Health: Gadgets & Lack Of Sleep

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By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — About two thirds of Americans say they’re not getting enough sleep. The reason why may be right in front of them, literally.

Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl says the glow of gadgets and its effect on shut eye may shock you.

Mommy blogger Titania Jordan tosses and turns for hours each night, and she thinks she knows why.

“From about 7 p.m. ‘til midnight, I am in front of a screen. I’m on the computer. I’m on my mobile device,” said Titania.

Light can suppress production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. And these days, many of us are flooded with light long after the sun sets, whether we’re texting, emailing or watching television.

“It’s a very unnatural thing for us to do, and so when we expose ourselves to light at night, we tell the brain that it’s daytime,” said Steven Lockley, a Sleep Researcher.

Night time light shifts our internal body clock, or circadian rhythm.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says people need to be more aware of blue wavelength, the kind emitted by energy efficient light bulbs and electronic gadgets.

“We know that blue light has the greatest propensity to alter circadian rhythms, and yet now-a-days it seems that blue is the color du jour,” said Dr. Nathaniel Watson, with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

A recent poll showed that 95 percent of Americans use electronics a few nights a week, within an hour before bed. Even dim light can be problematic.

“We’ve done a number of studies to show that light levels that you would be normally exposed to in the home in the evening, for example from a bedside lamp, are very easily capable of shifting the body clock,” said Lockley.

Studies have linked blue light and poor sleep to depression, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular problems.

Best advice is power down early, ideally two to three hours before bed.

“If you must have screen time before going to bed then limiting the amount of light that’s emitted from the screen would be helpful, so you can turn down the brightness,” said Dr. Watson.

Titania tried cutting back on screen time, and she says the results were eye opening.

“It was fabulous. I didn’t go to sleep right away, but I found myself feeling much more relaxed,” said Titania.

Exposing yourself to lots of bright light during the day can also help. Experts say it keeps you alert and helps your body clock reset each night.

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