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The blue glow: does technology help or hinder sleep?

Whether it is Netflix or Facebook, Tinder or Candy Crush, we have all been there – scrolling through our phones or laptops whilst snuggled up in bed. One minute of scrolling turns into two, and before you know it, it is 2am and you realise you only have six hours before you have to get up for that 9am tutorial. So, on the very same device that is keeping you up, you set an alarm. Without even noticing, technology is there to simultaneously fuel your procrastination and keep you on schedule.
These days, technology plays such a big part in our society, it is no wonder it can also affect day-to-day things like sleep. Being on your phone, or any electronic device for that matter, can severely affect your sleep pattern. Mark Rosekind PhD, former director of the Fatigue Countermeasures Program at the Nasa Ames Research Center, said to WebMD, “One of the most simple but important reasons technology affects our sleep is cognitive stimulation”. This activity in the brain is exactly what should be avoided when we are about to head to bed, but is an increasingly popular habit. In addition to this, the blue light emitted by phones and tablets delay the release of melatonin, which is the hormone that induces sleep and essentially controls your sleep cycle.
According to a survey conducted by Dreams involving 15,203 participants, the average amount of time spent in bed watching TV was 62 minutes per week, and browsing the web and social media made up 42 minutes and 38 minutes respectively. This means on average two hours and 22 minutes per person per week are spent on activities involving blue light devices in bed. Rosekind went on to say, “As you stay up later on a consistent basis, you readjust your internal clock, and delayed sleep phase syndrome sets in,” meaning that the longer you stay up, the more likely you won’t be able to sleep until that time in the future.
However, technology is not entirely against us on this one. A number of technological advances actually mean we can sleep easily at night. In order to tackle the aforementioned blue light problem, there are a number of apps, such as Twilight, which filter the amount of blue light emitted by your device and adjust to the sun cycle. Another useful type of app comes in the form of sleep cycle alarm clocks. These monitor and analyse your sleep cycle in order to wake you up in your lightest sleep phase, meaning that you will not wake up feeling groggy and want to go straight back to sleep – though that does give you much less of an excuse to miss that 9am tutorial. You can even go one step further with these and buy a smart alarm with a built-in light, such as the Aura. This not only has a colour-changing light that can balance out those sleep-depriving blue tones, but also has a sleep monitor you can put under your mattress for an even better analysis of your sleep patterns. However, with the average price being above £100, to those who would like the more wallet-friendly option, perhaps the free app on Google Play is the more appealing choice.
Although there are some very evident positive and negative effects that technology can have on our sleep, one thing is for certain: technology is not about to pause for sleep. The best way to deal with the problems posed by technology is to simply turn everything off 15 minutes to half an hour before sleep, but failing that, use of a sleep app is a pretty good compromise. All in all, it boils down to how much you really need to know about your flatmate’s boyfriend’s sister on Facebook, or whether a good night’s sleep is really your priority; either way, technology will be there for you.

Image: Japanexperterna.se

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