Can’t sleep? Turn off the tech

8 Mar 2011

Fans of technology who are gobbling up time on TVs, laptops and mobile phones are paying the price with sleep, a US study suggests.

Sending texts or emails before bed, social networking into the late hours and watching television before bedtime may be interfering with people’s sleep habits, the study by the Washington DC-based National Sleep Foundation (NSF) shows.

Mobile phones and computers may be abused to the point that they contribute to getting less sleep at night, Russell Rosenberg, the vice-chairman of the NSF, said in a statement.

In the study, nearly 95pc of respondents said they used some type of electronic device in the hour before going to bed, and two-thirds of respondents admitted not sleeping enough during the week.

Charles Czeisler, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told Reuters that exposure to artificial light can increase alertness and suppress the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.

Study participants who were most guilty of watching TV before bed were in the 46-64 age group, whereas more than a third of teenagers (ages 13-18) and 28pc of young adults (ages 19-29) played video games before turning off the light.

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

It doesn’t stop once individuals fall asleep, either, but the solution here lies in turning off devices before calling it a day: One in 10 kids said they have woken up from ringing and pinging mobile phones alerting them to emails and text messages sent to them during the night.

The teenagers were the most sleep-deprived group, with 22pc having described themselves as “sleepy,” compared to 9pc of baby boomers.

Teens should be snoozing nine hours and 15 minutes a night, Reuters reported sleep experts as having said, but the teenage study participants were averaging seven hours and 26 minutes on weeknights.