Technology is becoming a more pervasive part of everybody’s life. We use computers at work. We have our phones and tablets with us at all the time. We rely on the technology to check our email, update our social media status or watch streaming movies. We play video games. Technology keeps us in constant communication with the outside world.
There are, however, many downsides to the constant use of technology. A key one is sleep. We depend on sleep for not only our mental health but also our physical health. A lack of sleep increases the risk of certain illness like diabetes and heart disease, and we are less mentally astute when awake. Technology can interrupt our daily cycle of sleep in a variety of ways.
First, that phone on your nightstand is not as innocent as you might think. You are more inclined to check the phone, and the phone’s glow can have a severe impact on the way and amount of sleep that you get. In fact, 90% of Americans say that they use some type of technology in the hour leading up to sleep.
Research has shown that the glow of the screen in the dark from our phone reduces the production of melatonin, an extremely important hormone that the body produces. Melatonin is responsible for helping the body attain a circadian rhythm. This is the natural day-night cycle that helps the body understand when it should be asleep and when it should be awake. A decline in the production of melatonin reduces the body’s ability regulate the body’s natural sleeping cycle. So, picking up that phone by the bed, especially in the dark, has a direct impact on your ability to sleep. So, you might want to think about that the next time you want to play Candy Crush or check Facebook right before you go to sleep.
Secondly, the phone can be distracting. A text message or a social media alert can wake you during your sleep. A recent study found that 22% of respondents reported having the cell phone ringer turned on and resting on the nightstand at night. To make matters worse, 10% of people who participated in the survey said the phone woke them up over the last week.
Thirdly, the brain can’t relax. The period just before sleep should be a time when the brain is allowed to relax. Often, this can involve reading a book and talking with a partner. A technological device creates an amazing amount of stimulus, and it can be a challenge for the brain to relax, even after the lights have been turned off.
Fourth, interactive technology like cell phones, computers and tablets seems to impact the brain more than passive technology like a television or a radio. That can impact our memory and our ability to make rational decisions and have reasonable thoughts. This is especially true at night. We want to be distancing our brain from the interactive nature of technology devices and let it settle into dreamland.
Fifth, when we have the phone or tablet in our bed, we start to associate our sleep environment as a social place. It’s becomes less a place where we sleep, and more a place where we connect and socialize with others, especially those who are not in the bedroom with us.
Finally, there is the Fear of Missing Out Syndrome. With technology by our side, we are constantly worried that something important will happen, and we are not involved. That fear and anxiety can translate into difficulty getting to sleep or a restless night’s sleep. We constantly check our phone, not wanting to miss out on something.
So the next time you think about bringing that phone or table into the bedroom, you might want to think twice. A goodnight’s rest might depend on it.