The powerful technology that keeps us connected, entertained and informed is deeply engrained in our lives and our culture. We carry around phones as powerful as personal computers, a movie about Facebook almost won an Oscar and every new Apple product announcement is celebrated like a national holiday. We can – and often do – spend the entire day in front of a screen, using a desktop computer at work all day, an iPhone on the commute or at the gym and a tablet or e-reader at home.
So maybe we’re overdoing it with all these gadgets. For all of the societal benefits, there are some drawbacks. We’re less active and we’re getting fatter. Our children face the threat of bullying online as well as the schoolyard. And our many devices are keeping us from getting enough sleep each night.
Sleep problems related to technology have been a recurring topic on Sleep Education Blog. This year, the annual Sleep in America Poll also focused on technology and sleep. The National Sleep Foundation released the results of its 2011 Sleep in America Poll earlier this week.
The findings are no surprise – Americans are using technology before bedtime and they’re not getting enough sleep. Out of the more than 1,500 people surveyed, 95 percent use some type of electronic device within an hour of going to bed at least a few times a week.
Results show 43 percent of Americans rarely sleep well on weeknights and 60 percent regularly have insomnia, snore or wake up un-refreshed in the morning. Nearly two-thirds admit to sleeping less than the recommended 7-8 hours per night. About 15 percent of adults and 7 percent of children are seriously sleep-deprived – logging less than six hours of sleep during the week.
Technology use and sleepiness is generational, as the 2011 Sleep in America Poll demonstrates. Millennials are more connected than their parents. Older generations watch more television while younger generations prefer the interactivity of video games, computers or mobile devices.
Younger generations are also sleepier, the poll reports. About 1 in 5 millenials rated themselves as sleepy using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale compared to only about 1 in 10 baby boomers and generation x’ers.
Sleep changes as you age. Teenagers and young adults may have difficulty falling asleep in the early evening because their circadian rhythms prefer the night. Early start times for school or work leave almost no time for natural night-types to sleep.
Older people have their own sleep problems. The National Institute on Aging reports that older adults may produce and secrete less of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin and as a result may get less sleep, sleep less deeply and wake up more throughout the night.
Every generation copes with sleeplessness in the same way, poll findings show. All age groups use caffeine and naps to fight fatigue. Many of the participants openly admitted that sleep deprivation affects their work, their sex lives and their ability to drive safely.
If you fit in these statistics, you might want to make some changes to your sleep hygiene. Avoid using technology before bedtime. Schedule a nightly wind-down time away from the screen. Turn off your television or computer 30 minutes earlier each night and do some light chores, read a book or even a Kindle.
If a sleep disorder is keeping you from getting the rest your need, contact an AASM-accredited sleep center for help.