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Study Shows Technology May Inhibit Good Sleep 155

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-hard-to-sleep-without-all-the-beeps dept.
An anonymous reader points out a study by the National Sleep Foundation which looked at the relationship between sleep habits and the use of electronic communications tech in the hour before bedtime. Dr. Michael Grasidar of Flinders University said, "My research compares how technologies that are ‘passively received' such as TVs and music versus those with ‘interactive' properties like video games, cell phones and the Internet may affect the brain differently. The hypothesis is that the latter devices are more alerting and disrupt the sleep-onset process." The study found that people who frequently send text messages or use their laptops before bed were less likely to report getting a good night's sleep (PDF) than people who don't. "While these technologies are commonplace, it is clear that we have a lot more to learn about the appropriate use and design of this technology to complement good sleep habits," said the NSF's David Cloud.
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Study Shows Technology May Inhibit Good Sleep

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  • I blame Hulu and Netflix.

    • Actually, according to the summary, it's not Hulu and Netflix that cause the problem -- it's interactivity which is to blame (video games, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
      • by Shikaku (1129753)

        Which to some people, radio/tv/hulutube playing in the background helps people sleep.

        Which for me sucks, because my roommate does this and I need silence :(

        • Tell your roommate to use headphones.

          My boyfriend watches TV on his laptop to help him sleep, but he uses headphones so that my falling asleep isn't affected by it. I had to get used to the extra brightness, but that didn't take very long. I couldn't fall asleep at all, though, when he didn't use headphones.

          • I can't find citation, but i remember a peer reviewed article about how even dim lights (e.g. street light through curtains) affect quality of sleep even though they don't wake you up...

          • by Shikaku (1129753)

            Headphones

            TV

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by gmhowell (26755)

            Get him to fuck you again and you should both sleep ok. If that doesn't work, repeat until you are both too exhausted to do it again.

            Geez, kids these days...

        • I need some background noise too. I think it has to do with the way I've never bothered investing specifically in quiet fans on PC's I've built, and as they've become more and more powerful they just became louder until the point where I need some background noise to fall asleep. Otherwise I can hear a bit of stuff from neighbors and such, and those background noises overlaid on the "loud scilence" is annoying. I recommend Sleep Analyzer http://maemo.org/downloads/product/Maemo5/sleepanalyser/ [maemo.org], (THere's al
      • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:00PM (#35414606)

        And one has to wonder if it's actually the technology or the person on the other end of the computer that's causing lost sleep. If I spend an hour before I go to bed dealing with work email (which at this hour is largely generated in Taiwan/China), I don't sleep well, only because those idiots are screwing up and this comes back to me.

        Whereas in the pre-computer era I guess you left work at a reasonable hour and had some down-time before bed. Although I hesitate to guess that one filling my job in this era would have been up equally long identifying and requesting fixes to mistakes made overseas and sending them a long, angry memo, before driving home and sleeping.

        So maybe the real cause of lost sleep is the blurring line between work life and personal life and/or the increasing productivity demands of a shitty economy and a lack of viable options for employees?

        • by besalope (1186101)
          Yeah we have similar at our work, only we deal with India instead :( Some of the workers understand the job and are excellent, others... not so much.
        • by ghjm (8918)
          Well, you're comparing now with 50 or 100 years ago, which is the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. There's no reason to suppose that industrial age factory workers slept particularly well, or any better than we do now. Hunter/gatherers on the African savannah no doubt slept like babies, on the nights they didn't get eaten by a leopard.
          • by khallow (566160)

            Hunter/gatherers on the African savannah no doubt slept like babies, on the nights they didn't get eaten by a leopard.

            I imagine it would have been more the other way around.

            • by gknoy (899301)

              Ah yes, back when babies slept like hunter-gatherers .... ;)

              I think you're right, though. I know that I am normally a ROCK when it comes to sleeping, but if my baby made weird noises or screamed or I heard Really Weird Shit, I was up in a snap. It was surreal.

