Sensory Overload: Are Tech Devices Affecting Your Sleep?

Sensory Overload: Are Tech Devices Affecting Your Sleep?

By Mylika Scatliffe,
AFRO Women’s Health Writer,

Kimberly Maker, 53, was skeptical of the world of sleep studies. At first, she didn’t believe it – thinking it was a fictional field of medicine.

Given her views on the field at the time, she ignored her GP’s advice to undergo a sleep study for about a year.

But after struggling with a variety of health issues, including a diagnosis of prediabetes, Maker decided she wanted to transition to a more holistic method of maintaining health. This change of direction led her to finally accept the study of sleep.

And it changed his life, his health, his perspective and his career.

These days, if there’s anything she wants everyone to know, especially black women, it’s the importance of good rest and the many ways technology is making us feel bad. service in the sleep department.

Wake up, everyone!

The data on technology and its impact on everyday life is no joke.

According to the Pew Research Center regarding technology use per household which reports:

  • 84% of US households have at least one smartphone, and 80% have at least one laptop, desktop, and smartphone in the same household
  • 68% have at least one tablet and 39% have at least one streaming device, such as Apple TV or Roku
  • A third of households own three or more smartphones
  • In total, nearly 90% of households own at least one device, with the median household having five.
  • Nearly 18% of households are “hyperconnected” or have at least 10 of these devices

“We’re exposing ourselves to too much blue light,” Maker said. “We spend too much time staring at screens, we work too much, we don’t get enough sleep and it’s killing us!”

Blue light is made up of electromagnetic radiation, an invisible form of energy. Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum that can affect alertness, hormone production, and sleep cycles. This type of light is emitted by certain types of light fixtures and many electronic devices.

The end of the evening, special blue light

According to the Sleep Foundation, “compared to whites, black adults are almost twice as likely to describe they sleep too little and are 60% more likely to report sleeping too much.

About 40% of single parents sleep less than seven hours a night, compared to 32.7% of adults living in two-parent households and 31% of adults without children. »

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), scientific evidence suggests that sleep is a basic need of life, similar to the need to eat and drink. Good sleep is a restorative bodily function and not getting enough of it has negative health consequences.

According to a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation’s “Sleep in America” ​​survey, “90% of Americans report using an electronic device in their bedroom within an hour of trying to fall asleep.”

Overexposure to electronic devices and the blue light they emit disrupts the functioning and regeneration of our body.

The National Sleep Foundation defines circadian rhythms as “finely tuned 24-hour cycles that help our bodies know when to perform essential functions. Light is the most important factor in aligning circadian rhythms and for much of human history these rhythms were closely aligned with sunrise and sunset.

.Most of our exposure to blue light comes from the sun.

During the day, sunlight is essential for optimal performance and attention span, and the right amount and timing of sunlight exposure prepares us for better sleep at night.

Significant advances in technology over the past quarter century mean greater exposure to artificial light and electronics, and people are increasingly exposed to higher amounts of light before sleeping.

Circadian rhythms are largely affected by blue light.

Maker says black people already face a plethora of health disparities, but sleep architecture is something we can control in many cases.

Maker, who is passionate about the phenomena of sleep and its benefits, shared that at age 50 she changed careers and started spending her time convincing several of her friends to follow suit.

Today, she’s a sleep technician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in York, Pennsylvania, where she witnesses in real time what the average person wouldn’t be aware of unless, of course, they participate in a sleep study.

In his new position, Maker orchestrates and conducts sleep studies for patients. Some people suffer from physical conditions that obstruct sleep, such as apneas or enlarged tonsils, but she also sees firsthand the negative effects of mismanagement of technology on sleep.

Maker described a 13-year-old patient undergoing a sleep study at the clinic. His mother worried about how tired and restless he was when he woke up every morning, having been allowed to sleep through the night – every night – with the TV on.

Most people can agree that lack of sleep is linked to poor diet, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obesity, metabolic disorders and depression, but like Maker, his patients are discovering now what is sadly painfully obvious.

“We’re not doing a good thing — especially when it comes to our kids — with all this constant exposure to technology,” Maker admits inclusively. “He never came to [the mom] that all that nighttime TV exposure could be a problem.

The most common sources of blue light are smartphones, televisions, computer monitors, tablets, e-readers, video game consoles, and fluorescent and LED lights. In one form or another, we expose ourselves to these objects almost 24 hours a day.

We work in office buildings with fluorescent fixtures and sometimes not enough windows. Almost all types of work today involve some exposure to a computer screen at some point during the day. Many jobs require staring at a computer screen all day, sometimes multiple monitors at once! During breaks from work screens, we take the screen out of our pocket and start scrolling through social media feeds on smartphones.

We come home in the evening and watch TV, and relax at bedtime by browsing more social media feeds or rummaging through our favorite book on an e-reader. or tablet. Nocturnal exposure to blue light tricks our brains into thinking it’s still daytime. Our circadian rhythms are disrupted, leaving us in an awake state instead of drowsy, causing us to not sleep as we should.

Sleep saves lives – go for it!

The good news is that mitigating the effects of blue light overexposure is relatively easy and quick. Most blue lights that cause problems come from artificial sources and can simply be turned off.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following:

  • Turn off electronic devices two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Use a dim setting or “night mode” if your device has one. They reduce the emission of blue light.
  • If you must use devices before bed, try one of the many apps available on smartphones and computers that help reduce blue light emission.
  • Improve your sleeping environment. If there are any light sources in your bedroom that you can’t dim, try using a sleep mask to block them out.

“We don’t even allow patients to have smartphones or other devices in the sleep clinic because holding phones corrupts studies,” Maker said.

Completing a sleep study and reducing her exposure to technology in the sleep environment has been a game-changer for her and for so many people she has come into contact with since her career change.

“I’m not grumpy in the morning, I feel better, I don’t snore as much,” she said. “Now I’m a believer.”

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