Sensory Overload: Are Tech Devices Affecting Your Sleep?
by Mylika Scatliffe,
AFRO Women’s Health Writer,
Kimberly Maker, 53, used to be skeptical about the world of sleep studies. Initially she didn’t believe in it – thinking it was a fictional field of medicine.
Given his opinion of the time zone, he ignored his primary care physician’s advice to do a sleep study for about a year.
But after battling a variety of health issues, including being diagnosed with prediabetes, Maker decided she wanted to take a more holistic approach to health maintenance. Surely this change is what prompted him to finally agree to the sleep study.
And it changed her life, her health, her outlook, and her career.
These days, if there’s anything she wishes everyone knew—especially black women—it’s the importance of proper rest and the many ways technology is doing us a disservice in the sleep department.
wake up Everybody!
Data on technology and how it affects everyday life is no joke.
According to the Pew Research Center regarding technology use per household which reports:
- 84 percent of US households own at least one smartphone and 80 percent have at least one laptop, desktop, and smartphone in the same household
- 68 percent own at least one tablet, and 39 percent own at least one streaming device — such as an Apple TV or Roku
- A third of households have three or more smartphones
- Overall, about 90 percent of households own at least one device, while the average household has five devices
- Nearly 18 percent of households are ‘hyperconnected’, or have 10 or more of these devices
“We’re exposing ourselves to too much blue light,” Maker said. “We’re spending too much time on screens, we’re working too much, not getting enough sleep, and it’s killing us!”
Blue light is made of electromagnetic radiation, an invisible form of energy. Blue light is a part of the visible light spectrum that can affect alertness, hormone production and sleep cycles. This type of light is emitted from some types of light fixtures and many electronic devices.
late night blue light special
According to the Sleep Foundation, “When compared to whites, black adults are nearly twice as likely to get too little sleep and 60 percent more likely to report sleeping too much.
Roughly 40 percent of single parents sleep less than seven hours per night, compared with 32.7 percent of adults in two-parent households and 31 percent of adults without children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), scientific evidence suggests that sleep is a basic need for life, similar to the need to eat and drink. Proper sleep is a restorative bodily function and not getting enough has negative health consequences.
according to a study done by National Sleep Foundation “Sleep in America” poll, “90 percent of Americans report using an electronic device in their bedroom within an hour of trying to sleep.”
Excessive exposure to electronics and the blue light they emit can interfere with the way our bodies function and regenerate.
The National Sleep Foundation defines circadian rhythms as “the finely tuned, 24-hour cycle that helps our bodies know when to perform necessary functions. Light is the most important factor in aligning circadian rhythms and For much of human history, these rhythms were closely linked to sunrise and sunset.
Most of our blue light comes from the Sun.
During the daytime, sunlight is essential for optimal performance and attention span, and the proper amount, and timing of sunlight exposure prepares us for better sleep at night.
Significant technological advances over the past quarter century have meant greater exposure to artificial light and electronics, and people are being exposed to greater amounts of light before bedtime.
Circadian rhythms are affected to a great extent by blue light.
Maker says black people already deal with a plethora of health disparities — but the architecture of sleep is something we can control in many cases.
Maker, passionate about the phenomenon of sleep and its benefits, shared that at age 50 she changed careers and began volunteering her time, prompting many of her friends to follow suit.
Today, she’s a sleep technician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in York, Pa., where she observes in real time what the average person wouldn’t know unless, of course, they participate in a sleep study.
In his new position, Maker conducts sleep studies for patients. Some people have physical disorders that interfere with sleep, such as apnea or enlarged tonsils, but she also sees firsthand the negative effects of technology mismanagement on sleep.
Maker described a 13-year-old patient who was undergoing a sleep study at the clinic. His mother was concerned about his tiredness and grogginess when he woke up every morning, after sleeping all night – every night – with the TV on.
Most people might take for granted that lack of sleep has been linked to improper diet, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obesity, metabolic disorders, and depression, but like Maker, her patients are now finding that unfortunately painful what is clear
“We’re not doing a good job – especially as it relates to our children – with this constant exposure to technology,” the producer reclusively admits. “This never happened
] That watching TV all night could be a problem.”
The most common sources of blue light include smartphones, televisions, computer screens, tablets, e-readers, video game consoles, and fluorescent and LED lights. We are exposed to these things in some form or the other almost 24 hours a day.
We work in office buildings with fluorescent lighting fixtures and sometimes there just aren’t enough windows. Almost any type of work today involves exposure to a computer screen at some point during the day. Many jobs require viewing a computer screen all day – sometimes multiple monitors at once! During screen breaks from work, we take the screen out of our pocket and start scrolling through social media feeds on smartphones.
We come home at night and watch television, scrolling through more social media feeds or engrossed in our favorite book on an e-reader to unwind before we fall asleep. or tablet. Exposure to blue light at night tricks our brains into thinking it is still daytime. Our circadian rhythm is thrown off, leaving us in a state of wakefulness rather than sleep, which makes us unable to fall asleep.
Sleep saves lives – go get some!
The good news is that reducing the effects of excessive blue light exposure is relatively easy and quick. Most of the blue light that causes problems is coming from artificial sources, and can be easily turned off.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following:
- Turn off electronics two to three hours before bedtime.
- If your device has a dimmer setting or “night mode,” use that. They reduce the emission of blue light.
- If you need to use devices before bedtime, try one of the many available apps on smartphones and computers that help reduce blue light emissions.
- Improve your sleeping environment. If there are light sources you can’t dim in your bedroom, try using a sleep mask to block them out.
“We also don’t allow patients to have smartphones or other devices in the sleep clinic because having a phone can interfere with the study,” Maker said.
Completing the sleep study and reducing his exposure to technology in the sleep environment was a game changer for him and so many others have been involved with since his career switch.
“I’m not grumpy in the morning, I feel better, I’m not snoring as much,” she said. “Now I’m a believer.”
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