Can’t sleep? Turn off cell phones, game consoles after sundown, survey says

Ben Patterson
Technology News Blog

The more often you use "interactive" electronics like cell phones or video games right before bed, the more likely it is you'll miss out on deep, restful sleep, a new survey claims. I know the feeling.

The new study from the Washington, D.C.-based National Sleep Foundation isn't the first to claim that the use of "light-emitting" devices like TVs and iPads just before turning in can disrupt sleep patterns. Researchers say that such "artificial light exposure" at night may make you more alert before you hit the hay, making it tougher to get enough shut-eye.

But it does add a new wrinkle to the discussion: namely, that "interactive" gear like video games, cell phones, and laptops are more likely to mess with a good night's sleep than "passive" gadgets like television sets.

The survey found that just about all of us (or 95 percent of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64, give or take) feast our eyes on a TV screen, a laptop, a cell phone, or some other type of gadget at least "a few" nights a week within an hour of bedtime.

But the National Sleep Foundation researchers say they found more and more people—particularly so-called Generation Y'ers (20- to 30-somethings) and Generation Z'ers (20-somethings and younger)—using "interactive" gadgets like cell phones and laptop right before bed.

And while watching Leno or Letterman before drifting off isn't the best recipe for a good night's sleep, sending one last test message on your phone or blowing away a final bad guy on your Xbox 360 is an even worse idea sleep-wise, according to the study.

The evidence? Turns out that 16 percent of Gen Y'ers and 22 percent of Z'ers—who, apparently, are far more likely to play a video game or send a text message before bedtime—complain that they're not getting enough restful sleep, compared to 11 percent of Generation X'ers and 9 percent of baby boomers. Or so the study says.

So, what's the ticket to eight-plus hours of sleep each night? Besides regular exercise, avoiding late-night caffeine and booze, and sticking to a regular sleeping schedule, we're strongly advised to seek out "bright light" in the morning (which "energizes us" and "prepares us for a productive day") and keep it dim (i.e., no gadgets with bright screens) at night.

Makes sense, I guess, but easier said than done. Not only do I regularly watch TV until a few minutes before hitting the sack (at least there's no television in my bedroom), I'm also usually checking e-mail and surfing the Web on my phone at the same time. And yes, I've been known to sneak in a little online multiplayer right before diving under the covers.

How am I sleeping? Well … so-so, come to think of it. I rarely have trouble falling asleep, but more and more often, I've been waking up early—as in 6 a.m. or so, meaning I'm only getting about six hours of sleep. And I haven't exactly been bounding out of bed, either.

So, should I turn over a new leaf and leave the gadgets alone after sundown? Probably. Will I? Not a chance.

What about you: Are you watching TV or fiddling with "light-emitting" gadgets right before bed—and if so, having any trouble sleeping?

Related:
Sleepy Connected Americans [PR Newswire, via Yahoo! News]

— Ben Patterson is a technology blogger for Yahoo! News.

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