It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without smartphones, television, laptops, tablets and computers today. Electronics are a big part of everyone’s life, and we are becoming very dependent on them.
Do you often find yourself up late at night, basking in the cool glow of your television or smartphone? If so, your sleep quality may be taking a hit. Several recent studies have shown that these devices actually steal sleep from kids and adults alike. What makes this a problem is that more people than ever are using electronics in the bedroom. Recent studies show that the blue light transmitted from smartphones, laptops, tablets and other electronics stop the releasing of a hormone called melatonin which is responsible for making you sleepy.
There is robust scientific data documenting the role of light in promoting wakefulness. Photoreceptors in the retina sense light and dark, signaling our brain about the status of the outside world and aligning our circadian rhythms (centered in a small region of the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus) to the external day-night cycle. This signaling of light and dark helps us to be alert in the morning and be able to fall asleep at the appropriate time at night. The power of light as an alerting agent is easily conceptualized when we think of the sun, but may be more difficult to appreciate when considering the light emitted from a tablet or smartphone.
Nonetheless, careful studies have shown that even our small electronic devices emit sufficient light to miscue the brain and promote wakefulness. As adults we are subject to these influences and our children are particularly susceptible. The increasing prevalence of electronics in children’s bedrooms creates a culture of evening engagement and light exposure that negatively impacts sleep time, sleep quality and daytime alertness. Children using electronic media as a sleep aid to relax at night have been shown to have later weekday bedtimes.