Admit it: you often browse through your Facebook when you know you really should be asleep. We all do it - the pull of the medium is so irresistible that we take it to bed with us. The problem, though, is that getting to sleep once you’ve had your fill of browsing can be difficult. The reason? Your smartphone. Read on to discover why your smartphone might be ruining your sleep.
Technology Is the Enemy of Sleep
A steady stream of studies has shown that the high rate of media use is a factor that is linked to a short sleep duration and late sleep times. TV use has consistently been shown to be negatively correlated with sleep duration, in addition to delayed bedtimes and morning rising times. A high rate of electronic device use has also been linked to sleep problems and shortened sleep.
A recent Norwegian study of more than 9,000 participants corroborates these findings.The study showed associations between electronic device use and sleep across a range of sleep measures, including sleep onset latency (SOL – how long it takes to nod off), sleep duration and sleep deficit. Although the study engaged a limited age range of participants (16-19), the sample was large, well-defined and employed a range of measures of sleep patterns and sleep problems, in addition to a range of measures of media use.
The study found that extensive use of electronic devices was significantly and positively correlated with both sleep deficiency and SOL. Furthermore, there was an inverse “dose-response” (i.e. the extent of your exposure to devices) link between the length of sleep and media use. And using several devices before going to sleep was linked to longer SOL and a shorter length of sleep compared with using a single device.
The Problem with Electronic Devices
The researchers in the study posit that there are “probably multiple pathways” that explain the links between sleep and the use of technology. An obvious explanation is that technology serves as a direct replacement to sleep as a result of its “consuming nature”. Another is that technology interferes with sleep through “increased psychophysiological arousal” (i.e. your brain is being over-stimulated by whatever you’re doing on your smartphone). Still another explanation points the finger at the bright light exposure found in most technological devices, which is believed to affect sleep by delaying the body’s circadian rhythm.
Despite the associations found between sleep and electronic devices, the authors concede that further study is needed in order to draw firm conclusions about electronic device sleeplessness. In the meantime, based on the findings, it is probably best to stop using your smartphone in bed. To help you sleep, try reading a good, ‘proper’ book, one whose pages you can physically turn over with your fingers. (Reading on an electronic device may cause your brain to be over-stimulated.)
But how do you resist the urge to check Facebook last thing at night? Well, there are apps for that…
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