Look around your bedroom. Are there tiny beams of light, maybe blue ones and/or green ones? Or a red one? Is there a glow emanating from a digital clock or clock radio?
According to both common sense and the National Sleep Foundation, one’s bedroom should be dark, but in the past decade that sanctuary has been infiltrated more and more by electronic devices. In addition to a clock or clock radio (which should automatically dim when the lights are out), there’s the settop box (did you know you can turn the clock off on most of them?). Then there are the tiny beams of light generated by your mobile phone when it’s charging, your laptop if it’s in the bedroom, and perhaps even your high-tech desk phone (for those still with landlines).
There may be more such devices in the bedroom these days because, increasingly, more people find it difficult to disconnect and they bring their smartphones and tablets into bed with them before going to sleep. Seeing these, perhaps as a substitute for reading a good book, many are unaware that studies, including one from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, have shown that exposure to light from a computer tablet could lower the level of melatonin in the body, and therefore impact one’s sleep cycle adversely. (Melatonin levels are regulated by the pineal gland, which responds to darkness by releasing the hormone, triggering drowsiness and sleep; any increase in light impacts the release and thus limits one’s ability to sleep soundly.)
The Rensselaer study, published over the summer in the journal Applied Economics, examined the impact of self-luminous tablets on 13 individuals. “Our study shows that a two-hour exposure to light from self-luminous electronic displays can suppress melatonin by about 22 percent,” stated Mariana Figueiro, the study’s director.
Last November, Cody Burke wrote about the findings from the National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 “Sleep in America” survey. They bear repeating:
- 39% of Americans bring their mobile phone into bed with them and end up using it in the hour before they go to sleep. The number is even higher for younger Americans, 67% of 19-29 year olds. 21% of Americans end up texting during this time.
- Those individuals that end up texting in the hour before sleep are more likely to report bad sleep and not feeling refreshed.
- 1 in 10 Americans is awakened by mobile phone alerts from texts, calls, and e-mail. The number rises to nearly 1 in 5 for 19-29 year olds.
- 36% of Americans use their laptop in bed before they go to sleep, and this group reports that it is less likely to get a good night’s sleep.
Since a lack of sleep can impact one’s productivity and feeling of well-being, take steps to improve your sleep hygiene. Well before going to sleep, stop looking at (and thinking about) e-mail, stop texting, and turn off and tune out. You’ll be surprised at how much better you sleep.
Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex and author of Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization.