If you’re like two-thirds (63%) of Americans, you’re probably not getting enough sleep through the week, but how much sleep you get, and the quality of that sleep may be rooted in the generation in which you were born says Annual Sleep in America Poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. As it turns out, there is a direct correlation between the level of technology every generation is exposed to before bedtime, and the amount of quality sleep they get each night.
According to the poll, 22% of those born between 1995 and 2012, or “Generation Z” report sleepiness throughout the day, as opposed to only 9% of baby boomers, (individuals born from 1946 to 1964). The reason says the NSF, that began tracking sleep health and behaviors in 1991 is the exposure to technology that 95% of Americans have in the hour directly preceding sleep. Using standard clinical assessment, “This poll explores the association between Americans’ use of communication technologies and sleep habits,” says David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. “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.”
Most Americans surveyed, (95%) said they indulged in one form of media or electronic communication such as a cell phone, computer, television or video game before retiring at night, several times a week. This, “electronic stimulation” in turn, affected the amount of sleep they tended to get, and the quality of that sleep.
What Keeps Us Up At Night—How Technology Impacts Sleep
A majority of Americans surveyed between the ages of 13 and 64 say they don’t get good sleep throughout the week. In fact, 60% reported sleep disturbances nearly every weeknight such as, waking in the middle of the night, waking too early, or feeling tired upon waking in the morning.
Turns out, many of us, (67% of baby boomers and 50% of generation Z’ers) watch TV before retiring. “Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep,” says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “This study reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep. Invasion of such alerting technologies into the bedroom may contribute to the high proportion of respondents who reported that they routinely get less sleep than they need.” The amount of sleep attained by individuals tended to vary between age groups however.
Those in generation Z reported getting about 7 hours and 26 minutes of sleep a night through the week, with 54% saying they awoke between 5:00 am and 6:30 am. This compares to only 45% of baby boomers. The difference in the amount of sleep each generation gets, and sleep quality may have its roots in the types of technology used at night.
“Over the last 50 years, we’ve seen how television viewing has grown to be a near constant before bed, and now we are seeing new information technologies such as laptops, cell phones, video games and music devices rapidly gaining the same status,” says Lauren Hale, PhD, Stony Brook University Medical Center. “The higher use of these potentially more sleep-disruptive technologies among younger generations may have serious consequences for physical health, cognitive development and other measures of wellbeing.”
“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,” says Michael Gradisar, PhD, Flinders University, (Australia). “The hypothesis is that the latter devices are more alerting and disrupt the sleep-onset process.”
This seems to bear out in findings that indicate while 36% of generation Z’ers play video games within the hour before bedtime, only about 12% of baby boomers report doing so. Cell phone use is even more pervasive in the younger generation, with 56% of generation Z reporting either receiving, sending or reading text messages before sleep, as opposed to only 5% of baby boomers.
“Unfortunately cell phones and computers, which make our lives more productive and enjoyable, may also be abused to the point that they contribute to getting less sleep at night leaving millions of Americans functioning poorly the next day,” says Russell Rosenberg, PhD, Vice Chairman of the National Sleep Foundation.
The Need For Sleep
Most of us don’t need a study to tell us just how important a good night’s sleep really is. We can feel it in our bodies every time we go without an uninterrupted period of rest. Problems with drowsiness at school and on the job lead to lack of coordination, poor concentration, increased stress, and difficulty recalling information, according to individuals who say they don’t get enough quality sleep at night.
Sleep plays a critical role in our overall physical and mental health throughout life. It helps the body and mind heal and repair itself through the production of cells, and is necessary for the release of growth hormones in young people. Without sleep, healthy emotional function is affected as well.
The effects of sleep deprivation are well documented and can lead to:
- Compromised immune system
- Loss of memory
- Loss of concentration
- Hallucinations (prolonged deprivation)
- Mood swings
- Lack of physical performance
- Increased blood pressure
- Excess weight
- Lack of coordination
- Increase in diabetes
- Lowered hormone production
- Cardiovascular disease
While many of us have become dependent on technology and social media before bedtime, sleep experts at the National Sleep Foundation urge us to, “turn it off” and “tune it out” at least 60 minutes before retiring along with:
- Setting a regular bedtime
- Exposing ourselves to bright light in the daytime and avoiding it at night
- Regular exercise
- Creating a cool sleeping environment
- Avoiding caffeine at night
- No napping late in the day
Nutritional Sleep Support
Sometimes in spite of all we do to get, and maintain restful slumber, we still need help. Natural nutritional supplements offer additional support without the harmful side effects of narcotics and other sleep aids.
STRESS-RELAX MELATONIN 3MG – CHEWABLE 90 TABS – NATURAL FACTORS
Provides melatonin, the hormone secreted by the pineal gland that is stimulated by darkness. Promotes relaxation of the body.
Stress-Relax 5-Htp 100mg Enteric – 60 Caps – Natural Factors
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an important amino acid that is necessary for emotional well-being.
Stress-Relax Tranquil Sleep – 60 Chewable Tabs – Natural Factors
Enhances the quality of sleep and supports relaxation naturally.
Given the technological demands, and multitude of distractions many of us face on a daily basis, quality sleep can be difficult. As we grow increasingly dependent on electronic devices to entertain us and keep us connected with others, our ability to wind down at the end of the day may be impaired. Taking steps to eliminate distractions at bedtime, as well as getting the proper balance of nutrition and exercise can help.