Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sleep and technology

This article discusses the findings from the National Sleep Foundation's Sleep in America Poll from 2011. Some of the questions involved sleep quality and use of technology in the hour leading up to trying to sleep. The results showed that using stimulating technology that was interactive, like video games, cell phones, and computers was more disruptive to sleep than passive technology like watching TV or listening to music. The authors speculate that using stimulating technology may prevent the natural withdrawal of the sympathetic nervous system activity that is needed for sleep onset.

The implications of this research are intriguing. The results challenge, at least in part, that using passive technology in the bed can disrupt sleep. What seems to be most disruptive to sleep is stimulating technology. These findings could be extrapolated to other stimulating activities performed in the hour before bedtime, whether technology is involved or not. So perhaps the rule that the bed should be used for sleep only needs to be modified - it's possible that passive activity is not necessarily going to disrupt sleep. This goes along with my clinical experience in treating patients with chronic insomnia. Some of them have been going to sleep with the TV on in their bedroom since middle or high school. Yet their insomnia does not start for several years later, often in their late 20's. In these individuals, watching TV in the bedroom may not negatively impacting sleep quality as once thought.

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