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Electronic devices may be interfering with our sleep—and it’s not just because we’re staying awake too late surfing the Internet or watching TV. Sleep researchers speculate that the glow from these devices can cause light exposure that disrupts the body’s sleep rhythms.

The results of the National Sleep Foundation’s annual Sleep in America® survey indicated that the majority of Americans are not getting enough sleep, with 63 percent reporting that they don’t get sufficient sleep during the week. Ninety-five percent of those surveyed reported using an electronic device (such as a computer, cell phone, electronic reader, television, or video game) within the hour before bedtime at least a few nights per week.[1]

While the survey doesn’t provide hard evidence that electronic devices and light exposure are interfering with sleep, it does point to a strong link—especially in light of a 2007 study from Osaka University in which participants reported insufficient sleep after using electronic devices at bedtime.[2]

Light exposure prior to bedtime can disrupt the body’s rhythms and suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Some individuals are more sensitive than others to light before bedtime, but it can’t hurt to limit exposure. Experts suggest imposing an “electronic curfew” and powering all devices down at least an hour before bedtime.

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In addition, some people recommend dimming the lights in your house well before bedtime to signal the brain that it is time to rest. Keep cell phones, electronic notebooks, and televisions out of the bedroom for optimal sleep conditions. If you find that you’re really sensitive to light, consider blackout shades and an eye mask. Sleep tight!

References:

[1] 2011 Sleep in America® poll from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). www.sleepfoundation.org

[2] Suganuma N, Kikuchi T, Yanagi K, et al. Using electronic media before sleep can curtail sleep time and result in self-perceived insufficient sleep. Sleep and Biological Rhythms. 2007; 5(3): 204-214.