        • by mjwx (966435)

          So maybe the real cause of lost sleep is the blurring line between work life and personal life and/or the increasing productivity demands of a shitty economy and a lack of viable options for employees?

          I deliberately make sure I do not do any work after 8 PM unless there is an emergency (READ: Something had better be on fire) for this very reason.

          But I've taken to reading before trying to sleep of late, I read for 1 to 3 hours yet I'm having a harder time sleeping then when I spent the same time reading

          • by TempeTerra (83076)

            I'm pretty sure it's based on how engaged your brain is. Reading is probably using your imagination and all the bits of your brain associated with understanding real-world situation, whereas if you're playing some kind of clickfest like bejewelled or diablo (or, dare I say it, WoW) most of your brain can get on with shutting down for the night.

            On the flipside, if I'm trying to get over jet lag or need to stay awake for some other reason nothing beats a good game of Civ - that'll keep my brain spinning for 4

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          I'm doubtful of the entire premise; I've seen no evidence of this irl. What's the difference between a cell phone conversation before bed, and a landline conversation? We've had phones for a hundred years. What's the difference between Hulu and the old black and white TV we had as kids? What's the difference between a web page and a book? People have been reading themselves to sleep for centuries. This study sounds less believable than tabletop cold fusion.

          I've not even seen evidence that we aren't sleepin

        • by ShakaUVM (157947)

          >>And one has to wonder if it's actually the technology or the person on the other end of the computer that's causing lost sleep.

          In 1991, scientists discovered a third type of photoreceptor to go along with the rods and cones we all learned about in elementary school. They were discovered in humans in 2007. They're called photosensitive ganglion cells:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosensitive_ganglion_cell [wikipedia.org]

          The kicker is that they detect light and directly wire into the parts of your brain controlling

      • by syousef (465911)

        Actually, according to the summary, it's not Hulu and Netflix that cause the problem -- it's interactivity which is to blame (video games, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

        So is watching porn before bed interactive or not? ;-)

      • by TA (14109)

        I don't believe it's interactivity that's the problem. I've found that if I play a lot of guitar before bedtime, maybe with singing, I sleep very well indeed. Better than I would if I didn't do anything that evening. And making music is interactive, I'm not passively sitting there like if I'm watching TV.
        However, if I work on the computer before bedtime it may be that I won't be able to sleep for a while, that typically happens when I'm working on an interesting programming issue and my brain keeps popping

    • by ncgnu08 (1307339)

      I have been using F.lux for about 3 months and I can say it makes a huge difference in my ability to get to sleep. I never had a problem sleeping, it was falling asleep that took me a while. Now, when I go to bed, I go to sleep within minutes. I don't have to be in the dark for half an hour - an hour before getting to sleep, unless my wife is feeling frisky, which is something I can't complain about (although probably not a problem for most /.'ers). Yes F.lux could be a placebo effect, but after three

      • I'm using it as well (the linux version - xflux). While unrelated to my sleep habits (which have basically drastically improved by banning any electronics apart from the alarm clock from the bedroom), the "dimming" of the screen temperature is very helpful at nighttime. Sometimes, when I have to restart X, and the xflux reloads from the "normal" temperature to my configured "night" temperature, I'm wondering how could I ever use computer without xflux and not get completely blind before.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        I started using redshift (Linux version of f.lux) about a month ago, it's great.

        I still need to spend less time on a computer in the evenings, I think too much sitting at a desk or cramped up with a laptop is bad for me.

      • by Heian-794 (834234)
        It looks from the f.lux page that the application automatically adjusts the light based on where you live.

        I'm a night shift worker and have trouble getting to sleep when I arrive home at 5 AM. The sun has just come up then, so I imagine that the computer screen will be at full brightness.

        Would it be advisable to somehow try to fool f.lux into thinking I live in a place where normal people are about to go to sleep, or are the default setting better even if you need to be awake at night and sleep in the day?
        • by TempeTerra (83076)

          IIRC (it's on my home computer) f.lux changes the colour profile of your desktop towards red, which is like sunset/firelight/sleeping time, and away from blue which is like bright daylight. It's usually set based on its calculated dawn/dusk times from the time on your computer and the location you enter in the settings. I'm sure you can either override the location or just lie to it - you'd want the 'night' colour while you're meant to be getting sleepy.

