Do you need an electronic curfew?

Sleep and devices

As someone who has personally fought the battle of electronic devices, I am absolutely convinced that powering down an hour before tucking in leads to a better night's rest. 

But as much as I'm an advocate for electronic curfews, I'm also wondering if it's realistic to give ourselves one. I don't know about you, my iPad loves hanging out on my nightstand and it occasionally, falls into my hands right before drifting off to sleep.

I have lots of company in this habit. According to a newly released study by The National Sleep Foundation, more than 90 percent of Americans regularly use a computer or electronic device of some kind in the hour before bed. We're hooked and we know it.

Now, I've learned that researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute showed that exposure to light from computer tablets significantly lowered levels of the hormone melatonin, which regulates our internal clocks and plays a role in the sleep cycle. Playing a quick game of Fruit Ninja on my iPad at bedtime could lead to sleep disturbances. But it may not be the light of a cell phone or computer alone that triggers sleep problems. It could be the anxiety produced when you, say, read a work e-mail that makes you angry. 

I've noticed that having had a good night's sleep does make a difference in my work day. It's almost as if waking up well rested puts me in the right frame of mind to be a better problem solver. Beware: This weekend, our sleep schedules are about to get messed up — Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday morning at 2:00 am. Sleep experts say this presents the perfect time to give yourself an electronic curfew. They suggest dimming the lights and listening to soft music before going to bed, having a nice conversation with your spouse or kids, or maybe even reading a magazine or taking a warm bath.

I can think of at least three reasons to give yourself an electronic curfew. 

1. Your work day will be more productive when you can focus.

2. You have less chance of an afternoon slump.

3. You will cut your chance of sleep texting, leading to possible embarrassment.

What can I say? You might be far less effected than others who use electronics right up until they time they shut their eyes. But you will never know if you feel more rested and balanced until you try powering down earlier, will you?



The Work/Life Balancing Act

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