No one questions that we need food, water and air to survive. But there seems to be a popular myth that we can get used to operating on little sleep. This could not be further from the truth. Plus, the quality of our sleep is believed to be every bit as important as the quantity. Both are being affected more and more by the relatively new threat posed by the bright screen technology found in laptops, tablets, smart phones and other electronic devices.
Over the years, considerable research has been done showing just how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. At the very least, not sleeping well interferes with the ability to focus, to learn new things and to respond appropriately in social situations. This can play out by sabotaging work performance or slowing reaction time when behind the wheel. When it comes to relationships, the cost of not being able to be totally present and engaged can be considerable. Decades of scientific research, widely published in leading medical journals, has linked inadequate sleep to:
- cardiovascular disease
- kidney disease
- high blood pressure
How Does Bright Screen Technology Affect Us?
Electronic devices, like smartphones, laptops and tablets, use bright screen technology that emit bright blue light to stay visible under sunny conditions. This tricks the brain into thinking the light from the screen is daylight, which is not a problem most of the time. In the evening, however, there is a natural rise in melatonin, a hormone that the body regulates to get us ready to go to sleep. Using devices with bright screen technology at night can throw this process off, prevent the release of melatonin and not only make it difficult to go to sleep but also negatively impact the quality of sleep.
Unfortunately, the use of these devices late at night has increased exponentially in the past few years. Many people actually take them to bed with them and are exposed to this type of light right up until the moment they close their eyes to sleep. Or, more accurately, to try and sleep.
Even though this is a fairly recent phenomenon, studies have been done testing screen time and, more specifically, how long is too long to spend in front of a bright screen before time to go to sleep. The magic number appears to an hour and a half. The body’s melatonin process is not affected by an hour of screen time in the evening, but anything approaching or longer than an hour and a half, people report feeling more alert and less sleepy, indicating that the melatonin release has been aborted. Doing this repeatedly over a stretch of five days can reset the body’s internal clock by an hour and a half making you want to go to bed later and sleep in longer in the morning. For those who need to be up and alert in the mornings, the problems this can cause are obvious.
Experts recommend taking a technology break in the evening to give your body a chance to rest and recharge. If that proves too difficult, at the very least, dim screens and explore available options for reducing the amount of blue light after a certain point in the evening. Consider reversing the background on e-readers so that the type is white on a black background.
The quality of your sleep affects every aspect of your life. The benefits of bright screen technology may be significant, but they do not outweigh the importance of consistently getting a good night’s sleep.