Digital devices interfering with good night's sleep

Smart phones, laptops, even energy efficient lights cause problems

By Allison McGinley - News Director

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-thirds of Americans say they're not getting enough sleep. And a recent sleep study says the reason may be right in front of us because of computers, cell phones, and even alarm clocks.

Mommy blogger Titania Jordan tosses and turns for hours each night, and she thinks she knows why.

"From about 7 p.m. 'til midnight, I am in front of a screen. I'm on the computer. I'm on my mobile device," said Jordan.

Jordan is on to something.

Researchers, including Harvard University's Dr. Steven Lockley, have long known that light suppresses melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

But now-a-days, people are flooded with light long after the sun sets, whether they're texting, e-mailing, or catching up on television.

"It's a very unnatural thing for us to do, and so when we expose ourselves to light at night, we tell the brain that it's daytime," said Lockley.

And that make it harder to "catch some z's" and shifting our internal body clock, or circadian rhythm.
Now the American Academy of Sleep Medicine is raising a red flag about blue wavelengths which are the kind emitted by energy efficient light bulbs and electronic gadgets.

"We know that blue light has the greatest propensity to alter circadian rhythms, and yet now-a-days it seems that blue is the color du jour," said Dr. Nathaniel Watson, a sleep specialist.

In fact, a recent poll revealed that 95 percent of Americans use electronics a few nights a week and usually within an hour before bed.

Lockley says even dim light can be problematic.
"We've done a number of studies to show that light levels that you would be normally exposed to in the home in the evening, for example from a bedside lamp, are very easily capable of shifting the body clock," said Lockley.

Less sleep can mean more health problems including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular problems

"Shift workers have been found to have about a 50 percent to 60 percent increased risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men," said Lockley.
But what's a gadget addict to do?

"if you must have screen time before going to bed then limiting the amount of light that's emitted from the screen would be helpful, so you can turn down the brightness," said Watson.

Jordan has recently cut back on screen time and says the results are eye opening.

"It was fabulous. I didn't go to sleep right away, but I found myself feeling much more relaxed," said Jordan.

Instead of over-exposing yourself to blue light, Dr. Lockley suggests exposing yourself to lots of bright light during the day. It keeps you alert during the day and resets your body clock at night.

You should also have a regular bed time routine, make sure your bedroom is cool and dark and power down all of your electronics early ideally two to three hours before bed.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.