Not getting enough sleep? Turn off the technology

Reuters, Monday 7 Mar 2011

Dependence on televisions, cell phones and laptops may be costing us dearly - in lack of sleep

The penchant for watching television every evening before going to sleep, playing video games late into the night or checking e-mails and text messages before turning off the lights, could be interfering with the nation's sleep habits.

"Unfortunately, cell phones and computers, which make our lives more productive and enjoyable, may be abused to the point that they contribute to getting less sleep at night, leaving millions of Americans functioning poorly the next day," Russell Rosenberg, the vice-chairman of the Washington DC-based National Sleep Foundation.

Charles Czeisler, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said exposure to artificial light before going to bed can increase alertness and suppress the release of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone.

Baby boomers, or people aged 46-64 years old, were the biggest offenders of watching television every night before going to sleep, while more than a third of 13-18 year-olds and 28 per cent of young adults played video games before bed time.

Sixty one per cent also said they used their computer or laptop at least a few nights each week.

And a propensity to stay in touch means that even people who have managed to fall asleep, are being woken up by cell phones, texts and e=mails during the night.

Teenagers were the most sleep-deprived group, with 22 per cent describing themselves as "sleepy," compared to only nine per cent of baby boomers.

Sleep experts recommend that teenagers get 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep a night, but adolescents in the study were only averaging 7 hours and 26 minutes on week nights.

"Parents should get these technologies out of the bedrooms of kids if they want them to do well (in school)," said Czeisler.


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