March 7, 2011

Using Tech Gadgets Before Bed Could Disturb Sleep

Roughly two-thirds of all Americans say that they are not getting enough sleep during the course of an average week, and according to a new National Sleep Foundation (NSF) poll, technology may be to blame.

The results of the 2011 Sleep in America poll, which were released by the NSF on Monday, discovered that 43% of all Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 report that they rarely or never get a good night's sleep on weeknights, and 63% of them believe that their sleep needs are not being met during the course of an average week, the NSF reported in a March 7 press release.

In addition, 60% report that they experience some type of sleep issue--such as snoring, waking up in the middle of the night, or not feeling refreshed once they do wake up in the morning--either every night or almost every night. Likewise, they believe that they require approximately seven and a half hours of sleep to be in optimum condition, but only report getting an average of six hours, 55 minutes of slumber per day from Monday through Friday.

Furthermore, according to Sophie Terbush of USA Today, "95% of the 1,508 people surveyed reported using some type of electronic device--such as a TV, computer, video game or cellphone--within an hour of bedtime at least a few nights a week."

Sixty-seven percent of 46 to 64 year olds and 63% of 30 to 45 year olds watch television every night or almost every night less than one hour before going to sleep. Sixty-one percent of all survey participants said that they used computers or laptops within the hour before going to bed, and 36% of 13 to 18 year olds reported playing a video game within that time span.

That could be contributing to their sleep issues, reports Dr. Charles Czeisler, an expert in sleep medicine affiliated with both Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, as well as a member of the NSF Sleep in America 2011 Task Force.

"Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour"”making it more difficult to fall asleep," he said in a statement.

"This study reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep," Dr. Czeisler added. "Invasion of such alerting technologies into the bedroom may contribute to the high proportion of respondents who reported that they routinely get less sleep than they need."

Dr. Michael Gradisar of the Flinders University School of Psychology agrees.

"My research compares how technologies that are 'passively received' such as TVs and music versus those with 'interactive' properties like video games, cell phones and the Internet may affect the brain differently," Dr. Gradisar said, according to the NSF press release.

"The hypothesis is that the latter devices are more alerting and disrupt the sleep-onset process," he added. "If you feel that these activities are alerting or causing you anxiety, try doing something more 'passive' to help you wind down before bed."


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