Personal Technology & Sleep Deprivation
Most of us have some form of personal technology at our disposal at all times during the day. Be it a smartphone, tablet, computer, or television, we as a society have become completely absorbed by our gadgets. Research suggests that this constant interaction with personal technology, particularly before bed, may make falling asleep more difficult and result in reduced total sleep time. This issue is especially important for children and adolescents because sleeping too little can lead to problems with mood, behavior, and academic performance.
One of the reasons that using personal devices before bed makes falling asleep more difficult is the effect of LED backlit screens on our hormones. LED backlit devices can cause a decrease in melatonin production. Melatonin is important in our natural circadian rhythm sleep-wake cycles. It normally increases in the evening in response to darkness, but when exposed to LED lighting, melatonin levels decrease, tricking your body into thinking it should stay awake.
As children are becoming more tech savvy, they are spending more time in front of screens. Between the ages of 10 – 12, children should be getting 8 – 9 hours of sleep. Those who do not get enough sleep have a more difficult time falling asleep, and they also report having a poorer mood. When children have a TV in their bedroom, they sleep much less than those without one.
Increased availability of media for adolescents may be another factor in decreased sleep. When an adolescent has a phone, computer, mp3 player, or gaming console in their bedroom, they are more likely to stay up and use that media. A study showed that after 9:00pm, 34% of adolescents were texting, 55% were online, and 24% were playing video games.
Internet use alone is associated with an increase in adverse health effects among adolescents. In a study of adolescents in South Korea, decreased sleep was associated with an increase of depressive symptoms, suicidal ideas, overweight status, and decreased self-rated health. Even when controlling for amount of sleep, those adolescents that accumulated the highest amount of internet use, had significantly greater health risks compared to those with lower amounts of internet use. Different types of media play a big role in the everyday life of children and teenagers. Helping to limit the amount of time spent on them before bed and throughout the day may help decrease the risks associated with overuse and loss of sleep.