Electronics and Sleep


sleeping and electronicsIt is easy to take sleep for granted. Sleeping, similar to walking, is something that we can do without paying much attention to how we do it. We have numerous activities that we do often while spending little time thinking about their execution- walking sleeping and sitting being the most common

When I wanted to learn about sleep deprivation I went online and found study after study to read. Trying to find the same sort of information about the effects of electronic equipment on sleep patterns I found almost fifty articles all written about the same annual survey (not a study) that is released each year by the National Sleep Foundation. I eventually found a couple of studies that had similar findings.

What they found was not good. A large majority of people are plugged into their electronics day and night and certain of our electronic toys emit light that can effect chemical production in the brain.

Serotonin and melatonin are neurotransmitters responsible for regulating the mood and health of the body and mind. Positive serotonin levels contribute to feelings of well-being and wakefulness, whereas melatonin regulates our sleep cycles. Irregularities in serotonin and melatonin production can wreak havoc on the body.

Many electronic gadgets like computers and ipads emit a blue light (ereaders don’t necceassarily emit this same light) that suggests the same colors as daylight and can inhibit melatonin production. The kicker is that electronic gadgets in the evening also seem to inhibit seratonin production during the day for the double whammy of poor sleep and sluggish consciousness.

I came late to the modern age. I did not get a computer till I was thirty-two and I became internet obsessed around thirty-seven or thirty-eight (I trace it to the 2000 election). I used to sleep very well and for a long time I have blamed the fact that I no longer sleep like a rock on my kids; but I might just have to reassess that theory.

The recommendation from the survey was to avoid electronic media for an hour before bed. I found one article on a guy from Oakland, California who went so far as to unplug every appliance in his house after dark, including his refrigerator and found that he slept like a baby and was always in a great mood. And he claimed that friends that had no idea about his experiment, commented on his changed attitude.

I am thinking about trying to chill for an hour before bed but the nature of my life is such that last night at midnight found me on the couch watching yesterday’s Giants football game on tape. It was a crazy game with Eli Manning pulling off his usual heroics in the last minute.  Everything always comes with a choice—sleep well or see the Giant game?  Last night was a no brainer but I will try again tonight.

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