Bringing technology to bed is a habit that can interfere with sleep. There are many individuals whose last glance is at a smartphone or tablet before going to sleep; however, they are often at risk of not being able to close it when they want. The technology under the sheets is irresistible at any age, from children to teens to adults. Maybe priorities change – social life and videogames for children and teenagers, email and “readings 2.0” for older individuals – however the results are the same: worse sleeping patterns.
Numerous scientific studies show that technology has a disturbing effect on sleeping patterns. A team of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (USA) have shown that reading an e-book is worse than reading a paper. In a study published in PNAS, it has been evaluated that those who read e-books in the 4 hours before going to bed took a longer period of time to get to sleep. Blame the blue light which these devices, such as smartphones, tablets and PCs, emit.
Are there technological approaches to “save sleep”?
The University of California (USA) has evaluated the consequences of the indications that technology has on children’s sleeping patterns. A study, published in Pediatrics, examined sleeping patterns of more than 2 thousand children between the ages of 9 and 12 and found that those who went to bed with an electronic device in their hand fell asleep on average of 37 minutes later. Not only this, but every day their sleep was reduced by 20 minutes.
Finally, a study on the Frontiers in Public Health was carried out by several institutions including the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London (UK). As pointed out by one of the researchers, using technology could also delay one hour of an individual’s sleep before closing their eyes. The experts also noted that a pair of glasses with orange lenses and an app designed to dim short evening were able to reduce the negative influence of smartphones and e-readers on sleeping patterns.
To get a proper night’s sleep, as informed by the study, there is a need to put devices on “save sleep” mode with lights of a variety of colors such as blue and green and reduced intensity of backlight.
Why does the backlight of technological devices interfere with sleep?
“The light, and therefore also the blue light of high-tech tools, interferes with the production of melatonin, a substance that regulates the sleep-wake cycle” says Dr. Vincenzo Tullo, neurologist and head of the surgery on headaches at Humanitas LAB. “The release of melatonin is not immediate but it is continuous. Melatonin reaches its peak between the hours of 2AM and 5AM at night and it is crucial not only to fall asleep, but if the release of melatonin is disturbed by light, it will be difficult to go to sleep and also stay asleep.”
Here are some tips for a good night’s sleep:
- Avoid technology. The National Sleep Foundation suggests turning off PCs , smartphones and tablets at least one hour before going to bed: “It’s a valid suggestion. They should be turned off around 22.30 / 23: the hour when you go to bed is also critical. Those who get enough sleep benefit from better cognitive performance and improved memory and focus the next morning.”
- Book or e-book? “To fall asleep it is best to read on paper than electronic devices.”
- Do not take work to bed. “By turning off all electronic devices, you will not be tempted to check your email or agenda for the next day: thinking about work can become a source of stress and even stress interferes with sleep.”
- Put devices out of sight. Mayo Clinic suggests using the US technology at night with low lighting and at least 35 cm away from your eyes. “Distance is also important: it is light intensity that disturbs natural sleeping patterns.”
- Go to bed at the most appropriate time. “Do not consume coffee or other stimulants in the late afternoon; do not go to bed right after dinner and do not exercise a few hours before going to bed; use a proper mattress and maintain a good temperature in the bedroom, neither too cold nor too hot. These are the tips to follow for a good night’s sleep and they are especially helpful for older people who already have a naturally reduced level of melatonin that begins to decline with age.”