How Is Technology Disrupting Our Sleep Schedule?
We all know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep – it can’t be overstated. But with a surge of smartphones, laptops, tablets, phablets, smartwatches and other ubiquitous gadgets making their presence felt in the bedroom, it can be difficult to get the recommended eight hours. Just how disruptive is tech to our sleep schedules?
Experts believe we should avoid looking at all kinds of screens for at least an hour before getting into bed. Hands up – who in the last month has actually accomplished that aim? As a society, we seem to be staying in front of our screens for longer than ever before. Is tech wreaking havoc on our sleep patterns?
The physical impact of technology on sleep
Using technology right before bed has a measurable impact on your body. The light from the various screens we stare at until the early hours can impact our melatonin levels, telling our bodies that we’re not ready to go to sleep.
Back before technology changed our lives, the human body clock was synced up with the sun. We rose at dawn and went to sleep after the sun had set, when the world was in total darkness. Our bodies take cues from the natural world – an absence of light tells us it’s time for sleep.
Without that cue, our bodies don’t know when they should be rested and when they should be firing on all cylinders. That means if there’s blue light emanating from your smartphone while you’re lying in bed, it’s going to be much harder for you to get the good quality sleep you need.
The culture of ‘never switching off’
Technology is also disrupting our sleep schedules by creating a culture where we never switch off. We’re constantly connected to our phones, our tablets and our laptops – and that means we’re constantly connected to everyone and everything. How many of us actually turn off our phones regularly to enjoy some down time? For many of us, our phone is the last thing we see before we go to sleep, and the first thing we check the morning after.
This sense of constantly being switched on can cause stress. It can also exacerbate mental health conditions like anxiety or depression. A recent study by the American Psychological Association found that people who constantly check their emails, texts and social media accounts have higher average stress levels than those who don’t engage with technology as frequently – are we stressing ourselves out of a good night’s sleep?
Tips for minimising tech disruption
- Set your alarm outside your bedroom. Make sure it’s loud enough to hear, but keep any LED lights or flashing notifications out of your sleep space. (This will also help get you out of bed in the mornings!)
- Your bedroom should be for sleeping only. No Netflix marathons, no late-night YouTube rabbit holes – just sleep.
- If you live in an area with lots of light pollution, invest in blackout curtains to create the ideal sleep environment.