Can Electronics Affect Quality Sleep? | Sleep Foundation (2022)

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Can Electronics Affect Quality Sleep? | Sleep Foundation (1)

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Danielle Pacheco, Staff Writer

Can Electronics Affect Quality Sleep? | Sleep Foundation (2)

Medically Reviewed by

Kimberly Truong, Sleep Physician

(Video) The brain benefits of deep sleep -- and how to get more of it | Dan Gartenberg
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The 2011 Sleep in America Poll from the National Sleep Foundation included questions about the use of electronics before bed. The survey found that roughly four in 10 Americans bring their cell phone into bed when trying to fall asleep. This behavior was particularly common among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 13 and 29. Additionally, six in 10 respondents claimed to use a desktop or laptop computer within one hour of going to bed.

(Video) Electronics near bedside affect sleep quality

Tempting as it might be to use your computer or phone before bed, studies have shown these devices can interfere with sleep by suppressing the production of melatonin, a natural hormone released in the evening to help you feel tired and ready for sleep. This leads to neurophysiologic arousals that increase feelings of alertness when you should be winding down instead.

Why Do Electronic Devices Keep You Up?

The biological clock in healthy adults follows a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. When the sun rises in the morning, your body produces cortisol, a hormone that makes you feel awake and alert. As daylight fades, the body releases another hormone, melatonin, that produces feelings of sleepiness.

Electronic back-lit devices like cell phones, tablets, readers, and computers emit short-wavelength enriched light, also known as blue light. Fluorescent and LED lights also emit blue light, which has been shown to reduce or delay the natural production of melatonin in the evening and decrease feelings of sleepiness. Blue light can also reduce the amount of time you spend in slow-wave and rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, two stages of the sleep cycle that are vital for cognitive functioning.

Children are particularly vulnerable to sleep problems stemming from electronic devices that emit blue light. Numerous studies have established a link between using devices with screens before bed and increases in sleep latency, or the amount of time it takes someone to fall asleep. Additionally, children who use these devices at night often do not receive enough high-quality sleep and are more likely to feel tired the next day.

Certain types of household lighting can also affect melatonin production at night. One study found that bright bedroom lighting can decrease the nocturnal production of melatonin by as much as 90 minutes compared to dim lighting.

In addition to causing sleep problems, blue light can also cause retina damage. Unlike blue light, red, yellow, and orange light have little to no effect on your circadian rhythm. Dim light with one of these colors is considered optimal for nighttime reading. Portable e-readers like the Kindle and Nook emit blue light, but not to the same extent as other electronic devices. If you prefer to use an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook, dim the display as much as possible.

Tips for Using Technology at Night

We recommend avoiding computers, smartphones, and other blue light-emitting devices in the hours leading up to bedtime. However, this may not be an option for certain people, such as those who work or study at night. If you need to use one of these devices in the evening, the following strategies can help you sleep longer and better.

  • Decrease Your Daytime and Nighttime Electronics Use: Using electronic devices for long periods during the day can negatively impact sleep too, especially among adolescents. Common effects include shorter sleep duration, longer sleep onset, and more sleep deficiency. Talk to your teenagers about excessive electronics exposure and, if need be, impose restrictions on their daily use.
  • Establish a Relaxing Bedtime Routine: A regular bedtime that ensures an adequate amount of rest is essential for healthy sleep. The hour before bed should consist of relaxing activities that don’t involve devices with screens.
  • Make Your Bedroom a Screen-Free Zone: While a lot of people prefer to keep a television in their bedroom, watching TV before bed is generally discouraged due to the negative effect it can have on your sleep. In fact, we recommend removing all of your electronic devices from your bedroom – and encourage your kids to do the same.
  • Keep the Bedroom Lights Dim: Light intensity is measured in a unit known as lux. Some studies have shown that normal indoor light levels of 100 lux or more can suppress melatonin production and interfere with your sleep-wake schedule. Dimmer indoor lighting affects your melatonin production to a much lesser extent.
  • Use Nighttime Mode: Many cell phones, tablets, and other portable electronic devices are equipped with a “nighttime mode” that is easier on the eyes before bed. As one study noted, the most effective nighttime modes reduce blue light emissions and decrease the display’s brightness setting. You should manually dim the display if your device does not automatically adjust the brightness in nighttime mode.
  • Invest in Some “Blue Blocker” Glasses: You can purchase orange-tinted eyeglasses specifically designed to shield your eyes from blue light emissions. This may not be ideal, especially if you don’t like wearing glasses, but some studies have found them to be very effective. Blue light blocking glasses are relatively inexpensive, and you should be able to find a decent pair for less than $100.

About Our Editorial Team

Can Electronics Affect Quality Sleep? | Sleep Foundation (5)
Danielle Pacheco

Staff Writer

Danielle writes in-depth articles about sleep solutions and holds a psychology degree from the University of British Columbia.

(Video) How Technology Effects Your Sleep

Can Electronics Affect Quality Sleep? | Sleep Foundation (6)
Kimberly Truong

Sleep Physician

PhD

Dr. Truong is a Stanford-trained sleep physician with board certifications in sleep and internal medicine. She is the founder of Earlybird Health.

