Did you know that a whopping 90% of American adults use electronic devices an hour before bed?
This poor sleep hygiene practice is having a massive impact on our health and well-being, and unfortunately, this alarming figure is rising by the day as more and more of us become addicted to our phones.
Technology has brought many amazing innovations and has greatly improved our lives. Still, our love of electronic gadgets also comes at a cost.
Increased screen time has a negative effect on our quality of sleep and is the number one driving force behind the sleep problem epidemic we’re facing today.
5 Ways Technology Affects Sleep
Using devices such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops in the evening hours directly impacts what time you fall asleep, how long you stay asleep, and even the quality and depth of your sleep.
Technology has been scientifically proven to affect sleep in the following ways:
1. Blue Light
Blue light emitted from electronic devices is the biggest and by far the most impactful issue we face when it comes to disrupted sleep.
Blue light is a short wavelength that throws out high energy. When it reaches our eyes, it sends signals to the brain, boosting our awareness and reaction times and suppressing the sleep hormone melatonin.
But blue light isn’t a modern invention; it’s part of the natural electromagnetic spectrum of visible light and is even present in sunlight. And in many ways, blue light is essential to our health and well-being as long as we receive it at the right time.
Exposure to blue light upon waking and throughout the day keeps our circadian rhythms in check, increases our energy levels, and even improves our mood. But when our eyes receive this kind of light after sundown, our circadian rhythms become confused, and our sleep cycles suffer.
Blue light is essentially telling your brain that it’s time to get up and go, but that’s the last thing our brains need to hear at 10 pm when we should be winding down for a good night’s sleep.
And unfortunately, blue light is emitted by almost all of our favorite gadgets, even the television. So, it’s easy to see why many of us have difficulty falling asleep.
2. Constant Notifications
Many of us sleep with our cell phones on the nightstand next to our bed. And while this may seem like an innocent habit, it can play havoc on our sleep.
Constant social media notifications ping throughout the night, and if you forget to turn off the volume, you’re almost guaranteed to be woken up and suffer from interrupted sleep.
Even if your phone is switched to silent mode, those flashes of light from the screen can be enough to wake you from your slumber momentarily.
Many people might not even realize there’s a problem, as their periods of wakefulness are so brief that they immediately drift back off to sleep. But this disruption leads to less time spent in the deeper, more restorative phases of sleep, which are essential to our health and well-being.
3. Over Stimulation
It’s not just the blue light that causes us to miss sleep. Technological devices are highly stimulating, and the content we consume on them is much more likely to cause our brains to engage rather than relax.
We should be winding down and removing stimulus in the hours leading up to bedtime. But instead, many of us are reading through the news or checking out the comments section on divisive social media posts, the exact opposite of what our tired minds need.
As a result, rather than feeling relaxed and content, we can find ourselves in an anxious state, with our heart rates up and a dark feeling about the seemingly terrible state of the world.
4. Interactive Technology
Electronic devices can be separated into two categories; interactive and passive.
Passive technology includes television and radio, which require us to sit back, listen, and/or watch. But interactive technology has us constantly clicking, scrolling, and swiping, and this kind of tech can be incredibly detrimental to our sleep.
Interactive technology has been shown to impact our cognitive ability to make rational decisions, which is why so many of us seem to be hooked to our phones.
We know we should stop scrolling, but it’s much harder to make healthy choices when we’re under the hypnotic spell of interactive tech.
5. Tech Temptation
Even if you vow to read a book before you drift off each night, keeping your phone on the nightstand beside your bed makes you much more likely to succumb to the temptation of picking it up.
And as most of us know, once you’re sufficiently distracted by an exciting tweet or a WhatsApp message from a friend, time slips away, and before we know it, an hour has passed.
Even simply setting the alarm for the morning is a danger zone for some, as one flash of notification and all of that resolve to not check your phone suddenly melts away.
How to Overcome The Negative Effects of Technology on Our Sleep?
As you can see, our dependence on electronic devices is hugely detrimental to our sleep, and as a result, it’s negatively impacting our health and happiness, too.
But it’s not all bad news; fortunately, there are plenty of ways to counteract technology’s negative impact on our sleep. Here are a few tried and tested tips:
1. Limit Screen Time
Of course, the best way to limit the impact of technology on our sleep is to limit our time spent using said tech. But for many people, that’s much easier said than done.
To say we are addicted to our screens is no overstatement, and if you’re having a hard time unplugging from your phone and resisting the urge to doom scroll, it may be beneficial to seek the help of a professional.
2. Pick up a New Relaxing Hobby
We all like to be busy doing something, but scrolling through our phones or staring at our laptops and tablets each evening is not just detrimental to our sleep; it’s not always that productive, either.
Instead, try filling your evening hours with a wholesome, relaxing hobby such as reading, knitting or crocheting, drawing, painting, or anything else that helps you wind down and relax and doesn’t involve a screen.
3. Call Instead of Text
If you regularly chat with friends and family in the evening, consider calling them and speaking on the phone rather than face timing or texting.
You’ll rest your eyes, limit your exposure to blue light, and you may find that you get much more from your conversations when you connect by voice alone.
4. No Phones in The Bedroom
Make your bedroom a phone-free zone. That way, when it’s time to get into bed at the end of a long day, there’s no temptation to sit next to you on the nightstand. Instead, read a book, chat with your bedmate, switch out the lights and enjoy an early night.
5. Get an Alarm Clock
If that last tip left you panicking about setting your morning alarm, why not invest in an old-fashioned alarm clock?
Most of us grew up with a real alarm clock by our beds (no cell phone in sight!), and you can even set them to wake you up with uplifting music to help you start your day on a positive note.
6. Set Your Phone to Airplane Mode
Airplane mode is an excellent tool for all scenarios, not just flying. Switching your phone to airplane mode turns all wifi and data off and blocks incoming and outgoing calls and messages.
So, if you must use your phone for your morning alarm, then airplane mode will at least limit its distracting, sleep-interrupting features.
7. Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology got us into this mess, but it can also help lift us out of it as long as we use it wisely.
Plenty of helpful apps track the time you spend on your phone and help you monitor your usage and keep it within the healthy range.
Some can even lock their phone once you’ve gone over a specific daily usage. This eliminates the need for willpower and helps to keep you on track with your new, healthy sleep hygiene habits.
8. Consider Blue Light Blockers
These days, most smartphones have a blue light filter that prevents many of the most harmful rays from reaching our eyes, so if you must use your phone in the evening, this feature is a valuable tool.
You can also invest in a pair of blue light-blocking glasses, which offer even more robust protection
We’re in the midst of a technology epidemic that is ravaging sleep cycles across the world. As more and more of us become addicted to our screens, we’re getting less and less sleep, and as a result, we’re becoming increasingly unhealthy, anxious, and stressed.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! Plenty of strategies can help us limit our time spent using electronic devices before bed and mitigate many of their harmful effects.
For more tips on cultivating a better night’s sleep, check out our extensive selection of sleep hygiene guides, and see how they can help you.