          Anyway, it's a free tiny download so just give it a go

          • by Heian-794 (834234)
            Thanks, Tempe. I live in Tokyo and it's 5:25 AM here; I'm going to bed in half an hour. I told F.lux that I was in Dublin so that my computer behaves like it's early evening, and the screen is a bit reddish, as if a sunset were streaming in from behind me.

            I'll try it out for a while and see what happens!
    • The people who are so obsessed with twitter and facebook that they bring the laptops to bed, can't get to sleep as well as normal well adjusted people who just watch a little TV before bed. Guess which group also has a better relationship with their spouses?

  • Funny to read a scientist referring to sittin' on the couch vegging on TV as, basically, the good ol' days.

  • by bbtom (581232) on Monday March 07, 2011 @09:09PM (#35414170) Homepage Journal

    And I'm reading Slashdot.

    Case closed.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Slashdot's been pretty damn good a putting my to sleep the last few years...

  • Damn right I'll get sleep, there won't be anything else to do!

  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday March 07, 2011 @09:22PM (#35414322) Journal

    The article refers to a poll, not an experiment. Could it be that those who have trouble sleeping are more likely to engage in interactive entertainment?

    Personally, I very, very rarely have trouble sleeping. I usually find myself getting too tired for interactive entertainment about an hour before I want to sleep. I'd *love* to be able to continue playing video games up until lights out, but I just don't have the energy. Those who have lots of energy will keep playing/blogging/hacking.

    • by c0lo (1497653) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:16PM (#35415044)

      Personally, I very, very rarely have trouble sleeping. I usually find myself getting too tired for interactive entertainment about an hour before I want to sleep. I'd *love* to be able to continue playing video games up until lights out, but I just don't have the energy. Those who have lots of energy will keep playing/blogging/hacking.

      Based on your /. ID, I reckon most of your inability to continue playing and low energy levels might be age related.

      • Personally, I very, very rarely have trouble sleeping. I usually find myself getting too tired for interactive entertainment about an hour before I want to sleep. I'd *love* to be able to continue playing video games up until lights out, but I just don't have the energy. Those who have lots of energy will keep playing/blogging/hacking.

        Based on your /. ID, I reckon most of your inability to continue playing and low energy levels might be age related.

        It's predominantly genetic. I sleep 4-7 hours a night. My father is the same. I also tend to go straight from the 'puter to bed, and be sound asleep in about 5-10 mins. Some people simply need more sleep than others, and vice versa. Falling asleep is also a skill in itself, partly genetic, partly learned.

      • Personally, I very, very rarely have trouble sleeping. I usually find myself getting too tired for interactive entertainment about an hour before I want to sleep. I'd *love* to be able to continue playing video games up until lights out, but I just don't have the energy. Those who have lots of energy will keep playing/blogging/hacking.

        Based on your /. ID, I reckon most of your inability to continue playing and low energy levels might be age related.

        Yeah he does seem a little young to be up late at night, though at least he's not still in primary school..

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Quality of sleep usually isn't an issue until the onset of early middle age or so.

      For me games are not much of a problem, and I can wind down from programming fairly quickly, but if I do work e-mail within a couple hours of going to bed, I'll toss and turn worrying about work. Arguing about politics or job hunting before bed doesn't help me either - anything that gets the mind racing.

      Running less than a few hours before bed also keeps me up.

      As for the correlation != causation argument, it's very easy

    • by DavidD_CA (750156)

      I think the topic was about getting a *good* night's sleep, not about trouble falling asleep.

      I'm not vouching for the poll, just making a distinction. Perhaps you're not having problems sleeping, but the sleep you're getting isn't very good? (That might also be why you just don't have the energy.)

