production by 30% in adults and by 60% in children [9]Melatonin suppression and sleepiness in children exposed to blue‐enriched white LED lighting at night https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6295443/
  2. Increases the levels of serotonin
  3. It can lead to major health issues such as cancer[10]Cellular (Cell) Phones https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/cellular-phones.html and obesity in children[11]Bedtime Use of Technology and Associated Sleep Problems in Children https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5669315/.

Sleeping with television on: is it healthy?

A study conducted in 2019 found that sleeping with the TV on is linked to a higher risk of obesity and depression as a result[12]Association of Exposure to Artificial Light at Night While Sleeping With Risk of Obesity in Women https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2735446. Television is a source of blue light that can disrupt sleep patterns, lower melatonin, and increase cortisol production. Also, it is a source of noise that can disturb sleep.

Suggestions to use electronics during the nighttime

  1. Use electronics less before going to bed. Using your laptop or smartphone less during the nighttime will allow your eyes to adjust and prepare for bed. Also, this will help you to normalize hormone production and have healthier sleep. Ideally, you should avoid using electronic devices 2-3 hours before going to bed. You can make it a useful habit to leave your gadgets outside of the bedroom.
  2. Turn down the brightness on electronic devices. Turning down the brightness will help shield your eyes from blue light when using technology before bed. Your eyes will adjust to the lower brightness and your body and mind will receive less damage from blue light.
  3. Use a screen blocker app or filter on computer screens, tablets, TVs, etc., as this can reduce how much time you spend looking at bright lights during the daytime and nighttime.
  4. Use the dimmer with your bedroom lighting. The dimmed lighting will have a relaxing effect on your body, mind, and eyes. This will help you effectively prepare to sleep because your brain will associate the dimmer lighting with nighttime.
  5. Do not have any electronics in the bedroom at all. If you can’t make that happen, place them as far away from your headboard and bed as possible so they don’t emit light into your line of sight or disrupt sleep with their sounds (e.g., alarm clock). For example, you can put the smartphone out of your reach and set the flight mode on it.
  6. Use a blue light filter. You can download an app designed to filter the blue light from your device screen. This will make it easier for you to read text on a phone without straining your eyes, and without disrupting sleep patterns because of how bright the screen is when using apps during nighttime hours. Also, you can purchase glasses that block blue light to wear while using your devices.
  7. Use blackout curtains or shades that cover all windows in your bedroom so no outside lighting comes into your bedroom. This will isolate the effect of the light on your device screen, and you can sleep easier without any outside distractions.

Tips to minimize the amount of electronics in your bedroom

  1. Replace electronics with a healthier bedtime routine. For example, turn off your TV and read a book or practice positive affirmations.
  2. Keep the flow with a book. Reading is one of the most popular flow activities that will lower your thought enthropy and help you fall asleep at night. A book is an easy way to contain the spread of technology all around your home and in your bedroom.
  3. Not all electronics is bad for your sleep. There is a range of devices that actually can enhance your sleep quality:
  • Sleep apps for your phone
  • White noise machines
  • Aromatherapy diffusers that can help you unwind before bedtime with a calming scent.

4. Consider a specialized box for all your electronic gadgets. You will always know where your phone is and can avoid using it as you’re winding down for the night.

5. Learn about meditations. Meditations are another alternative routine that can replace the usage of electronics. Not only your eyes will be healthier, but your mind will be more peaceful.

6. Have your offline schedule. You should set strict boundaries for how much time you use your phone, tablet or laptop. Your friends, family and colleagues should know the exact time when you are unavailable. This will help you to get a better quality of sleep, lower your risk of developing RSI[13]Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) among computer users: A case study in telecommunication company … Continue reading or other medical conditions, and spend more quality time with your loved ones.

7. Make working in bed a taboo. You may think that nothing bad will happen if you check your work mail before going to bed. However, this is a bad habit. You will be less productive at work because you had less sleep and then the next night, more likely to do it again.

8. Have more sex. Sex is another healthy activity that is proven to enhance the quality of your sleep[14]Sex and Sleep: Perceptions of Sex as a Sleep Promoting Behavior in the General Adult Population https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6409294/. Also, it will push out all the unnecessary gadgets from your schedule.

Benefits of a electronics-free bedroom

Longer duration of your sleep.

Without having any distractions you will be able to start sleeping faster. This will increase how long you sleep. Also, this is likely to increase the duration of REM sleep and how you feel rested.

Less sleeping disorders

You will be less likely to have any sleeping disorders that are caused by how your brain reacts to technology before you go to bed at night. Less blue light and less stress and anxiety will improve your sleep hygiene.

Better quality of sleep.

Your brain will be able to fall asleep faster and stay in a deeper phase of sleep longer if it’s not being distracted by how you use your electronics before bedtime. Fewer distractions from how we use our devices at night mean that the brain can reach deep, uninterrupted REM cycles easier when sleeping.

Less temptation

We all know this feeling. It’s late, we’re tired and want to sleep but how can you turn off your phone? You have a ton of notifications that need a response. Your brain is fighting this battle with how it wants to make you feel better vs how well-rested it knows you’ll be if only you just go to bed now! This temptation causes stress and damages your quality of sleep and health.

Wrapping it up

Now you know how electronics affect your quality of sleep. You know how to use your devices at night so you can sleep better. You know that electronic devices and sleep usually are not compatible, but there are certain exclusions. Creating a technology-free bedroom is not as difficult or impossible as it seems and I hope these tips have given you the inspiration needed to create one of your own!

References

References
1 Melatonin suppression and sleepiness in children exposed to blue‐enriched white LED lighting at night https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6295443/
2 Melatonin suppression and sleepiness in children exposed to blue‐enriched white LED lighting at night https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6295443/
3 Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288536/
4 Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6288536/
5 Interview with a board-certified sleep medicine physician Meloony Hugge 22 Jul 2021
6 The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21552190/
7 Cellular (Cell) Phones https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/cellular-phones.html
8 Bedtime Use of Technology and Associated Sleep Problems in Children https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5669315/
9 Melatonin suppression and sleepiness in children exposed to blue‐enriched white LED lighting at night https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6295443/
10 Cellular (Cell) Phones https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/cellular-phones.html
11 Bedtime Use of Technology and Associated Sleep Problems in Children https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5669315/
12 Association of Exposure to Artificial Light at Night While Sleeping With Risk of Obesity in Women https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2735446
13 Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) among computer users: A case study in telecommunication company https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317219877_Repetitive_Strain_Injury_RSI_among_computer_users_A_case_study_in_telecommunication_company
14 Sex and Sleep: Perceptions of Sex as a Sleep Promoting Behavior in the General Adult Population https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6409294/

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