Bedrooms used to be places of rest and recreation. In fact whatever you did in them, was going to do you some good. But that is no longer the case. More and more of us are falling victim to temptation of a different kind. We’re taking laptops, phones and other electronic devices to bed with us. And there can only be one outcome: a bad night’s sleep.
A survey of fifteen hundred people, conducted by an organization called The Sleep Health Foundation, found that almost half of them regularly looked at electronic devices in the bedroom. It means that people are not switching off figuratively and literally before going to bed particularly if they are using the device for work. The problem with these devices is they emit a blue light that, when held closely to your face, prevents your body clock from operating as it should because it stops the release of the hormone, melatonin, which signals oncoming sleep.
And falling asleep in front of the TV, even if its on the other side of the room, is just as bad because it prevents the body from self soothing so you can wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep.
Worldwide research suggests people are getting less sleep than they used to. One survey found that people were having, on average, an hour less sleep a night than they needed – about 7.3 hours when they should be getting 8.25.
There are serious health consequences to be had from not getting enough sleep. If people are poor sleepers, or they regularly have fragmented sleep, then they run a higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Having less than 7 hours sleep a night, has even been linked, in some studies, with a greater chance of being overweight or obese. But while the health effects of poor sleep are serious, sleep experts say they don’t want to worry people, especially if it scares them out of a good night’s sleep. Going to bed, worrying that you are not getting enough sleep is both ridiculous and completely the wrong thing to do.
Instead, sleep experts recommend making sure that we implement a one or two-hour buffer before going to bed to allow our bodies to wind down. According to The Sleep Health Foundation survey this is something only two-thirds of the respondents did. Which is not good.
Other tips included having a warm shower before going to bed, which allows the body to cool down more rapidly, and is yet another signal that it’s time to go to sleep.
And for the party animals who like to stay up late at night ( and I live with one) there’s bad news: playing games in front of the computer or binging on booze can actually change the way your body produces melatonin, which can catastrophically disrupt sleep patterns. Just staying in bed for longer in the morning is not the answer. According to the sleep experts, that sleep-in after a late night is actually counterproductive. A body clock’s cycle does not quite line up with a 24-hour day. Instead, it, stretches closer to 25. This has the effect of giving us a natural incentive to want to stay up later, which is something a sleep-in only exacerbates.
On the weekends we should all try not to sleep in for more than one hour later than when we usually get up in the morning. Otherwise, by the time you get to Sunday night, your body clock might be suffering from the equivalent of jet lag. Your body is behaving as if it is physically on some other time zone, which just perpetuates the cycle of poor sleep patterns.
So, if you happen to be a family with two laptops, two smartphones, a PC, an iPad, an iPod and an assortment of old phones that your younger children use to play games on, then, according to the sleep experts, you need to establish strict rules such as a ban on using technology in their bedrooms at bedtime.
Here are the four best tips for getting a good night’s sleep according to the experts:
1.Go to bed at a regular time, and allow wind-down time before you do.
2. Limit alcohol consumption and coffee after 2pm
3. Keep clocks out of view
4. Get up early and go out into the sun, ( a big ask in the northern hemisphere at this time of year, I know, because you don’t get much) which will help set your melatonin cycle.