Technology & Your Sleep

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Are you a night owl who stays up late watching television, working on your computer or engaging in social networking or gaming? Do you have children or teenagers who spend time on the computer after dinner or chat on skype until bedtime?

Technology is a wonderful thing and we wouldn’t be without it. However there are areas of our life where technology can hinder rather than help – and natural sleep is one of those areas. The biggest culprits are computers - whose bright, interactive and dynamic screens stimulate our minds instead of allowing them to relax.

Technology and sleep don’t mix

A recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation of America found that approximately two thirds of those surveyed did not have their sleep needs met during the week.

According to Charles Czeisler PhD, MD, (Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital) the use of technology in the hour before bedtime may contribute to this.  Czeisler said exposure to artificial light (such as computer and television screens) between dusk and bedtime can affect our ability to fall asleep, as it suppresses the release of melatonin (the sleep-promoting hormone), enhances alertness and shifts the circadian rhythm to a later hour.

So if you’re like the 95% of survey responders who said they used some type of technology before they went to sleep, the secret to a better night’s sleep could simply be switching off a little earlier in the evening.  By creating an interval between your screen and your bedtime, and using this time for relaxing activities such as reading, meditation or massage, you’re setting yourself up for a great night’s sleep.

It’s not just adults who need to limit their technological interactions before bedtime.  Children’s bedrooms are increasingly becoming multimedia centres. In the UK, Ofcom’s 2008 findings reported that children aged 8-11 years had an average of four media devices in their rooms, and children aged 12-15 years had an average of six!  The use of the internet in children’s bedrooms had significantly increased from 2005 – to 9% in 8-11 year olds and 20% in 12-15 year olds. With the myriad of mobile devices now available, usage in the present day is even higher.  It is important to monitor your child’s exposure to screens before bedtime, especially if they are having issues with sleeping.

While you were sleeping…

Switching off before bed is great, but what about while you are sleeping? Turn out your bedroom lights and – once your eyes adjust – have a look around. How many little lights do you see coming from the television, your mobile phone or the digital clock? Are streetlights streaming through gaps in the curtains?

Even the smallest amount of light can disrupt your sleep patterns so try to minimise its impact. 

So, for a better night’s sleep:

  • Be ‘screen free’ in the hour or two before bedtime and use this time for relaxation – reading, conversation, meditation or massage
  • remove as many pieces of technology from all bedrooms as possible
  • use an eye mask to block out light (it can also be used for relaxation during the day)
  • if any device must stay, conceal lights (adhesive tape or a piece of fabric works well). For digital clocks, turn the face away so you are not tempted to look at it if you wake in the night
  • choose quality curtains that block out the light.



Ofcom. (2008, May 16). Media Literacy Audit - Report on UK children’s media literacy. Retrieved from:


Rubin, G. (2009). The Happiness Project. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.


Sleep in America 2011 Task Force, National Sleep Foundation. (2011, March 7). Annual Sleep in America Poll Exploring Connections with Communications Technology Use and Sleep [Press release]. Retrieved  from: