Smartphone, computer use at bedtime staves off sleep

Here’s another study documenting why I recommend to my patients, particularly children and teens, to turn off all electronics (TV, computer, cell/smart phones) at least 30 minutes before bedtime — and don’t have these electronic intruders even in the bedrooms in your home.Bloomberg News reports that according to researchers at Harvard Medical School, “using a smartphone, tablet, or laptop at bedtime may be staving off sleep.”

Researchers there have “found specific wavelengths of light can suppress the slumber-inducing hormone melatonin in the brain.”

But, Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD, FRCP, a professor of sleep medicine, explained that “setting a technology curfew and using yellow-based lighting in the evening that can be dimmed and switched off completely by 10:30 p.m. will improve chances of a good night’s sleep.”

“It may be that gradually lowering the light might be more powerful than just shutting them off all at once,” Czeisler said. If computers can’t be avoided at night, he recommends reducing the screen’s blue wavelength light.

Michael Herf, creator of the Picasa online photo-sharing software bought by Google Inc. in 2004, has come up with an answer: a computer program that automatically alters the intensity and spectrum of light emitted by the display according to the time of day. The free software, called f.lux, has been downloaded 8 million times since Herf and his wife Lorna developed it in their Los Angeles home in 2008.

The ideal bedroom has no distracting bright light or noise, said Susan A. Greenfield, senior research fellow at England’s Oxford University, who is also a member of the U.K.’s House of Lords.

Sleep specialist Russell Rosenberg, who was an adviser on the International Bedroom Poll, offers simple advice: “Relax, turn off the mobile phone and TV, and create a more pleasant bed-time routine.”

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