You might remember the piece we ran late last year about teens texting throughout the night and losing sleep, but be honest: Do you go to bed with a cell phone? How about waking up cuddling your laptop? I’ll admit to both – though I broke myself of the habit at the beginning of this year. No, I wasn’t on call at a hospital or expected to aid in any kind of crisis; in fact, I wasn’t expecting any phone calls or emails in the middle of the night. It was just a habit – one that, according to a new study from the National Sleep Foundation, placed me firmly among teenagers and 20-somethings (I am neither), half of whom take technology to bed.
I was going to sleep to the glare of a computer and waking up to the insistent pinging of my cell; not because I was important, but usually because someone I didn’t know in a different time zone was “friending” me on Facebook. It took me a while to realize how disruptive this was, and now that I’m leaving both items off and in a different room at night, I’m sleeping much better.
It makes perfect sense to unplug at night – and silly me for not catching on earlier – but the new study says it’s not unusual these days. Sixty-three percent of the people the NSF polled said they rarely get a good night’s sleep, and nearly 95 percent of people said they frequently use a computer, smartphone, television or other electronic device during the hour before bedtime. Respondents between the ages of 13 and 29 reported being sleepier than older people, and those were the ones most likely to take technology to bed. One in 10 said their sleep was disrupted nearly every night by their cell phones.
Charles Czeisler, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told Reuters that exposure to artificial light before going to bed can increase alertness and suppress the release of melatonin. "Technology has invaded the bedroom," he said, and he suggested that the high proportion of people that say they get less sleep than they need is due to these “alerting technologies.” Which means that even checking your laptop at night could shift circadian rhythms to a later hour.
Unfortunately, the darker side of sleepiness not only affects your mood, social life and ability to work effectively, but also your ability to drive safely. According to the poll, 50 percent of the youngest respondents said they’d driven while drowsy at least once in the past month. Forty percent of Gen Xers said they’d driven while sleepy and 28 percent of baby boomers – the most likely to unplug before bed – had compromised their driving with sleep deprivation.
I’m staying unplugged. Would these results convince you to change your habits, or have you already kicked the bedtime tech habit?