References

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FAQs

How does technology affect the quality of sleep? ›

Self-reports suggest that sleep is indeed affected by technology use in the hour before bed. Such late-night technology users report less satisfactory sleep more often than those not using technology before bed. They are also more likely to feel sleepier during the day in a range of situations, including driving.

How are electrical gadgets leading to not enough or poor quality of sleep? ›

Gadgets Keep the Brain Awake

Muscles throughout the body remain tense and these interactions tend to create stress. Even a low level of stress causes the brain to release cortisol, which will make it more difficult to relax and fall asleep.

How does technology before bed affect sleep? ›

Studies indicate that screen time before bed can increase the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, reduce sleep quality, and affect attentiveness the following day. In the long term, nightly exposure to light in the evening may increase the risk of certain sleep disorders and cancers.

What happens when you use electronics before bed? ›

The blue light emitted by your cell phone screen restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle (aka circadian rhythm). This makes it even more difficult to fall asleep and wake up the next day.

Can Electronics affect quality sleep? ›

Using devices tends to delay the time when you actually go to sleep, reducing sleep duration. Technology affects the brain, stimulating your mind and making it harder to fall asleep. Sounds and blinking lights can cause unwanted awakenings when sleeping next to electronics.

Does screen time affect sleep? ›

Screen time is linked to a host of insomnia symptoms in teenagers. By delaying the release of melatonin, screen time pushes back bedtime and leads to less restful sleep. As the majority of teens have strict school start times, a later bedtime usually results in less sleep overall and increased next-day sleepiness.

How can I sleep without electronics? ›

Remove your smartphone, tablet, and computer from your bedroom at least one hour before you go to sleep. If you have to keep any of these devices in your bedroom, then use a do-not-disturb function or turn them to silent or completely off so that you are not tempted to look at their screens if you awaken in the night.

How technology affects teens sleep and mental health? ›

Scientists found that sleep-deprived teens found stressful situations much more threatening than the older study participants. That means that teenagers who spend all night on their smartphones will be more likely to have extreme emotional responses to daily events.

Does the light from a phone or computer make it hard to sleep? ›

Yes, it's true: The light from a phone or laptop confuses the brain into thinking it's time to wake up instead of fall asleep. Light from electronic screens comes in all colors, but the blues are the worst. Blue light fools the brain into thinking it's daytime.

Does sleeping with TV on affect sleep? ›

The bottom line. Many people sleep with their TV on every night. Experts are generally against this, because sleeping with your TV on can reduce the sleep you get, interrupt your body's melatonin production, keep your brain overstimulated, and lead to long-term health effects.

How does technology affect us? ›

Social media and mobile devices may lead to psychological and physical issues, such as eyestrain and difficulty focusing on important tasks. They may also contribute to more serious health conditions, such as depression. The overuse of technology may have a more significant impact on developing children and teenagers.

How can social media affect sleep? ›

Social media usage around bedtime can negatively affect how long and how well you sleep. Looking at social media in bed can make it harder for you to fall asleep. It can also reduce the amount of time you sleep for and leave you feeling unrefreshed the next day.

How long before bed should I turn off electronics? ›

The National Sleep Foundation recommends turning off or not using electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime, as part of a healthy bedtime routine.

Does sleeping next to your phone affect you? ›

Screens Disrupt Sleep Cycles

Cell phone and screen use have been directly linked to disruptions of your circadian rhythm, or natural sleep-wake cycle. As noted in research on children and adolescents, the blue light emitted by cell phones inhibits the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you drowsy.

Is it good to switch off phone every night? ›

Experts recommend shutting down your phone at least once a week. After shutting it down, let it rest for a minute or two before starting it back up again. Not only will this help enhance your phone's performance, it is also incredibly beneficial for your battery.

How does technology affect children's sleep? ›

Experiments confirm that the blue light emitted by electronic screens can reprogram the brain to delay the onset of sleep. In addition, the exciting (and sometimes distressing) content of electronic media may do the same, prompting children to fall asleep later, and perhaps even awaken during the night.

How can social media affect sleep? ›

Social media usage around bedtime can negatively affect how long and how well you sleep. Looking at social media in bed can make it harder for you to fall asleep. It can also reduce the amount of time you sleep for and leave you feeling unrefreshed the next day.

What are negative impacts of technology? ›

Social media and mobile devices may lead to psychological and physical issues, such as eyestrain and difficulty focusing on important tasks. They may also contribute to more serious health conditions, such as depression. The overuse of technology may have a more significant impact on developing children and teenagers.

When should I stop using technology before bed? ›

Generally, however, tucking your devices away for the night an hour or two before bed is a good rule. That includes not just phones but also other devices and electronics. While smartphones are typically the main culprit, even tablets and TVs can contribute to poor sleep.

Videos

1. The Intersection of Sleep and Technology: A Conversation with the National Sleep Foundation’s CEO
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2. Sleep is your superpower | Matt Walker
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3. The science of how much sleep you actually need
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4. A walk through the stages of sleep | Sleeping with Science, a TED series
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5. How Sleep Affects Your Gains (And How To Get More Of It!)
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6. One more reason to get a good night’s sleep | Jeff Iliff
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