Sleep Tight: Tech and How We’re Sacrificing Sleep

At New Jammies, we’re always cognizant of how electronics are affecting us and our children. Especially with kids headed back to school. The National Sleep Foundation’s latest Sleep Health Index (SHI) shows significant associations between technology use in bed and sleep health.

“Forty-eight percent of American adults reported using a device like a computer, tablet, or smartphone in bed before trying to go to sleep,” the NSF reports. “These people averaged two points lower on the overall SHI (75 vs. 77, on a 1 to 100 scale) and five points lower on the sleep quality subindex (65 vs. 70) than those who refrained from technology use in bed.”

Even more eye-opening, the Foundation found that 21% of American adults (52 million people) reported awakening from sleep and using an electronic device before trying to go back to sleep at least once in the past seven days.

“These individuals averaged 10 points lower for overall sleep health and 13 points lower on the sleep quality subindex than others (68 vs. 78, and 57 vs. 70, respectively),” according to the NSF. “Additionally, about 43% of these people reported sending a text or email after awakening. This means that 9% of American adults made the decision to engage with technology when awakening in the middle of the night, rather than trying to fall back asleep.

In short, electronics are changing our sleep patterns, and not necessarily in a positive way.

“The Sleep Health Index shows that bedtime electronics use is a problem. We can’t know if this use of tech is a cause of poor sleep health or a result of it,” says David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. “It is clear, however, that if you are having trouble sleeping, you should stay away from using technology while in bed.”

According to the American Sleep Association, sleep loss from using electronic devices before bed occurs from light coming from the screen of your device that interferes with circadian rhythms and melatonin production.

“The circadian rhythm is the internal clock that controls our biological patterns such as body temperature, blood pressure, and hormone release, and has a lot to do with how we sleep,” the Association says, in its report on sleep and electronics by Kristina Diaz, a Registered Respiratory Therapist and a health and wellness enthusiast and writer. “Circadian rhythm is affected by light, time, and melatonin production. Light and darkness tell us when to feel awake or sleepy.”

Diaz notes that time affects this cycle because we are clock readers and follow schedules to which our bodies have become adapted.

“Melatonin, a hormone secreted in the brain by the pineal gland, induces the tired feeling. This hormone helps keep our sleep-wake cycles on track,” Diaz says. “The light emitted from our devices, even just from a cell phone, passes through the retina of the eye, causing a delay in the release of melatonin making it harder to fall asleep.”

In regards to children and technology, kids are especially susceptible to having difficulty failing sleep wit’s electronics.

“Many children are now given an electronic device, such as an iPad or television to soothe and relax them before bed, but this is actually doing more harm than good,” the American Sleep Association says. “Children need sufficient sleep for growth, learning, mood, creativity, and weight control. But children who use electronics before bed tend to have later bedtimes, get fewer hours of sleep, and because of this suffer from daytime sleepiness more than children that do not use these devices before bed.”

This is also true for adolescents and teenagers, who not only use these devices for entertainment purposes, but also for homework, says the ASA.

“Using electronics before bed also stimulates our mind by getting our brains ‘fired up,'” the ASA says. “Electrical activity then increases and neurons start to race, making it difficult to sleep”

With electronics becoming such as big part of our daily lives, this begs the question of how we can improve sleep. Diaz advises just unplugging or turning off.

“Even going just 15-30 minutes electronic free before bedtime can make a difference. Make your bedroom completely device-free, including the television,” she suggests. “For children, refrain from giving them the iPad or letting them watch their T.V. shows, and have them read a book instead. It may not be easy at first to make this change since we have become so dependent on technology, but you will be happy when you are waking up feeling much more rested.”

For bedtime reading ideas, see our blog on New Children’s Books Perfect for Bedtime.

New Jammies was born as an environmentally responsible company offering 100% certified organic cotton and flame retardant-free children’s pajamas. Learn more at newjammies.com.