Not enough sleep? Blame those tech devices!
The National Sleep Foundation has just released the results of its annual “Sleep in America” poll, which explores connections between the growing use of technology and the amount of sleep we are getting.
The poll found that almost two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans ages 13 to 64 say that their sleep needs are not being met during the week, with 43 percent reporting that they “rarely or never” get a good night’s sleep.
At the same time, 95 percent of Americans ages 13 to 64 admit to regularly using some type of electronic device – television, computer, video game console, or smartphone – in the hour before going to bed. The near-constant presence of screens, doctors say, may account for the poor sleep habits.
“Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep,” said Dr, Charles Szeisler of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in a statement. “This study reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep. Invasion of such alerting technologies into the bedroom may contribute to the high proportion of respondents who reported that they routinely get less sleep than they need.”
While television remains the most popular pre-sleep activity among older people, younger generations are turning to other devices, including smartphones, computers and video games. Fifty-six percent of kids ages 13 to 18 – described in the report as Generation Z – admitted talking on a phone or texting in the hour before bed, while 55 percent say they regularly use that hour to surf the Internet. Late-night video game sessions are also common among this age group, with 36 percent playing a game immediately before bed.
Generation Z’ers report sleeping an average of 7 hours and 26 minutes on weeknights, about an hour and 45 minutes less than the 9 hours and 15 minutes recommended by experts. With late night activities and distractions, and a morning wake-up at 6:30 or earlier, it’s almost impossible for teens to get the amount of sleep they need.
“Over the last 50 years, we’ve seen how television viewing has grown to be a near constant before bed, and now we are seeing new information technologies such as laptops, cell phones, video games and music devices rapidly gaining the same status,” said Dr. Lauren Hale of Stony Brook University Medical Center in a statement. “The higher use of these potentially more sleep-disruptive technologies among younger generations may have serious consequences for physical health, cognitive development and other measures of wellbeing.”