At least 90% of us use technology in the hour before we go to bed, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In some ways, this is natural. We are surrounded by technology all day, using it at work, at home, and at play. It makes sense that we would take it to bed, too.
However, it turns out that technology and our bodies aren’t entirely compatible, at least when it comes to sleep. It makes sense, then, that we learn to develop healthy habits around technology and sleep, so we can reap the benefits that both have to offer.
Different Ways Technology Affects Sleep
There are several important ways that technology can impact our sleep. Most people don’t suffer from all of these problems, but nearly everyone will notice one or two problems on this list that are present in their life.
Blue light is a type of light emitted by most electronic devices. This includes mobile phones, tablets, laptop and desktop computer screens, televisions, and even eReaders. Unfortunately, this steady stream of blue light late at night can keep the human body from producing enough melatonin. Since melatonin helps us fall asleep, the blue light coming from our devices often means that bedtime gets pushed back further than it should.
The magnitude of blue light’s effect on you depends on the exact wavelength your screens emit, as well as how long and how often you look at them. Glancing at your phone once or twice to see if your mother called will have less effect than typing away while staring at a mostly-white screen or even reading a book on a backlit eReader.
Even if you mitigate the effects of blue light, your phone can disturb your sleep. If you keep your notifications on, you may wake or stir every time your phone goes off overnight. It’s a well-known fact that noise disrupts sleep, and that these disruptions can lead to a higher chance of health problems like stroke and cardiovascular disease. Noise from mobile devices or technology is no different.
In fact, we may be more likely to wake to sounds connected to our mobile devices than we are to other noises. We spend all day responding to the sounds our devices make. We habituate ourselves to jump and check the phone every time we hear certain noises. It makes sense, then, that we would also be more likely to be disturbed when we hear these noises at night, even if we can’t remember hearing them.