How the use of electronics affects your sleep

Using electronics before bed can negatively affect your sleeping patterns

Are you someone who absolutely needs to scroll through Instagram, check your Facebook feed, or watch one last TV episode on Netflix before falling asleep? Though these things can help you unwind after a long day of work, it may be wise to avoid them right before you go to sleep.

Studies indicate the light exposure from electronic devices before bed provokes a feeling of wakefulness, thereby making it difficult to fall asleep.

A very simple way in which electronics impact sleep is through cognitive stimulation. As you are taking in and reflecting on things from your phone, computer or television, your brain is working to process that information. As such, the electrical activity in your brain is increased rather than wound down to prepare for sleep.

Moreover, your reactions to various stimuli can physically impact your body and keep you awake. Anything upsetting, aggravating, etc. which causes stress can increase the levels of cortisol in your body and make you feel tense. Even something nonemotional like playing a video game can leave you feeling on edge and make it more difficult to relax.

Finally, darkness has traditionally acted as a trigger for our brains to prepare for sleep, but electronic lighting and our modern society have made this much more difficult. Studies have shown that the light from electronics like a computer or phone is sufficient to disrupt regulation in the hypothalamus and delay the release of melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is the hormone which triggers sleep, therefore a delay in its release prolongs a feeling of wakefulness.

Studies show use of electronics before bed impacts sleep duration and quality, as well as daytime alertness, in a variety of ways. As you continue to stay up late on a consistent basis, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome begins to occur. Individuals who experience this do not feel tired until much later in the evening, and often cannot fall asleep until their new, pre-set time they have been going to sleep.

Many physicians recommend removing all electronics from the bedroom, particularly if you experience any difficulty sleeping. Try restricting your electronic use to another room, such as the living room, and turn them off before getting into bed. You can also use alternative methods to unwind in bed before falling asleep, such as colouring, knitting or reading a book. Try to restrict your use of electronics and give your brain a break. As my family doctor used to say, the bedroom is for only two things, and one of them is sleeping.

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