07 Mar 2011

Too Wired to Sleep: New Sleep Study

In pre-electricity time, the average person slept for around 10 hours a night. Now? People are lucky to get 7 hours, even though health experts recommend up to 9 hours a night.

A new study shows the reason why…we’re goofin’ around with our electronic gizmos before going to bed, which doesn’t allow the body to trigger the release of melatonin–the natural “sleep” hormone.

So what’s the answer? Stop messin’ around with iPods and texting before bed. Oh,  that goes for television, too. Interesting, huh?

Below is a bit of the study, but the entire study may be found here.

The 2011 Sleep in America® poll just released by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) finds pervasive use of communications technology in the hour before bed. It also finds that a significant number of Americans aren’t getting the sleep they say they need and are searching for ways to cope.

About two-thirds of baby boomers (67%) and generation X’ers (63%) and half of generation Z’ers (50%) and generation Y’ers (49%) watch television every night or almost every night within the hour before going to sleep.

“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,” says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “This study reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep. Invasion of such alerting technologies into the bedroom may contribute to the high proportion of respondents who reported that they routinely get less sleep than they need.”

Computer or laptop use is also common. Roughly six in ten (61%) say they use their laptops or computers at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed. More than half of generation Z’ers (55%) and slightly less of generation Y’ers (47%) say they surf the Internet every night or almost every night within the hour before sleep.

Americans are coping with sleepiness by drinking caffeine and taking regular naps. The average person on a weekday drinks about three 12 ounce caffeinated beverages, with little difference between age groups.

If you are having problems sleeping, the National Sleep Foundation suggests the following to improve your sleep:

  • Set and stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day.
  • Expose yourself to bright light in the morning and avoid it at night. Exposure to bright morning light energizes us and prepares us for a productive day. Alternatively, dim your lights when it’s close to bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise in the morning can help you get the light exposure you need to set your biological clock. Avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime if you are having problems sleeping.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Allow enough time to wind down and relax before going to bed.
  • Create a cool, comfortable sleeping environment that is free of distractions. If you’re finding that entertainment or work-related communications are creating anxiety, remove these distractions from your bedroom.
  • Treat your bed as your sanctuary from the stresses of the day. If you find yourself still lying awake after 20 minutes or so, get up and do something relaxing in dim light until you are sleepy.
  • Keep a “worry book” next to your bed. If you wake up because of worries, write them down with an action plan, and forget about them until morning.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages, chocolate and tobacco at night.
  • Avoid large meals and beverages right before bedtime.
  • No nightcaps. Drinking alcohol before bed can rob you of deep sleep and can cause you to wake up too early.
  • Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medications might be contributing to your sleep problem.
  • No late-afternoon or evening naps, unless you work nights. If you must nap, keep it under 45 minutes and before 3:00 pm.

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One response to “Too Wired to Sleep: New Sleep Study”

  1. avatar

    There’s a wonderful little program called F.lux which syncs the kind of light coming from one’s screen to the kind of light in that part of the day. I’m running it right now. Good stuff.

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