      In other words, maybe those who use interactive technology just before bed are still able to fall asleep, but it's worthless sleep. Perhaps our brains are still too excited because of the interactivity to do wha

  • This discovery simply extends the idea that restful activities like reading promote sleep better than do physically and mentally demanding activities like heavy exercise. Of course, working yourself to (physical and mental) exhaustion may have the same effect as lying in bed and reading a book.
  • I happen to love being "on" as much as possible - in an aware state, perceiving as much as possible, living as much as I can with my limited lifespan.

    So much so, that I tend to almost always avoid anything that will interrupt this process, like mind-altering substances from alcohol to coffee.

    I can certainly appreciate the need for sleep to recuperate, and silence as time to reflect - but I don't see mental stimulation as some venal sin, or carving the occasional slice of time away from 8-hour sleep blocks a

    • by syousef (465911)

      Yes but minimising your sleep will minimise your awareness. So sacrificing a few hours of extra sleep in order to be even more alert in your wakeful hours is often a good idea.

  • I use f.lux it the placebo effect is working

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Monday March 07, 2011 @09:41PM (#35414476) Homepage

    ...listening to the radio than playing a video game.

    Wow. Who'd a thunk it.

    • by Q-Hack! (37846) *

      WoW... [battle.net] Yep, that is the reason I can't get any sleep.

    • by antdude (79039)

      You mean "WoW". [grin]

  • Good Job I have ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Good job I have Porphyria [wikipedia.org] because I don't even have a "Normal" sleep schedule, it's all over the map.

    I don't work in an office (basically impossible with severe Porphyria), so people are always asking me when I sleep because I send business emails 24/7, and am lucky to get a 5 hour night (starting about 4 or 5 am).

    Thank goodness for 24/7 Tech accessibility!

  • I am CONSTANTLY fixing my sleep schedule, I have taken numerous different sleeping medications, but to be honest no matter what even after a ton of melatonin, i am still up and online, I know it has to do with having so much information so readily available, but it also probably has another type of sleeping disorder.

    TL;DR There are too many factors.

  • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Monday March 07, 2011 @10:03PM (#35414626)

    The only technology that's ever interfered with my sleep is my neighbour's sub-woofer.

    • The only technology that's ever interfered with my sleep is my neighbour's sub-woofer.

      A friend of mine experienced this in reverse. When the neighbors talked with him, he aimed his sub-woofer at the room, not at the wall. Load of difference for them.

      • by Thing 1 (178996)

        The only technology that's ever interfered with my sleep is my neighbour's sub-woofer.

        A friend of mine experienced this in reverse. When the neighbors talked with him, he aimed his sub-woofer at the room, not at the wall. Load of difference for them.

        "at the wall, not at the floor" you mean?

        • by Thing 1 (178996)
          Er, I think that now I get it; they had already gone from "don't upset the downstairs neighbor" by aiming it at the wall; then, they turned it around and aimed it at the room. Silly early morning brain. ;)
    • by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@NoSpaM.gdargaud.net> on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @05:29AM (#35416708) Homepage
      A while ago there was a /. story about a guy would couldn't talk his neighbors in turning their music down at night, so he got some _really_ powerful electromagnet coils, put them on his wall opposite their speakers, and ran all king of signals through them. After a while they stopped.
  • I usually go to bed at around midnight. I noticed that if I worked late (right up until the point I went to bed) or played PC games until around the same time, I would simply be too wired to go to bed and just fall asleep.

    Watching TV didn't seem to have the same effect though; I could stay up late watching the box and then walk into the bedroom and pretty much faceplant and sleep immediately.

    I now try to have the PC off by 10pm to stop me getting tempted to just check one more email or have one last round o

  • Despite the studies, and as a tech guy and a lifetime insomniac I can say from experience that the -reasons- for the use can make a huge difference. This is true of books and older "tech" too. A exciting story on the written page that gets you thinking isn't going to put you to sleep near as well as something that's quiet and calming. I find surfing the web doesn't bother what sleep pattern I have much. On the other hand I avoid news sites like the plague for the 3-4 hours before bed as I know there's b

  • One hour before my bedtime, I turn off my laptop, smartphone, and TV
  • said the NSF's David Cloud.

