How is technology affecting our sleep?

8th March 2019

Sleep is a powerful tool, playing a huge role in our physical and mental health – this is why we’ve created our newest product, the sleepDOT. But, in today’s “always on” world, we are constantly connected to mobiles, laptops and more… all of which interfere with our ability to get a good night’s sleep.

According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 95% of us use electronic devices within an hour of bedtime, and nearly three quarters of parents report that their children sleep with at least one electronic device. Even something as simple as using a phone for an alarm clock can harm sleep health. So what is it that makes technology compromise sleep quality?

Is your device a source of stress?

Whether your evening is spent replying to the group chat, scrolling through Instagram or watching a new series on Netflix, it’s likely you’re keeping yourself from a restful night. This is partly due to elevated cortisol levels.

Our bodies have evolved to produce the stress hormone, cortisol, as part of the “fight or flight” response which gives us a natural energy boost. And though our current modern lifestyle tends to cause more social and psychological stresses rather than physical danger, stress shouldn’t be overlooked.

Feeling the need to be constantly available puts unnecessary pressure on ourselves. Stress at night might also be caused by reading a work email, watching a TV drama or playing an intense video game, all of which activate our mind and interfere with sleep health.

Do you alter your phone brightness?

Have you ever wondered why darkness is best for sleep? When it’s dark, we release the sleep hormone, melatonin, which helps us to drift off. When we see light, our bodies struggle to produce melatonin and assume it’s time to wake up.

Exposure to blue light from the sun, as well as phone, computer and tablet screens can be beneficial during daylight hours, boosting attention, reaction times, and mood. However blue light is most disruptive at night, confusing the brain’s natural sleep-wake cycle and convincing us that it’s daytime.

Amber-tinted glasses or a phone’s ‘sleep mode’ may effectively prevent blue light exposure and improve sleep health, but experts at the Sleep Council recommend avoiding looking at bright screens two hours before bed.

Is your phone kept on silent?

As well as light, electronics deliver a symphony of chimes, pings and buzzes which can disrupt our ability to get to sleep, and maintain an undisturbed sleep.

Experts say that falling asleep in around 30 minutes is a good indication of healthy sleep, so if the sound of phone notifications are keeping you up, consider turning your phone onto silent, flight mode, or off altogether.

Did you know certain sounds can lull you into dreamland? Though that’s not the beeping of a phone, the barking of next door’s dog or the snoring of a partner, natural noises such as rainfall and crashing waves can help us sleep more soundly.

Are you aware of phone radiation?

We live with very high levels of energy interference from our constant exposure to technology. Surrounded by electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) from wireless devices such as phones, wifi and baby monitors, there is mounting concern towards EMFs affecting our sleep patterns, everyday performance and long-term health.

The small print of any phone user manual says that we should keep our devices away from our bodies. So during sleep, it’s best not to have phones on bedside tables and under pillows, unless they’re switched to flight mode, turned off or harmonised with a smartDOT.