Long gone are the days of reading a book before bedtime. Increasingly, people are turning to electronic devices before turning off the lights. In fact, a recent survey completed in the U.K. found than that over seventy percent of adults admitted they spend time in their bed updating social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter.) These devices, including cell phones, iPads, and personal computers may offer us convenience, excitement and the ability to stay connected 24/7, however research suggests that using them before bedtime may result in trouble falling asleep.
A major factor influencing human sleep patterns is exposure to light or to darkness. A dark environment is ideal for sleep because it prompts the release of melatonin – a hormone that signals the body to prepare to shut down for the night. However, exposure to bright light inhibits the release of melatonin. The onset of sleepiness is delayed and we are left feeling awake and alert. Light-emitting devices, such as those mentioned above, suppress the release of melatonin – making it more difficult to fall asleep.
According to Frisca Yan-Go, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Centre, “Because users hold those devices so close to their face, staring directly into the light, the effect is amplified compared with, say, a TV across the room or a bedside lamp.” So while it may be convenient to regularly use these devices, you may want to re-think using them right before bedtime. Better sleep, and ease of falling asleep, are more likely attained if you refrain from bright-light exposure at least a half-hour before going to bed.
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