It's an increasingly common occurrence: we’re crawling into bed with tablets or smartphones -- perhaps to flip through an ebook, check Twitter or tap through a game to wind down.
This isn’t a good idea, the experts say.
Not only could this affect how fast you fall asleep, but you might not stay asleep peacefully either.
"In order for us to fall asleep we need an increase in levels of melatonin -- but light, such as a backlit tablet, decreases melatonin production," explains Dr. Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Missouri.
"Not only does bringing a tablet to bed make it more difficult to fall asleep, research has found you might not have a restful sleep," adds Oexman, in a telephone interview. On a related note, those who keep a TV on while sleeping might also be affecting the quality of their sleep as any light that comes through the eyelids could increase melatonin. Yep, even a nightlight.
Oexman says a regular book or non-backlit e-book reader is the better way to go, for those who want to read and unwind before going to sleep.
The second issue, says Oexman, is bringing work to bed with us. "It was bad enough when it was late night TV, but bringing tablets, smartphones and laptops to bed could result to an increase in stimulation and thus not relaxing before sleep." Oexman says instead of seven or so hours of sleep, many of us are settling for only five to six hours a night.
"On a related note, I just read an interesting article about the popularity of energy drinks – this isn’t a coincidence,” Oexman suggests. “They are directly marketed to people who need a boost in energy, which comes from not getting enough sleep. Only a small percent of people actually drink them because they taste good. They are consumed to compensate for a lack of sleep.”
"And what if you get an email on your smartphone or tablet and don't read it…you might be curious about what it is and be tempted to read it, which could affect your relaxation," Oexman adds. “This is why you should leave all electronics in another room.”
The third concern is related to the radiation emitted by Wi-Fi and cellular devices. Oexman says more teens are sleeping with smartphones, which could pose as a health risk. “The research is not conclusive, but studies have been done with cell phones laying next to sleepers and sleep patterns were altered.”
“It may be due to the signals, but also may be due to knowing that the phone is there and expecting texts, emails and calls.”