Whether we’re scrolling through social media, watching a movie on Netflix, or catching up with work emails, using electronics at night is commonplace these days.
In fact, according to the 2014 Sleep in America Poll (1), 89% of adults and 75% of children in the US now have electronics in their bedrooms.
Unfortunately, a growing body of research suggests our love of pre-bedtime screen use could be doing more harm than good.
Want to find out more?
Read on to learn all about the impact of using electronics before sleep.
Do you turn on your electronics to unwind before going to bed? Well, it might be time to rethink your approach.
It could be backfiring!
Indeed, many of the activities we engage in on smartphones, tablets, and laptops are stimulating in nature.
Far from having the soporific effect we desire, they make us feel more awake. In a recent Japanese study (2), for example, researchers found a strong association between mobile phone use and insomnia among adolescents.
Falling asleep is only part of the problem though. Using electronics at night can lead to disturbances throughout the night as well. For instance, 20% of American 19 to 29-year-olds report (3) being woken up at night by texts, calls, and email alerts multiple times a week.
A key reason for technology’s detrimental effects on our sleep is due to something called “blue light”. Emitted by the back-lit screens on our devices, this short wave-length, high-energy light suppresses the release of melatonin in our bodies (4).
Melatonin plays a central role in our natural sleep-wake cycle, making us feel drowsy and effectively telling us it’s time for bed. Suppress its release, then, and it can take much longer for someone to become sleepy at night.
The issue doesn’t stop there either. Blue light exposure before bed has been shown to decrease nocturnal rapid eye movement (REM) sleep as well (5). Vital to cognitive function, a reduction in REM sleep is never ideal.
Potential Weight Gain
It’s a definite stretch to say that using electronics at night makes you gain weight. However, it may “lay the foundation”, as it were.
Allow us to explain…
According to the sleep foundation (6), poor sleep can lead to metabolic dysregulation and is associated with both increased blood sugar and insulin resistance (among other factors that could lead someone to gain weight). Of course, the fact you’re awake for longer also gives you more time to satisfy any hunger cravings that occur.
This isn’t just anecdotal evidence either. A large-scale study in the American Journal of Epidemiology (7), for example, details a clear association found between sleep reduction and weight gain in women.
Ultimately, then, because using electronics before bed can lead to sleep loss, it may cause someone to put on weight by extension.
Time to Stop Using Electronics at Night
Tens of millions of people around the country use one electronic device or another in the lead-up to bedtime. Alas, whether they do it for work or pleasure, this part of their nightly routine could be doing them a disservice!
As we’ve seen, from the stimulating effects of electronics to the potential physical health problems caused by sleep loss, there’s a good argument for leaving your smartphone, TV, tablet, and laptop out of the bedroom. Why not give it a try?
You never know, it could be your ticket to a longer, better, and more gratifying sleep.
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