Gadget use before bed may disrupt sleep

If you’re like many people in the connected world, you probably close your laptop and take your smartphone or e-reader into bed, texting or Facebooking until such time you drop off into dreamland.

The results of a recent poll suggest that such behaviors can be detrimental to sleep quality. The National Sleep Foundation recently released the results of their annual Sleep in America Poll, and it seems that 43% of those polled report rarely or never getting a “good night’s sleep” during the week. More than half report near-nightly “sleep problems” such as waking feeling unrested or sleep disruption.

It seems artificial light generated by devices such as laptops, televisions and smartphone screens could be contributing to America’s sleep issues, says Charles Czeisler, MD, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“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… This study reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep. 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.”

In addition to limiting exposure to bright screens in the time directly prior to bed, it was recommended that alcohol and late-afternoon naps be restricted for better sleep.