Electronics and Sleep

Power down for better sleep - Whether it’s email, a video game, the Web, or TV, electronic devices and their offerings keep millions of Americans connected 24/7. But the price for leading our fully wired lives is high: These diversions can keep us from both falling asleep and sleeping well.

“One of the most simple but important reasons technology affects our sleep is cognitive stimulation,” says Mark Rosekind, PhD, former director of the Fatigue Countermeasures Program at the NASA Ames Research Center.

As your brain revs up, its electrical activity increases and neurons start to race -- the exact opposite of what should be happening before sleep. A second reason has to do with your body: The physical act of responding to a video game or even an email makes your body tense, explains Rosekind. As you get stressed, your body can go into a “fight or flight” response, and as a result, cortisol, a stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland, is released, creating a situation hardly conducive to sleep.

That “glow” from electronics is also at work against quality shuteye. The small amounts of light from these devices pass through the retina into a part of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that controls several sleep activities) and delay the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.

The No. 1 way to get better sleep: Turn off the technology, especially in the sanctity of your bedroom.

Unwind before bedtime. Have a transition period, about 15 to 30 minutes, of technology-free time before you go into your bedroom for sleep.

Shut down your bedroom. Make where you sleep an electronic-free zone. According to AOL’s third annual “Email Addiction” survey, more than 40% of 4,000 respondents have checked email in the middle of the night. Put caps over your electric outlets to discourage plugging in for a recharge.

Disconnect your kids. A TV in your child’s bedroom has a negative effect on sleep quality. Give him or her a relaxing book to read before bed instead of the remote.

Resources:

WebMD

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