For as long as I can remember I have almost always had a nightly battle switching my brain off to get a good night of rest. From Progressive Muscle Tension Relaxation to drinking many types of herbal teas, I have tried it all and I can honestly say very little has proven to be effective. With that in mind, my situation is not particularly life crippling. I almost always fall asleep after a while, even if it is after a few hours of my brain running through every imaginable scenario. Whilst dabbling in many possible sleep aids I also found multiple examples of what not to do for a good night sleep. As our attachment and love for technology grow, so does this list.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adolescence who have a TV in their bedroom have later bedtimes, greater difficulty initiating sleep, and shorter sleep time in total. It is probably no surprise that using technology before bed is going to have a negative effect on your sleep. However, why it affects your sleep and just how bad it is for you may come as a surprise. Many screens of smartphones, laptops, and TV’s emit blue light which is proven to reduce the level of melatonin that your body produces. Melatonin is a chemical that is naturally produced by the body to control your sleep/wake cycle known as your circadian rhythm. A lack of this chemical can make it harder to fall asleep and remain asleep.
This next point may seem abundantly clear, however, it is a painful truth that many of us don’t consider or perhaps we hope it won’t affect us. Without a doubt, the more active you are on technology the more active your brain is, which only leads to a greater challenge when it comes to putting it to rest. Whether you are messaging with friends or catching up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones, you are keeping your mind stimulated and tricking it into thinking it needs to stay awake. One Hundred years ago this may not have been such an issue, although in our modern world of Netflix and WhatsApp we can keep our minds occupied throughout the night until the break of dawn. Moreover, the mental impact of reading a negative message or seeing a wave of likes on your Instagram picture may make turning your brain off that much harder. Unfortunately, we can’t switch off our thoughts and emotions simply with a press of a button.
After all this, you may decide to get an early night, set your alarm, and place your phone on your bedside table and gingerly avoid engaging with it any further. Problem solved, right? Well, unfortunately, it may not be as simple as that. Even a buzz, ring or whistle from your device can be enough to trigger your conditioned response ready to check your latest notification. The fact is we are addicts, almost all of us, myself included, and the only way to remedy yourself is to turn it off or leave it out the bedroom.
The good news is that even though technology may be the reason for many of these problems, it can also provide solutions to help reduce these effects. I am naturally a little bit of a night owl and I find most of my best work is produced in the evening. Therefore, cutting out electronics before bed would also cut out some of my most productive hours. To combat the troublesome blue light emitted by my computer screen I use a program called f.lux. This removes harmful light and replaces it with softer colors to help you wind down. It is set to your time zone so it knows exactly when the sun is setting and times it perfectly with your surrounds. I also listen to music when I sleep and choose to switch off my Wi-Fi connection to stop any notifications.
We are obsessed with our gadgets, there is no doubt about that. However, just because we can’t live without them does not mean we must choose between our technology and a good night’s rest. With the right schedule, discipline, and tools it is possible to enjoy a healthy balance of both.