Does more screen time equal less dream time?

Restful, deep sleep is essential to good health.  7-8 hours of restful sleep are correlated with a lower BMI, decreased incidence of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, as well as a lowered incidence of stress-induced behaviors like substance abuse and overeating.  However, thanks to easily accessible, cutting-edge technology, we’ve reached a point where much of our activities of daily living involve the use of computers, tablets and smartphones.  Although extremely efficient and helpful for multi-tasking and managing our increasingly busy lives, our increased exposure time to digital screens may have disruptive effects on our body’s natural abilities to wake us up in the morning, maintain alertness throughout the day, and easily fall asleep at night. Recently, many research studies have been aimed at investigating the relationship between time spent looking at screens and symptoms of decreased depth of sleep, difficulty falling asleep and waking up, tiredness throughout the day, and lack of stress-coping strategies.

One of the factors identified as a possible culprit of sleeplessness is the blue-green light emitted by digital screens; this specific wavelength has been shown to inhibit our brain’s production of melatonin, a relaxation hormone that gently tells our bodies and minds that it’s time to hit the hay! However, melatonin is just one of the many important hormones that make up our bodies’ extremely complex circadian rhythms.  A disruption in one aspect of this delicate circadian rhythm may lead to a cascade of disruptions, throwing our bodies out of balance and making us more susceptible to disease.  Learning how to improve sleep hygiene (which may mean limiting exposure to blue-green light before bed) may have a major impact on your ability to reduce disruptive sleep patterns and get a life-enriching good night’s rest.  Consult with your naturopathic physician or your primary care provider for ideas on how to create a healthy sleep routine and get the sleep you need to feel your best!

Written by Valeria Dominguez, NCNM Naturopathic Medicine Program. Edited by Dr. Elise Schroeder


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