Alaska Sleep Education Center

Technology and Bedtime: How Screens Impact Sleep

Posted by Lewis Robinson on Mar 6, 2022 8:03:00 AM

Back view of modern programmer sitting and writing code in dark room

The increase, availability and ease in digital communication and exchanges of information have made it easier to stay connected to the most important people and institutions in your life, but these virtual pathways often come with considerable disadvantages when it comes to your daily routines. Thanks to this expanse of technology, it’s a lot harder to avoid logging on to a device in order to get a little work done well after typical work hours have concluded. 

Working late in front of a screen can have significant negative impacts on your ability to get high-quality sleep at night. Whether you’re just trying to submit a final proposal on your laptop before bed or your workplace culture demands your personal availability nearly around the clock, late-night work can prevent your system from getting the sleep you need to function during the day. Read on to understand how working late in front of a screen contributes to sleep issues, many of which can have overall health consequences over time. 


Factors That Affect Sleep Quality and Duration

When you’re set up in front of your work computer in the late hours of the evening, it can be difficult to pull your brain out of the virtual spaces that enable you to complete work tasks, and communicate with friends and family. When it’s time for bed, you may find it harder to relax your mind and body and get ready for a restful sleep. 

While sometimes it’s unavoidable to work just before bedtime, it’s a good idea to understand the specific work-related considerations that make it harder for you to fall, and remain, asleep at bedtime. Minimizing these factors could help you to avoid unnecessary sleep deprivation, insomnia, morning headaches, some chronic health conditions and daytime fatigue or irritability that can make it difficult to perform at your best.


Light Exposure

Your body is regulated by a bodily clock that responds to both internal and environmental factors that let your system know when it’s time to be awake and alert and when it’s time to rest. Before modern technology gained widespread prevalence, this internal rhythm was guided largely by the rise and fall of the sun. During the day, the bright sun exposure results in alertness and a drive toward productivity. After dark, melatonin production increases in order to encourage sleepiness and relaxation. 

The majority of digital devices emit blue light from their screens, which sends signals to your brain that it should inhibit natural relaxation processes and, instead, tells your brain it’s time to be up and alert. Studies have shown that those who use devices that emit blue light just before bed have a harder time falling asleep and experience a drop in the quality of rest throughout the night. Because many modern household lightbulbs also emit blue light, working late at night can contribute to sleep issues even when done without a portable electronic device. 


Stress and Mental Pressure

Unless you’re employed in a completely stress-free position that requires limited mental energy in order to complete your work tasks, late-night work can impair sleep by stimulating your brain and causing a stress response in your body. Though these responses may be mild at times, any content that you consume before bed that requires focused attention and critical thinking can keep your brain awake for longer than it needs to be. 


Body Posture

Electronic use can put a strain on your body due to the typical postures required in order to sit at a desk, use a phone or tablet or type on a computer. Work-related postures are not always conducive to rest and relaxation, especially when they place stress on your joints, torso and spine. 


Routine Inconsistency

Late-night work habits can make it a lot harder to stick to a consistent bedtime regimen, even when you adhere to a solid bedtime and maintain good sleep hygiene rituals. Often, employees bring their laptops or other devices into bed, or use digital devices too close to their designated bedtime, which can overstimulate your brain and make it hard to draw boundaries between work time and space and the hours and areas set aside for rest. 


Considerations for Better Sleep

In order to maintain a good bill of health, experts recommend that the average adult achieve between seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Though working late can make it harder to get as many hours as you need to feel your best the next day, there are things you can do to better guarantee restful sleep. 


Electronic Limits

If it’s necessary to get some nighttime work completed, consider setting clearer guidelines for yourself when it comes to when you access and utilize electronics–including LED overhead lighting. Try to cut off electronic use anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, and use only soft, warm light sources in order to encourage natural melatonin production.


Scheduled Work Time

Your mind and body both need plenty of time and space to get into a relaxed space when progressing toward sleep. In order to give your system enough time to settle down and unwind, consider establishing a cut-off time for any work tasks that will allow for plenty of space in your nighttime schedule for soothing activities to shift gears. You may have to adjust the rest of your nightly schedule in order to accomplish this, but the more time you can give yourself to kick back and loosen up, the easier it will be to transition to a sleep state.


Solid Bedtime Rituals

Sleep experts all recommend that everyone, regardless of age, set a consistent bedtime and organize a reliable evening ritual filled with calming activities and relaxing practices. Those who have the same bedtime every night of the week have been shown to sleep more soundly and for a longer duration than those who go to bed at different times each night. As well, people who avoid stimulants too close to bedtime and perform consistent relaxation activities every night, such as reading, yoga or meditation, are less likely to have trouble falling asleep and are more likely to remain asleep throughout the night. You can also incorporate herbal supplements into your bedtime routine that will help you get a better night’s sleep such as what is Thrive.


Final Thoughts

Better sleep habits can not only improve your time in dreamland, but it can also make it easier to focus on your obligations and improve your performance when it’s time to sit down and work, whether you need to get things done first thing in the morning or have a last-minute task due after dinner. A more mindful approach to late-night work, especially when technology use is concerned, will help you feel, and work, much better.

Evidence is mounting that the screen time/sleep deprivation correlation might affect children and teenagers even more than adults. The latest study comes from a high school junior who won the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for her research that discovered that adolescents who partook in more than 3.5 hours of screen time a day were more likely to suffer sleep deprivation than those with only two hours of screen time.

So what should you do to reduce the effects of screen time at night to possibly stave off sleep deprivation? Reducing the brightness of your device can help, as well as using amber-colored glasses when watching a screen after the sun goes down. But the obvious answer is to resist watching too much TV or using your smartphone in an hour or two before bedtime. Find some other way to wind down, including reading a book—not on your tablet, but the 20th century way with pages and a bookmark. Not turning on your television or laptop right before bed will give your brain a rest, in more ways than one.

If you think it may be more than too much tv or computer time, contact Alaska Sleep Clinic for a free 10-minute phone consultation.

If you wake up in the middle of the night, do you find yourself checking your emails on your smartphone?   

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Topics: alaska sleep clinic, technology, blue light screen, CPAP therapy, quality sleep

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