    Seriously! "Our family is so much cloud visionaries that we MADE IT OUR NAME."

  • by adamofgreyskull (640712) on Monday March 07, 2011 @11:29PM (#35415106)
    I recall reading some years ago that it's preferable to watch television or listen to radio in the hour before sleep than to read a book or solve crossword puzzles, for similar reasons to those stated in the summary. It's a pity the poll didn't include more traditional "interactive" media as well.
  • technologies that are 'passively received' such as TVs

    ... the researcher failed to consider all the viewers who yell at Fox News.

  • And I get woken up during the daytime by telemarketing robocalls

  • I've started doing this again, and I find that it helps a great deal, even if it's techie stuff.

    Really, _especially_ if it's techie stuff.

  • I used to watch movies with explicit sexual content before going to bed and had a lot of trouble. Ever since I switched to reading Slashdot before turning out the light, it's been no problem.

  • Known for 10 years (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @12:11AM (#35415298)

    I've had sleeping issues since high school about 10 years ago. Typically, I can't sleep until about 3 AM, and only get about 4 hours of solid rest. After that, I doze in and out of sleep for a couple hours.

    I was in Africa for a bit, and regularly had no power - which meant no laptop. My sleep pattern improved drastically during those periods of time. However, the instant power was back I was using the laptop at night again. Immediately, the sleep issues returned. (Note that we did have a generator, so we still had lights and some appliances on when the power was out, but in general avoided turning anything unnecessary on unless we absolutely needed them, like computers).

    I've reproduced the same behaviour in myself now that I'm in America. Cut out the laptop at night - start sleeping great in a few days. Re-introduce it: really, really rough week.

    • by Malc (1751)

      Yeah, I gotta agree with ya. If I have insomnia and give up trying to sleep for a while, reading online means I will be awake for 2-4 hours, but reading a book will generally mean I can get to sleep in 30-60 mins.

    • by Malc (1751)

      Oh, and I've been wondering if it's the light stimulation from screens too. Maybe kills the melatonin production?

      • That wouldn't surprise me one bit. I like to read in bed, but I use those tiny LED-based reading lights so I can read my (non-LCD) Kindle e-reader and still fall asleep with the light on.

  • We all know TV is bad for you because it turns you into a lazy, passive couch potato. And now video games, cell phones and the Internet are bad for you because they ...don't.
  • It's midnight and I'm on slashdot... oh... I get it....

  • I literally sleep in front of my computer. I sleep on a sleeping bag on the carpeted floor in front of two laptops attached to a 23" monitor between them. I wake up quite often at 3AM. Sleep is a problem, but I never really attributed it to the equipment. I turn off the monitors, put the laptop displays to sleep, and they don't beep during the night.

  • OK, it's not the technology, it's the interactivity. The article makes that clear. I'm surprised that this is considered news, though. It's the reason I can sleep after cycling but not after fencing.

    • by dargaud (518470)

      OK, it's not the technology, it's the interactivity. The article makes that clear. I'm surprised that this is considered news, though. It's the reason I can sleep after cycling but not after fencing.

      There are plenty of studies that show it's not the activity but the light from the screen. The blue light actually: there are even some apps that will redden your screen to avoid this problem.

  • Sleep is so overrated. ZzzzZzzz... :P

  • Good sleep is an art and you can help achieve this goal:

    * cold-foam pre-formed pillow
    * nice, warm and cozy blanket
    * skin-friendly sheets
    * the blanket must be at 30 cm longer than you are tall
    * optionally cold-foam pre-formed sleeping mask

    The next step is an even more awesome cold-foam mattress than the one I have, already.

    Inform yourself and buy those within a month. You will love it.

  • Two anecdotal points. First, i don't really seem to have a circadian rhythm. I can get up early and stay up late one day and get up late and go to bed early on another. Given the opportunity i can take a nap in the middle of the day and then stay up all night and return to a more or less normal sleep schedule the next day. And i've never been bothered by jet lag.

    Second, i never have what most people would qualify as trouble falling asleep. However if i don't drop off instantly after going to bed i've got

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