Light from Computer Electronics Close to Bedtime Throws Normal Sleep Pattern Into Chaos, Miami Doctor Says

Dr. Alexandre Abreu says taking your technology into the bedroom is like sleeping with the enemy

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    Dr. Alexandre Abreu says taking your technology into the bedroom is like sleeping with the enemy. He explains why, as Genette Thompson, Nick Haramji and Oscar Silverio talk about their computer-using habits close to bedtime. (Published Wednesday, Nov 14, 2012)

    Genette Thompson is a busy mom and a Florida International University student. Whether she’s at school or home, her techie gadgets are always close by.

    “I go to bed about 2 in the morning,” she said. “I have all my devices next to my bed, and I find that the lights do bother me.”

    The result, she says, is she can’t sleep.

    Sleep scientists suggest that constant connection to computer technology, especially close to bedtime, is making Thompson and others very sleepy – and maybe even sick.

    Doctors at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine study all kinds of sleep disorders.

    “That is a classic behavior – the patient brings their own computer from home trying to get a sleep study, when they should actually leave all the technology at home,” Dr. Alexandre Abreu said as he watched one patient on video.

    Abreu says taking your technology into the bedroom is like sleeping with the enemy. The “blue hue” or light emitted from computer electronics confuses your body, as the intensity actually mimics sunlight and throws your normal sleep pattern into chaos. Hormones such as melatonin that help us fall asleep are suppressed – because that blue light makes our body thinks it’s daytime just when you need to get your Z’s.

    “If your sunlight, which would be your computer, disappears by 11, there’s no way you are going to fall asleep at 11:30 because the whole hormonal imbalance and the circadian clock from your body got changed,” Abreu said.

    Lots of people confess they are tethered to technology, and it’s leading many to sleepless nights.

    “I’ll lay in bed and I will just surf the Internet,” Nick Haramji said.

    “So, it's typically around 11 when I start using those gadgets, and that’s the time I should be falling asleep,” Oscar Silverio said.

    Dr. Abreu advises shutting off the electronic devices by 8 p.m. But if you can’t fully disconnect, you can try these measures to get a better night’s sleep:

    • Turn down the brightness on your screen.
    • Try using a smaller screen and keep it further from your face.
    • Try a cover-up on the screen—which also help dim the light.

    Doctors say delayed sleep phase disorder is dangerous. It not only leads to obesity, fatigue, traffic accidents, mood swings and depression, it can have even more serious side effects.

    “There may be a chance of you being more prone to infections, heart disease – so there’s some links related to that,” Abreu said.

    Thompson said that as a student, she will need to study more about her lack of sleep.

    “I am tired!” she said.

    And that’s the penalty she may eventually have to pay as a result of the dark side of her many gadgets.

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