Sleep is a time of healing. Your body uses this time to rewire the brain, repair the body, and get you ready for the next day. Disrupting sleep sabotages this healing process, and leaves us vulnerable to diseases such as dementia, diabetes, and heart disease. A study has shown that less than six hours of sleep can increase heart attack risk. Skipping on quality sleep also leads to hormone imbalances that can lead to weight gain. Your internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, is important for quality sleep. One factor that can lead to a disruption is using technology before going to sleep. Before we explain how technology affects sleep, let us look at a normal sleep cycle.
Stage 1: Light sleep. This is the time when muscle activity is relaxed, and eyes are moving slowly. Since this is light sleep, one can easily be awakened.
Stage 2: Light sleep. This is when brain waves move slowly, and body temperature and heart rate decrease to prepare for deep sleep.
Stage 3: Deep sleep, also known as “slow wave”, or “delta,” sleep. Brain waves further slows with occasional faster bursts. This is when the body releases growth hormone that helps us rebuild our damaged cells.
Stage 4: Deep sleep. The brain produces slow delta and muscle activity ceases.
REM Sleep: Dream sleep. At this time, the breathing becomes more rapid and shallow. The eyes move rapidly, and brain waves speed up to nearly waking levels. Heart rate and blood pressure also rise. This is often seen as the most influential part of sleeping.
A study has shown that looking at screens longer than two hours per day reduces REM by 12 minutes. This may not seem like a significant reduction but REM sleep is crucial to remembering content we learnt throughout the day.
Another study from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has discovered that looking at technology displays before bedtime can cause melatonin suppression, an important factor in sleep regulation. This exposure to artificial light, confuses the body, and triggers emotional and hormonal responses, such as release of adrenaline, that can disturb sleep.
Electronic tips for better sleep
- Create a relaxed, safe environment for your bedroom.
- Use yellow-based lighting in the evening that can be dimmed gradually throughout the night, to gradually ease the body into sleep.
- Set controls for how long and at what times you use technology (examples include apps that set timers, and/or gradually change the spectrum of light emitted from the display).
- Make your bedroom a technology free zone.
- Avoid using electronic gadgets up to two hours before bed.