Do you go to bed wired most nights? Do you wake up tired? Digital usage at night results in poor sleep habits and the knock-on effect is equally as detrimental.
A good night’s sleep is a rarity for many in the 21st Century. The fast paced, always-on lifestyle we have become accustomed to has found many of us glued to devices around the clock. But what impact does this have on our sleep?
Bupa’s National Medical Director and GP Dr Tim Ross believes devices such as smartphones can have a considerable impact on our ability to get a good night’s sleep.
“The main impact of screens is that they produce a lot of bluelight, which is the shortest wavelength in the rainbow. It suppresses your body’s natural sleep hormone melatonin making you more alert,” Dr Tim says.
Bluelight also naturally boosts your memory and feelings of wellbeing which is great news during the day but, at night, Bluelight disturbs your natural circadian rhythm – or the ‘clock’ that lets your body know when to sleep and when to wake up. Nighttime screen usage means you may find it harder to get to sleep, experience more restless sleep and have trouble waking up because you’re still tired.
So what is the recommended amount of sleep that we need to get into our systems each day and how do we achieve it? Dr Tim suggests the following:
Sleep goal #1: The amount
- Infants: 12 hours of sleep
- Children: Between 10 and 12 hours of sleep
- Teenagers: Between 8 and 10 hours of sleep
- Adults: 8 hours of sleep.
Sleep goal #2: Good sleep hygiene
The key to a good night’s sleep is to ensure you have “positive sleep hygiene”, which refers to the habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis. These habits won’t form overnight, however they are vital to maximising the benefits of sleep.
“The key to good sleep is having a good sleep environment where you feel warm and safe, that isn’t too hot or cold,” Dr Tim says. “Leave technology out of the bedroom and don’t have your phone by your bed. Make sure your bed is a place for sleep and relaxation only.”
Dr Tim also suggests wearing Blue Light Glasses as a way to reduce or filter the blue light wavelengths getting to your eyes via screens.
Sleep goal #3: Regular sleep pattern
On top of positive sleep hygiene, it is important to ensure you have regularity in sleep. You should have a regular time to go to bed and wake up in the morning. This can be any time that works with your schedule, so long as it is consistent.
Good sleep hygiene, less interaction with screens before bed and a regular sleeping pattern should lead us to having better sleep and making the most of our time when we’re awake. Even in the always-on world it pays to switch off overnight.
Glasses aid sleep
Research shows Bupa’s new Blue Light Glasses work exactly like sunglasses but instead of cutting down harmful UV rays during the day, they reduce the effects of Blue light wavelengths at night. In 2014, a Swiss study found that, compared with clear lenses, glasses with an added Bluelight filter significantly increased melatonin and decreased alertness before bedtime for adolescents who used digital devices. The filter looks clear but prevents your retina receiving the Blue light wavelengths. The glasses can be worn by anyone, day or night.
Words // Nicholas Grech