Gadgets & Insomnia


It's the first thing we reach for upon waking, our constant companion on the road, something that we hate leaving behind, the one thing we stare at for hours on end at work, and the last thing we look at before going to bed.

The smartphone, our laptops, and along with it, our online personas, social media accounts, status updates: they've become inextricably linked with our day to day lives, so much so that that they've encroached into our sleep time.

Is it any wonder that an eight hour nightly shut eye is now a luxury? My husband envies my ability to sleep at will (which is an exaggeration, but it's probably because he's an insomniac).

What we crave for the most is not just eight solid hours of sleep, but the type of deep slumber that makes us feel refreshed and invigorated upon waking, the kind that makes us feel ready to take on the challenges of the day. (Did you know that there's an app for that? You're welcome.)

If you suspect that the time you spend zoning out in front of the screen might have something to do with your inability to have quality rest at night, you're right.

Here's what Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, has to say about it:

"Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep."

Whether your screen of choice is a TV, laptop, computer screen, iPad kindle device or smartphone, just the very presence of flickering lights anywhere inside your bedroom will decrease the quality of your sleep.

And then of course, there's the internet to contend with. It's akin to a crack house, an infinite suckhole that presents us with irresistible click-bait headlines and endless kitten videos in various stages of cuteness, alongside hilarious memes and viral content that are all vying for our attention, all seducing us to lend our eyeballs to link up, like, and share away.

For those of us online, the our quality of sleep is inversely proportional to the quality of our bandwidth speed. 

Ever notice how we sleep more soundly when there's a total black out, or when your internet speed hiccups or dips low enough to prevent videos from streaming? That's the only time we give up and turn everything off and reluctantly climb back to bed and inevitably stare into the darkness, look up at the ceiling, count sheep, and anxiously wait for sleep to take over us.

At the risk of sounding like a nagging mother (which I am, except for the nagging part), let me give you my two cents on how to deal with sleeping problems. My solution is based on a tried and tested formula that I've used on my four year old son, my unwilling guinea pig and test subject:

We follow a simple routine every night: dinner, toothbrush, shower, storytelling, and total lights out. We limit screen time at least an hour before bed if possible. If that particular sequence changes at any time, we need to get back to it again. 

It's a very simple formula, one that you might smirk at and find is far too elementary for your taste, but if you've ever tried forcing a toddler to fall asleep, you know how they'll do every means necessary to negotiate their way out of it, even if they know they need to sleep already. My son becomes crankier and more out of control the less sleep he has, and he also becomes more resistant to the suggestion of sleep the more tired he is. 

So that's some salt of the earth wisdom I'm handing down to you, oh fellow gadget/internet addict. I wouldn't be surprised if it's on step two in some twelve step program manual for insomniacs and sleep-deprived zombies out there.

Your turn: do you think gadgets contribute to your lack of sleep? Let me know in the comments below. 



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