Can't Sleep? Blame Your Gadgets!

Can't Sleep? Blame Your Gadgets!

Sonia Zjawinski
May 20, 2010

Do you find yourself tossing and turning in bed? Your technologically advanced life, which was supposed to make things easier, may be making it harder for you to catch some Zs. It's not a new concept -- actively working on a computer before hitting the hay can cause your brain to keep churning even after your body stops moving, but researchers have found that the type of light we're exposed to in the digital age may be to blame as well. A few hypotheses and solutions after the jump.

"Such concerns are not entirely new," CNN reports. "One sleep researcher said Thomas Edison created these problems when he invented the light bulb. But they've been revived by the popularity of Apple's new slate computer, the iPad, which many consumers say is good for reading at night in bed, when the brain thinks the environment should be dark."

CNN goes as far as to say that the iPad may be more disrupting than the ol' boob tube, which "shoots far less light straight into the eye," and similar tablets like the Kindle, which use ambient light to show content. Since the iPad displays a ton of blue light, a type only really seen during the day, it becomes extra easy to trick the brain to stop secreting melatonin, which helps us fall asleep. Instead of winding down, your brain starts to wake up -- again!

While no researcher is ready to show a link between iPad use and insomnia, if you do notice you're having a hard time getting a good night's sleep follow some of these tips at home.

  • If you can, put the iPad, iPhone, and any other handheld device down after 9PM, when melatonin starts to secrete.
  • If you're going to read in bed, do it with a traditional book and lamp.
  • Don't bring your gadgets to bed. You want your subconscious to relate the bed with sleep, not active reading. Instead, read on the couch until you start to doze and then stumble to your bed. Phyllis Zee, a neuroscience professor at Northwestern University and director of the school's Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology, told CNN that she recommends turning off gadgets one to two hours before bedtime.
  • If you insist on using your gizmos in bed Mariana Figueiro, an assistant professor and director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, prescribes sunglasses with orange lenses. "Wearing these orange glasses definitely will take away any of the [blue] light that the circadian system is sensitive to," she told CNN. "Your circadian system would basically be blind."
  • Download the free F.lux program, which automatically eliminates blue hues on your computer screen when the sun starts setting, replacing them at sunrise.

Sleep tight!

Image: krossbow

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